What did we get from 2021? If that question makes you want to put your head on your desk and sigh, I get it. I understand that urge. But we must cope and carry on as best we can, and especially for gender equality. Our movement for equality everywhere rode the roller coaster of the year, earning a high watermark for pledged investment and action while still lurching about, well, the same frustrating status quo. (A long list of surveys, indexes, and reports verifies the situation. If your head wasn’t already on the desk, it might be after looking at these.)

So then, how about a different kind of list? Everyone else is making their end-of-year lists, so why not our team, too? Here are just a few of the women who shaped our year, shared our hopes, and stood up for all of us. They set bold examples, acted with purpose, and demonstrated exceptional compassion and courage.

And they reminded me of the wise words of bell hooks (may she rest in power): “To truly be free, we must choose beyond simply surviving adversity, we must dare to create lives of sustained optimal wellbeing and joy.”

It is a joy to watch and to write about these women.

  • The scientists fighting COVID-19: Katalin Kariko, Kathrin Jansen, and Sarah Gilbert Several women you may not yet know were working around the clock to produce safe, effective vaccines, breaking records and stubborn expectations about women in science with their ingenuity and persistence.
  • The poet uniting the country with her voice: Amanda Gorman It was the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, Amanda Gorman, who harnessed language and insight to reassure a nation and ask its citizens to cast a collective gaze to a future that is better, and possible. On a crisp and clear morning dedicated to the democratic transfer of power, Gorman, a 22-year-old woman in a bright yellow coat, reminded us that our nation “isn’t broken but simply unfinished” and that “to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.”

Read the full article about women in 2021 by Michelle Milford Morse at United Nations Foundation.