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The Decade That Defined Women

In the past 10 years we’ve united like never before

We are women, hear us roar. In the past 10 years, we’ve united like never before and taken giant leaps towards gender equality. Here, we recall moments that mattered and the fearless females who fought for change.


“Together we rise.” “I’m with her.” “Stronger Together.” On January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, more than 7 million people took to the streets in a worldwide protest for women’s rights. Initially, the Women’s March was scheduled to take place solely in Washington, DC (pictured), but it spread like wildfire to include sister marches all across the globe, making it the largest feminist rally in history.



On June 24, 2010, Julia Gillard (below left) was sworn in as Australia’s 27th prime minister, the first woman to hold the title. The fact that the first female governor-general, Quentin Bryce (below right), performed the honour made it a particularly powerful moment. Across the ditch, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern (right) has since reimagined the role of PM. Aside from having a baby while in office, her compassionate leadership has made her a global icon. And who can forget German Chancellor Angela Merkel (bottom) famously staring down President Trump at the 2018 G7 Summit, while surrounded by the world’s most powerful men?



Civil rights activist Tarana Burke (above, fourth from left) began using the phrase “Me Too” to raise awareness of sexual abuse in 2006. It became a viral hashtag in October 2017 after actress Alyssa Milano shared a tweet supporting Rose McGowan’s allegations against Harvey Weinstein. #MeToo was used by more than 4.7 million people within 24 hours, and inspired Time’s Up, an anti-sexual-harassment initiative launched by 300 women in Hollywood.

Below, Meryl Streep, activist Ai-jen Poo, Natalie Portman, founder of the Me Too movement Tarana Burke, Michelle Williams, America Ferrera, Jessica Chastain, Amy Poehler and activist Saru Jayaraman at the 2018 Golden Globes wearing black for Time’s Up.

game changer


Who runs the world? Girls! Beyoncé’s 2011 track became an anthem for equal pay and equal rights. She cemented her stance at the 2014 VMAs, sampling a speech by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and defining a feminist as a “person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”.



In October 2018, almost 50 years after women’s groups first marched for their reproductive rights in Queensland, the state parliament finally decriminalised abortion. New South Wales followed suit in September 2019, becoming the last Australian state to remove abortion from its criminal code. These long-overdue reforms were both delivered by female premiers: in NSW by the Liberal’s Gladys Berejiklian and in Queensland by Labor’s Annastacia Palaszczuk.



The definition of beauty has been crumpled up, chucked out and transformed over the past 10 years. Homogeneity is out and diversity is in. Models of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and gender identities have graced the catwalks at fashion weeks around the world – including Ashley Graham modelling her own fashion line at NYFW in 2015 (left). Our very own Robyn Lawley led a successful move away from the dated term “plus-size” and British body-positivity icon Tess Holliday graced the cover of Cosmopolitan UK in a swimsuit. There’s still a way to go (*cough* Victoria’s Secret *cough*), but beauty no longer comes in one-size only.

ashley grham


Female athletes have been steadily changing the face of sport this decade, with more than a few major wins to add to the honour board: Serena Williams’ impressive post-baby comeback in a Black Panther-inspired catsuit (bottom); jockey Michelle Payne’s history-making Melbourne Cup victory (below); AFL player Tayla Harris’ now famous kick (right); Ash Barty’s meteoric rise to number-one female tennis player in the world; and the Matildas’ groundbreaking equal pay deal. Play like a girl? Ride like a girl? Kick like a girl? Hell, yes.



Ten years ago Australia’s treatment of working mothers was woeful – we were one of only two nations in the OECD that did not offer government-funded paid maternity leave. But in June 2010, after women banded together with a “Push It!” campaign, legislation was passed on Australia’s first Paid Parental Leave scheme. While it was (and remains) basic – “primary” carers of a new baby are entitled to 18 weeks’ pay at the minimum wage – it was a game-changer for our working mums.


On November 14, 2017, love won. Australia voted yes to finally legalise gay marriage, and we celebrated accordingly by flying the rainbow flag and covering ourselves in glitter. The next year, same-sex couples (including Kate and Heather, right) joyously walked down the aisle. But the road to marriage equality was a tough path to navigate, as noted by Kate (on left). “Watching the yes vote come through was bittersweet,” she said. “It was amazing but it felt like we had to go through a lot to get the same right as everyone else.”

same sex


It’s extraordinary to consider that Malala Yousafzai, 22 (top left), and Greta Thunberg, 16 (below left), are not only household names but among this decade’s most influential citizens. Both have mobilised global followings: Yousafzai through her passion and activism for female education after she was shot by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2012, and Thunberg for her unapologetic advocacy on climate change. In the aftermath of the horrific mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, student Emma González (below right) commanded the world’s attention with a public address. Emma Watson’s (above right) #HeforShe campaign with the UN is more proof that when it comes to leadership or creating change, age is no barrier.


This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of marie claire Australia. 

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