In this news-filled year, several stories stood out for us at Shine because of the potentially positive impact they had on women. Here are a few of the highlights:
Nursing mothers have the law on their side. When the Affordable Care Act passed in March, the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law went into effect, requiring employers to provide nursing mothers with time and privacy in which to express breast milk for their babies. "Many women who want to continue breastfeeding their children simply can't because they do not have the necessary accommodations to do it," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in a statement. "What the department is seeking to do is to develop guidance for employers that will assist them in complying with this new law and that will support women who choose to continue nursing once they return to work." Baby steps, but still, they're steps in the right direction for many women.
- Elena Kagan ushered in a new era. The first female dean of Harvard Law School and the first woman to hold the office of solicitor general in the U.S. Justice Department, Kagan became the fourth female U.S. Supreme Court justice in history earlier this year. She sits on the bench with two other women, making this court the first one with three women on it. Will this make a difference when it comes to cases involving women's issues? It's hard to tell-Kagan replaces liberal justice John Paul Stevens-but we're happy to have the chance.
- Ireland acknowledges that a mother's life is sacred, too. In 1992, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that abortion was lawful if the mother's life was at risk, but the Irish parliament never enacted legislation to regulate that right. Last week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Irish abortion laws dating back to the 1800s violated the rights of a woman who, out of desperation and fear for her own life (she was in remission for a rare form of cancer, and a pregnancy could have triggered the return of the disease), had to seek an abortion outside of the country.
- We may be weathering the recession better than men. According to a Bloomberg report, women's earnings may recover from the economic meltdown more quickly than men's, possibly because jobs traditionally held by women were less severely impacted than those usually held by men. The unemployment rate for women is lower than than for men: 8.9 percent, compared to 10.6 percent. Of course, according to the Department of Labor, we still earn less than men, sometimes even for doing the same work, so whether we really end up on top remains to be seen.
- New York City's Fashion Week finally caters to full-figured women. Those of us who aren't a twiggy size 0 finally had something to covet during fashion week: labels and models showing off designs made for full-figured women. This year, well-known designers like Marc Jacobs announced plans for plus-sized lines, and both tried-and-true stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and trendy youth-magnets like Forever 21 have expanded sections devoted to shoppers who are a size 16 or so. Even better? Fashion mags like Harper's Bazaar, Glamour, and Vouge have finally featured full-figured models. We've started to see something in the media shifting for sure," Stephanie Sobel, president of OneStopPlus, the U.S. retail company behind the event, told Shine in September. "This is a magical moment for plus sizes."
- Girls proved that they can play as well as-and possibly better than-the boys. On December 19, 2010 in a landmark moment for women's college basketball, The University of Connecticut women's basketball team matched the all-time NCAA basketball winning streak for both men and women winning 88 games in a row. The lady Huskies are working together as a team to do what no other NCAA basketball team, men or women, have done before and are changing the face of women's college basketball in the process.