Saray Khumalo after reaching the South Summit (8 749m).  Picture: Summits with a Purpose/Facebook
Saray Khumalo after reaching the South Summit (8 749m). Picture: Summits with a Purpose/Facebook

SA's Saray Khumalo among 10 women who cracked the glass ceiling in 2019

By Thomson Reuters Foundation Time of article published Dec 27, 2019

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Countries around the world have promised gender equality by 2030, but in 2019 a new index showed that even the most advanced nations weren't doing enough to reach that goal.

Women are still paid around 20% less than men and make up fewer than one quarter of national parliamentarians, according to the United Nations' International Labor Organization.

Female participation in the labour force has grown in recent decades, as has gender parity at the top level of management, but women are still underrepresented in the corporate world.

But where are the bright spots? As the year draws to a close, we take a look at which women managed firsts in their fields. Here's a list of 10 from around the world:

US astronauts Jessica Meir, left, and Christina Koch pose for a photo in the International Space Station. Picture: NASA via AP

1. First all-female space walk completed

In October, a team of two women from U.S. space agency NASA were the first all-female team to step into space. There had been female spacewalkers before but this was the first time there was team of two women.

2. The first woman pilot flew in the Indian navy

Sub Lieutenant Shivangi became the first woman to fly a plane in India's navy. The milestone came three years after the country's air force recruited its first female pilots.

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., one of the first Native American woman elected to Congress, on Capitol Hill in Washington.File picture: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

3. The first Native American women sworn into US Congress

In January, Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids were sworn in as lawmakers in the US House of Representatives, a first for native American women.

4. Sudan named first female head of judiciary

Supreme Court Judge Nemat Abdullah Khair was nominated to run the country's judiciary, the first woman to do so in the Muslim African nation.

Slovakia's President Zuzana Caputova speaks at her party's headquarters in Bratislava. File picture: David W Cerny/Reuters

5. First female president of Slovakia took office

In June, former anti-corruption campaigner and LGBT-friendly lawyer Zuzana Caputova became Slovakia's first female president. LGBT+ activists hope it could lead to positive changes for gay and transgender rights in the conservative country.

6. Pope Francis named first women to key Vatican department

Four women - three nuns and one lay person - became councillors in the office of synods, which prepares major meetings of world bishops held every few years.

British Jockey Khadijah Mellah is believed to be the first person to take part in a competitive horse race while wearing a hijab in Britain. File picture: Mark Kerton/PA via AP

7. First British jockey raced in a hijab

Khadijah Mellah became the first British jockey to compete in a major event wearing a hijab. To top it off, she won the race in what she described as a "fairytale" victory.

Saray Khumalo made history by becoming the first black African woman to summit Mount Everest. File picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

8. First black African woman climbed Everest

After multiple setbacks, South African Saray N'kusi Khumalo completed the challenge on her fourth attempt, and now wants to reach the top of the other Seven Summits.

Yalitza Aparicio, nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role in "Roma," poses for a portrait at the 91st Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon in Beverly Hills. Picture: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

9. First indigenous Mexican woman nominated for an Oscar

Yalitza Aparicio, 26, became the first indigenous Mexican woman nominated for an Oscar. Aparicio had never acted before she was cast as a domestic worker in the film "Roma", and she used her new found fame as a platform to campaign for workers.

Roula Khalaf poses for a portrait at Financial Times offices in London. Picture: Charlie Bibby/Financial Times via Reuters

10. Financial Times newspaper picked first female editor

Roula Khalaf was named as the next editor of Britain's pink newspaper, the first woman to do so since it was founded in 1888. Khalaf, who was born in Lebanon, has been at the paper for more than 20 years. (

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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