We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
The women who made their mark on the world in 2015
2015 has been an extraordinary year for women. Whether it’s gay marriage being legalised in the US and Ireland, Adele proving she can outpace the big boys when it comes to pretty much everything, or a nervous amateur baker sweeping to victory on a BBC relaity competition, there wa a story to inspire most women to think we could dream a little bit bigger.
However, there are still obstacles to overcome, such as the pay gap which is is still something we have yet to defeat. In fact, this year it was reported that the disparity between payment for men and women had actually worsened as women get older. The Chartered Management Institute found that women in management positions who are older than 40 take home 35% less than men do. Compare this to the average gap of 19% that has been calculated for the UK.
Meanwhile, England’s women’s football team was wiping the floor with the men’s. Captained by Steph Houghton during the Women’s World Cup this summer, they won over many skeptics who thought women couldn’t play properly. They got further through the tournament than the male team did in theirs and also trounced historic rivals Germany. A study this year also revealed that male footballers took twice as long to celebrate a goal as female players, and men also spent 30 seconds longer lying down when injured. Just going to show that women’s sport might not be such a joke after all – especially after England’s male team’s disappointing show in Rio in 2014.
But if sport doesn’t float your boat regardless of gender, 2015 was still an incredible year for women, who ushered in some truly momentous changes. An 82-year-old US justice called Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the defining voice of the equal marriage law now that was passed.
Click through our gallery for more inspiring women…
How could it be possible not to include the talented, slightly nervous baker from Luton? Nadiya won over hearts and minds when she won the Great British Bake Off, making tremendous headway for Muslim women who wear the hijab (headscarf).
And who could forget her winning speech, either? 'I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say I can’t do it. I’m never gonna say maybe’. I’m never gonna say, I don’t think I can.’ I can and I will.'
She sang "Hello" and the world answered. Having taken a hiatus from her career to have a baby and quietly start recording her new album, 25, the world of music showed its appreciation for the 27-year-old South London singer by making her new album the all-time highest-selling album in a first week in the USA when it was released in November.
She also told Blur frontman Damon Albarn where to get off after he called her "insecure". The pair worked on her record together but none of the songs they collaborated on made the cut.
She said: It ended up being one of those don’t meet your idol’ moments. The saddest thing was that I was such a big Blur fan growing up. But it was sad, and I regret hanging out with him. Cheers!
Queen Elizabeth II officially beame Britain's longest-ever reigning monarch in September 2015.
She graciously responded to tributes by saying: 'Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones - my own is no exception - but I thank you all and the many others at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness.'
She may be born into greatness rather than having achieved anything for herself yet, but Princess Charlotte managed to draw an entire media circus before she was born in May. Well-wishers lined the street to wish her and her parents William and Catherine the best. Plus, since the line of succession was changed, Charlotte has been bumped up the pecking order. She's fourth in line to the throne, outranking her uncle Harry. How's that for a powerful baby?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg - or RBG as she's known by her supporters - made this year a very special one for people across the USA when she helped usher in the law allowing same-sex couples to marry regardless of which state they're in from 27th June 2015.
At 82 she's the oldest Supreme Court Judge and has no plans to retire. She was instrumental in articulating the case for equal marriage, and explaining why she believed most Americans supported it.
She said: 'The change in people’s attitudes on that issue has been enormous. In recent years, people have said: 'This is the way I am'. And others looked around, and we discovered it’s our next-door neighbor we’re very fond of them. Or it’s our child’s best friend, or even our child. I think that as more and more people came out and said that "this is who I am,' the rest of us recognized that they are one of us.
The German leader made headlines this year with her strength in the face of the huge numbers of refugees fleeing war-torn and impoverished countries in the Middle East and Africa for the prospect of a better life in Germany. The crisis began in April and will spread into 2016.
In December, Angela said: 'We face the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. The fight for a unified Europe is worthwhile – of that I am deeply convinced.' She added: 'We are going to manage this – if there are obstacles to overcome, then we will have to work to overcome them. We are ready to show what we are made of.'
This December was the first time that women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to vote. Women are still not allowed to legally drive, go anywhere without a chaperone, interact freely with men, or wear clothes that 'show off their beauty' but the women of Saudi Arabia did take suffrage into their hands - 17 women were elected to office. The female turn-out was low, but this was still a milestone moment for Saudi women, and womenkind.
Transgender rights have long been fought for by activists, but it was when someone who the public felt they knew underwent their transition in public that more people tried to understand the struggle of being born in the wrong body.
Former athlete Caitlyn Jenner - who was born and became an Olympic record-breaking athlete as Bruce Jenner - came out as transgender in April 2015. She has since hugely raised awareness of what it means to be transgender, and fought to end stigma.
Amy Schumer became world-famous this year for leaving no taboo unturned. Starring in film Trainwreck this year, Amy frankly discussed body image, sexuality, relationships, and the right of women to control our own bodies in her wildly popular stand-up material.
Olivia Hallisey might look like a normal teenager, but don't let that fool you. The 17 year old won Google's Grand Science Fair Prize in September after designing a portable test for Ebola.
Olivia, who attends high school in Connecticut, USA, said: 'Up to 90 percent of victims will die without early diagnosis and medical intervention. Current detection methods are expensive, time-consuming and utilize complex instrumentation and chemicals that require uninterrupted refrigeration. My device will allow for shipment and storage without refrigeration, and provide detection of the Ebola viral antigens based on color change in as little as 30 minutes.'
Longtime Burmese freedom fighter and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi won the election in Myanmar (Burma) in November. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won an outright majority and will be able to push through legislation in the army-run nation. She spent many years under house arrest after speaking out against dictatorship in the country.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi is so dedicated to her country's political plight that she chose not to come to England to see her beloved husband Michael Aris as he died of prostate cancer in 1999, for fear that she would never be able to return to Burma and help free it from army rule.
In 2015, England's women's football team wiped the floor with the men's.
Captained by Steph Houghton during the Women's World Cup this summer,
they won over many skeptics who thought women couldn't play properly.
They got further through the tournament than the male team did in theirs
and also trounced historic rivals Germany. A study this year also
revealed that male footballers took twice as long to celebrate a goal as
female players, and men also spent 30 seconds longer lying down when
injured. Just going to show that women's sport might not be such a joke
after all - especially after England's male team's disappointing show in
Rio in 2014.
Mhairi Black is just 21, the youngest MP elected for 350 years, and gave a brilliantly impassioned and righteous speech in July that was watched over 10 million times in just two days. The SNP MP's maiden speech blasted weak Labour opposition and Tory policy, and she hadn't even graduated from university at this point.
Just moments after the momentous Irish equal marriage referendum result was announced in May this year, campaigning senator Katherine Zappone proposed to her partner, former nun Ann Louise Gilligan live on TV. If there was a moment that humanised the discussion around marriage rights in 2015, this was it.
Actor Viola Davis became the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama, and she celebrated with a speech that clearly laid out the problem with racism, and the hurdles that many women of colour have to overcome.
"In my mind, I see a
line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and
beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me, over that
line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over
that line'. That was Harriet
Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that
separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity."