Trailblazing Women of 2020

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Art/Photo by Kayla Luis (12)

Kayla Luis (12), West High Varsity Football’s backup kicker, sports her jersey as she poses in front of West High’s Fred Petersen Football Stadium. She voiced one of the inspiring lessons playing football has taught her: “I believe there will be challenges in anything you do, but if you aren’t willing to overcome them it will stop you from achieving what you really want. Being the only girl on the team, I struggle to keep up with the guys, but it allows [me] to push beyond my limits and get better.”

Lauren Ng, Sports & Opinion Editor

   As we bid farewell to 2020, a reflection of the last 12 months brings out feelings of despair for many. It serves as another reminder that life is far from what we have hoped. However, within adversity and crisis comes opportunity for change. In recent weeks, several women have demolished gender barriers; they spark the flame of hope and inspiration that the U.S. needs.

   In the sports world, the last few weeks have brought about major changes for women. No woman has ever taken part in a Power 5 football game. But with just one kick, Sarah Fuller became the first. On Saturday, November 28, the Vanderbilt University senior played as a placekicker for the Commodores, kicking off the second half of the game against the Missouri Tigers. A New York Times article reported that Fuller was thrust into the spotlight “after every member of the Commodores’ kicking squad was forced to stop practicing when at least one of them came into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.”   

   Despite some criticism from others, Fuller still serves as a boundary-breaker and strong inspiration for girls and women across the country. 

   Kayla Luis (12), a backup kicker on the West High Varsity Football team, expressed that the success of women like Fuller “is truly inspirational for me to achieve more.” Luis also described some of her own experiences as a female football kicker: “When I was first learning to kick a football on my own, I remember watching YouTube videos of other female kickers… I was amazed by what they were capable of and their stories became the catalyst for me to try out for the football team at West.”

   Just as Luis sought inspiration from others, she knows that “there are many girls out there hearing about Sarah Fuller’s story and achievements… [they] will be inspired the same way that I was a year ago.”  Luis encourages others not to be limited to their comfort zone: “The football team is the last place where I expected myself to be, but I am extremely grateful it’s where I ended up.”

   Football is not the only sport whose boundaries are being broken. Friday, November 13 was a historic day in Major League Baseball when Kim Ng became the general manager of the Miami Marlins. In fact, this is an unforgettable moment not just in baseball, but many sports: Ng is “the first woman to hold that title in any of the major men’s sports leagues in North America,” the New York Times explains.

   Emma Crump (12), President and co-founder of the WHS club Women of West, affirmed that “having a woman as talented and capable as Kim managing a baseball team shows now more than ever [that] women are going after positions that are usually male dominated.” 

   Ng is no stranger to the big leagues of baseball: she has “worked as an assistant general manager for the Dodgers and the Yankees, and most recently as M.L.B.’s senior vice president for baseball operations,” the New York Times pointed out. As the Marlins’ majority owner Bruce Sherman stated, “I can’t think of anyone more qualified for the position than Kim.”

 Women who have recently broken gender barriers extend past the world of sports all the way up to the White House. As President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris appoint staff and cabinet members, more women are beginning to appear in prominent government positions. A Bloomberg article  declared, “For the first time, the top three positions in the office of the vice president will be held by women — and all serving under the first woman to hold the office.” President-elect Biden has selected Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary, which has previously never been held by a woman, and has chosen “his senior communications team, all of whom are women.”

   Crump expressed that she was “beyond relieved to see Biden’s choices… these women in command as well as the other cabinet nominations [give] me hope for a more inclusive future.” Crump also noted how racially diverse this department will be. Not only is Harris the first female Vice-President, but she is also the first person of color to hold the position. She has chosen Rohini Kosoglu as her domestic policy advisor, who previously was “the first South Asian-American woman to serve as chief of staff in the U.S. Senate,” Bloomberg explained.

   Tina Flournoy, who was President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, will hold the same position for Harris. Nancy McEldowney has been chosen as the national security advisor. Along with Kosoglu, these three women will make up the highest positions in Harris’s office. Crump emphasized the significance of these advancements: “To have women in more political positions allows for actual women’s voices and needs to be heard and not swept under the rug.”