10 Women in Entertainment Who Have Pushed Gender Equality Forward in 2021

10 Women in Entertainment Who Have Pushed Gender Equality Forward in 2021

From actresses to musicians to comedians, women in entertainment made great strides for gender equality in 2021. Some have taken the seats as the head of the board. Some have closed million dollar deals. Others have taken rights back to their brands, their music or their health, but all have changed the equation and given women a voice.


We are taking a look back at major moves women in entertainment made in 2021 and how they’ve inspired us:


1. Taylor Swift

When Taylor Swift released “Red (Taylor’s Version)” in November, a new spin on her 2008 record, an echo of applause could be heard ‘round the world. This expanded album is one of six re-recorded albums that Swift plans to release from her early discography, resulting in new masters that she fully owns.

What We Learned: By fighting for her master recordings, Swift taught us to take ownership of our work and the value we bring to the table.


2. Rihanna

This summer, Rihanna was named the world’s wealthiest female musical artist by Forbes and in December, she was named a National Hero by her home country of Barbados. Most of her fortune does not come from her music but from her Fenty Beauty brand.

What We Learned: With her multi-layered success in music, beauty and fashion, Rihanna taught us to diversify our skill set in order to achieve success.


3. Britney Spears

As of November, Britney Spears is free from the court-ordered conservatorship that controlled her personal life, medical decisions, career and finances for 14 years.

What We Learned: Throughout her public legal battle with her conservator, her father, Spears showed the world the power in using your voice to call out abuse and toxicity.


4. Jessica Simpson

After a three-year battle, Jessica Simpson bought her lifestyle brand out of bankruptcy for $65 million, reclaiming full ownership.

What We Learned: Simpson taught us the importance of owning your name and brand, as well as to not back down when people say something is impossible.


5. Issa Rae

Issa Rae wrapped five seasons of “Insecure” and expanded her media domain with a soundtrack and mobile game.

What We Learned: By telling the story of Black millennials living and working in southern California, Rae showed the world the value and potency of representation and telling diverse stories.


6. Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon sold Hello Sunshine, her production company that focuses on elevating women’s stories in entertainment, for $900 million. She will continue to oversee its day-to-day operations.

What We Learned: By creating a company that focuses on spotlighting female creators, Witherspoon showed the value of telling women’s stories.


7. Shonda Rhimes

After debuting “Bridgerton” in 2020, Netflix’s most-watched original series ever, Shonda Rhimes expanded her Netflix partnership with Shondaland in 2021 to include film, merchandise, VR and gaming. The expansion also includes live events like the Bridgerton-inspired Queens Ball installment that will tour the U.S. and Canada next year. She was named this year’s Adweek’s Media Visionary.

What We Learned: Through her storied career as an award-winning producer Rhimes has shown us there’s always a yes, and entertainment’s traditional casting stereotypes can be broken.


8. Scarlett Johansson

In July, Scarlett Johansson, star of the Marvel “Black Widow” franchise, sued Disney, alleging that her contract was breached when the media conglomerate released the film simultaneously on its Disney+ streaming service and in theaters. In the lawsuit, Johansson stated that her agreement guaranteed an exclusive release in theaters, and therefore, her salary was based largely on the box-office performance of the film. The actress and Disney later resolved their dispute.

What We Learned: Johansson taught us to not be intimidated by power and to speak up before a harmful precedent is set that could damage one’s career.


9. Selma Blair

Blair shared her multiple sclerosis (MS) journey in the Discovery+ documentary, “Introducing, Selma Blair” and called for more inclusive content in entertainment at The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Event: “Seek out the other stories. Take the phone calls. Hire other disabled people in front of and behind the camera, not because it is the right thing to do, although it is, but because you and whatever project you are working on will be better for having done so.”

What We Learned: By candidly sharing her personal journey with MS, Blair gave a voice to those with disabilities.


10. Eva Longoria

In December, Eva Longoria, the first Latina to direct two Hollywood films and spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris, hosted an empowering Stand Up Against Street Harassment session to educate people on how to help eradicate these situations and what to do when you find yourself in one.

What We Learned: Longoria showed us that we can use our platforms to open the dialogue on social issues, and men must be part of the conversation in our fight for equality.


These are just a few of the women in entertainment whose actions in their personal and/or professional lives have shone a light on inequality. By advocating for themselves and challenging the status quo, they have given women around the world a voice. We can’t wait to see what 2022 brings as we continue to rewrite the rules and champion gender equality across every industry.


How have you been inspired by women in entertainment in 2021? How have women in the public eye trailblazed a path for gender equality?


Photo by Sam McGhee
Written by

Stephanie, who affectionately goes by Stevie, is the content strategist for The Female Quotient. Her passion for storytelling has sustained her career in magazines and online content for the past decade as an editor, reporter and writer. She has lived a number of lives from an event assistant to a creative writing teacher in juvenile halls to the former Online Managing Editor at Darling Magazine.