18 honors throughout history that only one woman has achieved

women firsts

  • There are still honors, titles, and leadership positions that only one woman in history has achieved.
  • Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be the first woman to serve as vice president beginning January 20, 2021.
  • There has only been one female Speaker of the House, Oscar-winning best director, four-star admiral, and White House executive pastry chef, among others.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

There are many important jobs that women have never held. Even when the glass ceiling is shattered and a woman reaches new, historic heights, it can take years before others follow.

In fields such as public service, entertainment, sports, and business, many of the highest honors have only been achieved by one woman.

Here are 18 leadership positions, titles, and awards that only one woman in history has held.

Kamala Harris will be the first woman to serve as vice president of the United States come January 20.

On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris will become the first Black and South Asian-American female vice president in American history. Her victory also makes her husband, Doug Emhoff, the first-ever second gentleman.

When she was elected to the Senate in 2016, Harris became the second African-American woman and first South Asian-American senator in history.

Two other women have run for vice president on a major party ticket: Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sarah Palin in 2008.

If confirmed by the Senate, economist Janet Yellen will be the first woman to head the Treasury Department since it was founded in 1789.

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to nominate Janet Yellen to head the Treasury Department.

Yellen was also the first woman to serve as chair of the Federal Reserve. In addition to being the first woman to serve as treasury secretary, Yellen would also be the first person of any gender to have led the Federal Reserve, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and the Treasury Department.

Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as Speaker of the House in 2007 and again in 2019 — the only woman to ever hold the position.

Speaker of the House is third in the line of succession after the president and vice president.

"We have broken the marble ceiling," Pelosi said when she was sworn in for the first time. "For our daughters and our granddaughters now the sky is the limit."

Carla Hayden is the first woman and first African American to serve as Librarian of Congress.

Hayden is the 14th Librarian of Congress. She was nominated by President Barack Obama and took the Oath of Office in 2016.

Hillary Clinton became the first presidential nominee backed by a major US political party.

While Clinton did become the first woman to win the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, she ultimately lost the presidency to Donald Trump. Several other women have run for president, but the US still has not elected a female commander-in-chief.

Susan Morrison is the first woman to serve as the White House executive pastry chef.

Morrison is the seventh White House executive pastry chef, in charge of creating and serving dessert menus for the White House's many functions. She took on the role in 2014, helping then-first lady Michelle Obama with the White House Kitchen Garden and beehive used to pollinate the garden.

Michelle Howard is the first woman to become a four-star admiral in the history of the Navy.

Howard was the first African American woman to captain a US naval ship when she commanded the USS Rushmore in 1999. In 2014, she was promoted to admiral and appointed to 38th vice chief of naval operations, the second-highest position in the Navy. She was the highest-ranking African American and woman in naval history until she retired after 35 years of service in 2017.

Megan Brennan was the 74th Postmaster General of the US Postal Service. She was also the first woman to hold the position.

Brennan started out her career in the USPS carrying letters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She became Postmaster General in 2015 and retired in 2020.

Barbra Streisand is the only woman to win a Golden Globe for best director.

Streisand directed and starred in "Yentl" in 1984. She won the Golden Globe for best director, and the film won best musical or comedy. Her performance as the titular character also earned her a nomination for best actress in a musical or comedy.

Kathryn Bigelow made history when she won best director at the 82nd Academy Awards in 2010, and no other women have won since.

Bigelow directed "The Hurt Locker," a film about an army bomb squad in the Iraq war. The movie won five Academy Awards in addition to best director, including best picture and best original screenplay. Only five women have ever been nominated for best director in the 92-year history of the Oscars.

The Oscars had a female orchestra conductor for the first time in 2020: Irish conductor and composer Eímear Noone.

Noone conducted excerpts from the five movie scores nominated for Oscars. She was also the first female conductor at Dublin's National Concert Hall, and is also known for her musical contributions to the video game "World of Warcraft."

Mary Edwards Walker received a Medal of Honor, the only woman out of more than 3,500 recipients.

President Andrew Johnson awarded Walker a Medal of Honor in 1865 for her work as a doctor treating Union soldiers in the Civil War. The award was rescinded in 1917 because she was a civilian and not a member of the military. It wasn't reinstated until 60 years later, in 1977, by President Jimmy Carter.

Marie Curie is the only woman to have won a Nobel Prize twice.

Fifty-three women have won the Nobel Prize since 1901, but only one woman has won it twice. Scientist Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 for her groundbreaking radiation research and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911 for discovering radium and polonium.

Astronaut Peggy Whitson is the first and only woman to ever command the International Space Station twice.

Whitson became the first woman to command the ISS in 2008. Another woman, Sunita Williams, was the second woman to command the space station in 2012. Whitson then took command again in 2017.

Whitson also holds the US record for the most time spent in space, a record she broke in 2018 with 665 days.

Stacey Cunningham became the first female president of the New York Stock Exchange in 2018.

Cunningham became the first female head of the 227-year-old New York Stock Exchange after three years as its chief operating officer. Another woman, Catherine Kinney, had served as co-president of the New York Stock Exchange from 2002 to 2008 when the position was still beholden to male executives. Business Insider named Cunningham one of its 100 People Transforming Business in 2019.

Virginia "Ginni" Rometty is the only female CEO of IBM in its 108-year history.

Rometty started working at IBM in 1981 and became its CEO in 2012. Under her leadership, IBM extended parental leave and offered "returnships" to women reentering the workforce.

IBM announced Rometty's departure in January. She was replaced by Arvind Krishna, IBM's senior vice president of cloud.

Katie Sowers made history this year as the first female and first openly gay coach at a Super Bowl game.

Sowers was hired by the 49ers in 2017. Before being employed by the NFL, she was a member of the 2013 US Women's National Football Team and played in the Women's Football Alliance (WFA) for eight years.

Alyssa Nakken is the first female coach in Major League Baseball history.

In MLB's 151-year history, San Francisco Giants assistant coach Alyssa Nakken is the first woman to join a team's coaching staff. She has worked for the Giants since 2014 and became assistant coach in 2020.

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