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Lionesses this Month: Celebrating Monumental Firsts

These women were industry firsts throughout May.

Every day, women strive to break the glass ceiling and accomplish new feats. We have five stories of women who made history throughout the month.

Women who made headlines in May:

The first executive chef at Canlis

Canlis, a fine dining restaurant in Seattle, recently announced that Aisha Ibrahim would become the new executive chef. This makes her the first woman to step into the role after six chefs and 70 years. According to Eater Seattle, Ibrahim previously worked as a sous chef at Manresa, a three-Michelin-star restaurant in California, before cooking in Spain and Thailand.

When asked about the decision, Canlis’ co-owner Brian Canlis said, “We set out to find a leader who could help rebuild a broken industry. There’s often a lot of toxicity in kitchen cultures. We want to continue to set and continue to push a whole different standard of how people and humans can be valued in the kitchen and restaurants in general.”

The first pit crew with more than 50 percent women

Motorsports is often stereotyped as a “man’s world,” but that belief is changing. The pit crew for Simona De Silvestro’s No. 16 Paretta Autosport Chevy is now made up of four women and three men. This is the first IndyCar team with a majority of women since the Indianapolis 500 began in 1911. Paretta Autosport bills itself as the “first female owned, female driven, and female forward race team in the sport”.

“They’ve worked so hard to show off their skills, and they’ve done the work to be as fast as the men,” said racer De Silvestro. “We’re super proud of them. I think we’ll have an amazing race together and really show the world that anything is possible.”

The first executive editor at the Washington Post

In the newspaper’s 143-year run, the Washington Post was always led by a male journalist – until now. Sally Buzbee, the previous executive editor of the Associated Press, took the role of executive editor on June 1.

In an interview, Buzbee expressed excitement at the prospect. “I think the Post has a real opportunity to lead and model what the future of journalism in the digital era is going to look like while marrying that to very deep, very strong factual reporting.”

The first civil rights chief

Kristen Clarke was recently elected to lead the civil rights division of the Department of Justice. Clarke will become the first woman and the first Black woman to take the role of investigating and enforcing voting and discrimination laws.

Clarke’s previous experience includes leading the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Civil Rights Bureau for the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

“Her track record of protecting all of our civil rights in areas ranges from combating hate crimes to advancing voting rights to fighting discrimination in housing, workplace and healthcare. It reveals her deep expertise and readiness for this critical role. Kristen’s confirmation is powerful and historic as the first woman and the first Black woman to ever hold this post,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center.

The first even gender split in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame faces frequent criticism for excluding women from its featured artists. Last month, the organization announced its picks for the 2021 inductees. Of the 15 inductees, seven were women. This marks the first time the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame presented a nearly even gender split. (It would technically be 7.5, but who’s counting?) It’s a great group of inductees, but we’re still miffed about Pat Benatar.

The women from the Class of 2021 include:

  • Tina Turner
  • Carole King
  • The five members of the The Go-Go’s
    • Belinda Carlisle
    • Jane Wiedlin
    • Charlotte Caffey
    • Gina Schock
    • Kathy Valentine

Hopefully next year, we’ll have a perfectly even split – or even a majority!

Make sure to read our other coverage for Lionesses this Month.


Have any other women you’d like to mention? Share them with us below.

About the author

Laura Grant

Laura Grant is a recent graduate of Western New England University with a bachelor's degree in English Literature. She spent her undergraduate term developing her writing and communication skills through internships, tutoring, and student media involvement. Her goal is to publish a novel one day.

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