Belfast Telegraph

The glass ceiling took a right old battering throughout the year, but can women stay on top over the coming 12 months?

By Lindy McDowell

It will go down in history for many reasons - Trump, Brexit, terrorism and a quite shocking celebrity cull - but 2016 will also surely be seen as a bit of a milestone in the rise of womankind.

That glass ceiling Hillary Clinton is always banging on about took a right hammering this year. Although not, ironically enough, from Hillary herself...

Mrs Clinton's defeat aside, Angela Merkel's salmon pink blazer is now no longer the single splash of colour amid the grey suits of political leadership gather-ups.

But it's not all been plain sailing for the sisterhood. Despite the undeniable breakthroughs, the female class of 2016 has enjoyed mixed fortunes.

So who will be the winners in 2017?

Angela Merkel may still rule the roost as the world's most powerful woman. But she has undoubtedly been damaged by the fall-out from recent terrorist attacks (which is, of course, part of the terrorists' aim). Her open-hearted, open-door immigration policy is currently widely condemned, her good intentions mocked now as paving a cross-border road to hell. The omens are not great for Mrs Merkel in 2017.

Arlene Foster got off to a great start in 2016 with her election as Northern Ireland's first female (and youngest) First Minister, and followed that up with her party's triumph in the Assembly elections. But the feel-good factor has lately gone up in smoke amid the costly flames of the Renewable Heat Incentive.

She wasn't as badly burnt as she might have been by Jonathan Bell's strange, petulant Nolan performance. But with the Charter NI saga, disquiet at her Brexit position and now that truly horrific half-a-billion heating bill, she's undoubtedly facing a turbulent New Year.

Nicola Sturgeon started 2016 on a roll, but has since found it a bit of an uphill climb. Her very vocal opposition to Brexit and her attempt to position Scotland as a special case has yet to yield results.

Meanwhile, she's facing real opposition in her own back yard from the very able Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson. 2017 Could be tricky for Nic.

Theresa May. Making headlines for your expensive leather trousers as much as for your policies is never a good thing in politics.

Theresa has positioned herself as the Pied Piper of Brexit, but is scant on the detail of where she is leading us. Or, as with those leather trousers, how much this will cost.

Hillary Clinton. The fact that she was beaten by Donald Trump in the presidential poll was not, whatever her martyred message to "little girls watching" may have inferred, down to US voters' reluctance to elect a woman.

Hillary Clinton didn't lose because she was a woman. She lost because she was Hillary Clinton. The question for 2017, though, is will Chelsea now take up her mother's mantle?

Marine le Pen. The bogey-woman of Europe. As leader of France's far right National Front party, le Pen has been shamelessly capitalising on anti-immigration fears and outright racism. Poised, some predict, for power in France in 2017. Surely, with their history, the French would have more sense...

The Queen. At 90 years of age, still reigning not just as a female head of state but now, in her latter years, as a role model for late-life work ethic.

Melania Trump. As First Lady of the US, she will follow in the impressive footsteps of Michelle Obama (whose speech she's already plagiarised.)

It's undeniably a tough act to follow, and former model Melania doesn't always look terribly comfortable in her new role.

Occasionally her face bears the look of someone attempting to edge past a particularly snarly Doberman.

But let's give the girl a chance. She may yet surprise us.

What 2017 throws up will doubtless surprise us. But women at the top - that's no longer such a novelty.

An ill wind to share your name with a storm

I'm not sure I'm keen on the current system of giving human names to storms. Yes, it might be fun to have a weather system share your first name. But surely not if it leaves chaos and chill in its wake.

I associate names (and whether I like them) with people I know. We've just had Barbara and Conor.

The Barbaras and the Conors I know are pleasant, even-tempered and unlikely ever to blast you with strong wind (!) and cold air.

Somebody should sue.

No loss felt as keenly as that of a loved one

The sad death of George Michael is just the latest in the litany of stars who've passed away this year.

But reading the online tributes to George - some so poignantly simple, others overly-flowery - one that struck me most was from an anonymous poster saying that he or she had lost their own greatest star in 2016. Their mum. It's a line that will resonate with so many people who have also lost someone they loved deeply in this past year.

The greatest legends in our lives are not always the famous.

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