2021, issues, work
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The 21 Issues That Will Define 2021

2020 was a watershed year, for better or worse. A pandemic shut the world down, protests against systemic racism and police brutality swept the nation, an election led to not only the end of the Trump presidency but also to ongoing and baseless claims of widespread voter fraud — even the Supreme Court shifted after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. The word “unprecedented” became, well, very precedented. For all of the failures and triumphs 2020 brought, it has signaled seismic shifts in the way we live and work. Based on the whirlwind that was 2020, here’s a look forward at some of the many issues that are likely to define 2021.

(fzikes/Shutterstock.com)

Work/Life

1. A deeper, more public discourse surrounding workplace diversity and inclusion 

Protests against systemic racism this year shed even more light on many corporate institutions’ lack of representation of Black and Indigenous people of color and other marginalized groups. Although most organizations had at least a passing interest in D&I in the past, there was a further reckoning to dig deeper and shift wishy-washy “cultural awareness training” to true anti-racist work. DiversityInc has recommended Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist to leaders for years, and its thesis is simple: It’s not enough to simply not be racist — one must be actively anti-racist.

Meanwhile, as many organizations worked to create the space to have difficult conversations and to reflect on personal biases, President Trump has completely disavowed diversity and inclusion work in an executive order that halted diversity and inclusion “training” for all federal contractors. This attempt to undermine ongoing work that challenges employees to assess their own misconceptions about history, society and their role within it have led many to call on President-elect Biden, urging him to reverse Trump’s ban.

As DiversityInc founder and Chairman Luke Visconti wrote in October 2020, the “we can’t find them” excuse is no longer going to fly, whether it’s in business or society as a whole. In 2021, there will need to be a holistic commitment to anti-racist, diverse and inclusive work throughout organizations.

2. Greater reliance on remote work

Thanks to COVID-19, 2020 became the year everyone started working from home. After the pandemic forced most businesses to revamp the entire structure of their workplace, many realized in-person work wasn’t actually necessary for most employees. A PwC (DiversityInc Hall of Fame) report found that 78% of the 699 CEOs it surveyed planned to continue offering remote work options after the pandemic has ended.

In addition to the enhanced health and safety working from home provides, remote work has become a serious boon to corporate recruiters since it allows for greater attraction and retention of talent. A FlexJobs survey found 65% of respondents wanted to be full-time remote employees post-pandemic, and 31% wanted a hybrid remote work environment — meaning a full 96% of individuals surveyed wanted some type of remote work to exist going forward.

If a happy workforce wasn’t enough to push long-term work from home plans to reality, profits surely will be. More and more research has begun to show that remote work is more lucrative for companies. According to experts, businesses lose an average of $600 billion a year due to workplace distractions. This year, 90% of employers found remote work hasn’t hurt productivity, and 27% even said their productivity was higher.

Overall, it may be a long while before you have to put on those blazers and slacks again — remote work is here to stay.

3. Improved flexibility in the workplace for working parents

The stress of remote schooling has not only placed a burden on families with young children, it has also caused a crisis in the working world that outlined an incredible need for companies to adapt. According to the think tank Center for American Progress, when schools finally restarted in the fall of 2020 (many with at least partial remote learning), four times as many women as men were forced to drop out of the workforce in order to help manage their children’s schooling. This fact only further proves that women still bear the brunt of duties at home and face more barriers in progressing at work. Based on this data, economists estimate that jobs competing with family duties and offering no flexibility may have cost the labor market an estimated $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and spoiled economic activity.

Still, there is hope that progress can be made on this front in the new year. A report from the research firm Garter found that 43% of corporate respondents would agree to granting flex days to working parents in the future and 42% would be willing to provide flex hours to employees even after the pandemic ends.

Author and podcaster Jacob Morgan spoke to CNBC in April 2020 about the importance of flexible work in supporting working mothers and said forward-thinking organizations should have no trouble adapting to mothers’ changing workplace needs.

“Any leader who practices empathy will say, ‘Look, you can have both,’” Morgan told CNBC. “You don’t need to sacrifice one for the other.”

A healthcare worker receives a second Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine shot at Beaumont Health in Southfield, Michigan in early January 2021. (Paul Sancya/AP/Shutterstock)

Health and Wellbeing

4. Healthcare equity for all

The coronavirus pandemic shed increased light on an issue that has plagued health care for centuries: inequities in care for all citizens. When Black, Indigenous and other people of color began dying from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates (and when research showed that even when controlled for pre-existing conditions, they were still more likely to die from the virus), many hoped the time for significant reform had finally arrived. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has spoken out against institutional racism and its role in the burden of COVID-19 on Black communities. Additionally, pledges for more diversity in COVID-19 vaccine trials further outlined the importance of serving everyone.

In September 2020, an Indigenous Canadian woman Joyce Echaquan livestreamed the last moments of her life writhing in pain in a hospital bed as nurses mocked her and gave her morphine despite her warning them that she was allergic to it. These occurrences have further demonstrated that for many, the healthcare system is still plagued by the same discrimination and dehumanization it was built on centuries ago.

Just days before Christmas, a Black physician, Dr. Susan Moore died from COVID-19 after speaking up on the neglect and mistreatment she received while she was a patient at an Indiana hospital.

“This is how Blаck people get killed,” she said in a video she made documenting her experience, which included being discharged from the hospital before she felt she was ready and being denied the necessary medications needed for her care. “When you send them home,” she explained, “they don’t know how to fight for themselves.”

As if issues of systemic racism built into the health care system weren’t enough to deal with, as the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine rolled out, the issue of who has access to the lifesaving medication will also enter the national spotlight. While wealthy countries like the U.S. and Britain have acquired many of the doses needed to protect their populations, reports show as much as 90% of the population in poorer countries may have to wait until 2022 or later to get vaccinated.

Still, there are signs that significant change may lie ahead. The People’s Vaccine Alliance and other public health advocates have started calling for equal access to the vaccine around the world. And in September, 39 health systems across the U.S. — including Northwell Health (No. 1 on The DiversityInc Specialty List for Top Hospitals and Health Systems) — signed a pledge to implement policy change and other initiatives to combat the public health crisis of racism.

“We will work more intentionally with community-based partners in building and sustaining the sweeping change that is needed to ensure health equity across the country, and particularly in our most under-resourced communities,” Northwell Health said in the statement.

Whether it’s a demand for medication, improved research methodologies or reforms to patient care, it’s clear demands for greater health equity will continue to shape the health care industry in 2021.

5. A greater emphasis on mental health disparities

The burden of ongoing quarantines and lockdowns has forced many to look inward, opening public consciousness and improving our ability to engage in more open and productive conversations concerning mental health. The CDC offered advice and tip sheets on how to cope with the distress caused by the pandemic, and companies like Kaiser Permanente (DiversityInc Hall of Fame company) and PwC ramped up the availability of resources for both their employees and customers on how to combat mental health issues.

Last year’s racial justice movement also highlighted the need for better mental healthcare for communities of color. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention announced grants for more research into racial disparities in mental health care as part of its upcoming funding cycles.

Still, between the loss, stress, anxiety, addiction and depression we’re all experiencing over COVID-19, coupled with the numerous mental health issues that plagued American lives before the pandemic struck, it’s obvious, as CNN recently declared, that mental health will remain one of the biggest collateral pandemic issues we’ll face in 2021.

6. Mainstream society’s continuing discussion of “body positivity”

Weight, size and body-type inclusivity have been part of a growing conversation on acceptance in many different circles over recent years, especially as we dive ever deeper into the era of the social media influencer and mobile photo filters. In 2020, more and more people took to social media to encourage their followers to accept and even celebrate their bodies, even as their weight gain increased from quarantining and going to the gym to work on their fitness became more and more of a distant memory.

But a number of events in 2020 also signified an even greater shift in “body positivity” may be underway. The message had finally moved from relatively thin, white, fitness influencers who were slouching to show their stomach fat to a more radical approach to acceptance that is completely inclusive of people of different sizes, and from different races and gender identities.

While revolutionary in its growth and expansion through pop culture, the idea itself isn’t new: Author Sonya Renee Taylor published “The Body is Not An Apology — The Power of Radical Self-Love” in 2018. In it, she discussed how body image is often deeply intertwined with politics and so-called societal norms regarding race, identity and ability. Taylor’s ideologies roared back into conversation recently after pop superstar Lizzo faced backlash for detailing a juice cleanse she was attempting. Taylor spoke out adamantly in Lizzo’s defense, saying people’s misplaced anger over the singer’s actions were putting the burden on plus-sized Black women to do self-love work for their white peers.

“You need to immediately be like, ‘Why am I not taking responsibility for this system that I’ve been complicit in that then demands very specific things from this fat Black woman’s body?’” Taylor proclaimed.

As the desire for increased racial justice and an acceptance of diversity in body types continues to grow in 2021, this conversation is bound to continue to grow and evolve, hopefully pushing us into even greater and more powerful arenas of self-love and acceptance.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 46 states with Washington, D.C. and Guam filed antitrust lawsuits against Facebook Inc., alleging illegal social network monopoly through anticompetitive conduct which could force the sale of Instagram and WhatsApp. (MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Business/Economy

7. A revitalized focus on improved wages and unemployment reform

2020 brought record unemployment rates. As the country works to rebuild from the wreckage caused by the pandemic, re-energizing and revitalizing the job market will be paramount. But exactly who gets re-hired will also be an important consideration. With women leaving the workforce in droves and white workers getting hired back twice as fast as Black workers in the fall of 2020, diversity in hiring will be more crucial than ever in 2021.

President-elect Joe Biden is about to inherit this struggling job market. He’s already proposed potential solutions like massive infrastructure, clean energy and technology investments, but his offerings will also need approval from a largely hostile Congress, Politico reports.

In addition to a renewed focus on hiring and building back the depleted workforce, 2021 will also see the country moving towards changes in the federal minimum wage, raising it from $7.25 to $15 an hour, a measure that was previously passed in the House but has so far been ignored in the Senate.

Although chances of it happening remain doubtful, Moody’s (No. 45 in 2020) conducted an analysis in 2020 which found that if Democrats were able to fully adopt their economic agenda under a Biden presidency, 18.6 million jobs could be created during his first term, and the economy could return to full employment by the second half of 2022.

8. Increased public corporate social responsibility 

Corporations’ “Black Lives Matter” statements dominated newswires 2020, especially in June when protests began over the outrageous murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. But the question many are asking now is will the majority of these businesses turn their words into actions moving forward?

Over the summer of 2020, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey to see how the public felt about this messaging. Among those who said they had seen or heard public statements about race or racial inequality, 69% said public pressure to address the issue has contributed a great deal to companies making these statements. Fewer than 20% believed genuine concern about the treatment of Black people in the country was a major contributing factor to corporations speaking out.

Meanwhile, companies like Wells Fargo (No. 11 in 2020) and Nielsen (No. 20 in 2020), which have shown a true commitment to diversity through their previous actions, and have even scored well on our DiversityInc Top 50 Companies assessments despite scandals over misguided CEO remarks and a discrimination lawsuit, respectively, showing that everyone still has more work to do.

The public is clearly watching, and leadership accountability will continue to be an issue in 2021.

9. Environmental issues 

Even with an ongoing pandemic and political unrest, the health of the actual planet we live on continues to be a dire issue, but not one that is receiving the attention it deserves. After President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord in 2017 and rolled back more than 100 environmental regulations, many are looking to the upcoming Biden/Harris administration to reinstate these policies.

How those initiatives will pan out, however, remains to be seen. Although Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, she and Biden have both now said they would not ban fracking, a controversial oil-extraction process that is said to destroy water supplies, contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and even cause earthquakes. Still, Democrats remain hopeful significant gains will be made. Biden has already appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry to a high-profile role as the nation’s climate czar, a new position on the National Security Council. Biden has also named his own “climate team,” a group of advisors chosen to focus on creating clean energy jobs and keeping environmental protection a cornerstone of his economic plans.

Outside of Washington D.C. politics, companies like Microsoft and Amazon are also stepping up their commitment to a cleaner environment. Both companies have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030 and 2040, respectively, meaning that for however much carbon their business practices put into the atmosphere, they will work to remove that same amount of pollutants from our air. And that’s just the start of what many say could be an ever-growing commitment to the environment going forward for many in corporate America.

10. Breaking up tech monopolies 

“Will the government break up Facebook?” is a question many are looking to have answered in 2021. This month, the Federal Trade Commission sued Facebook saying it’s “illegally maintaining its personal social networking monopoly through a years-long course of anticompetitive conduct.” Facebook also owns previous rival social networking and messaging apps Instagram and WhatsApp.

Other tech giants like Google could find themselves on the chopping block as well, which could mean a significant investigation into their existing consumer privacy protections as well as major reforms in the way both companies carry out business on a daily basis.

“The efforts represent a turning of the tide as Washington and public opinion sours on big tech, which has so far enjoyed exponential growth and an almost unobstructed rise to power,” Gabrielle Canon wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian.

11. Small business recovery

During the pandemic, corporations like Amazon profited while close to 100,000 (and counting) local businesses across the country shut down. With record unemployment rates and an overall need to stimulate the economy, the importance of protecting small businesses can’t be overstated.

In December 2020, Congress passed a stimulus bill that allotted a measly $600 per person, but the bill also committed $285 billion for additional loans devoted to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It also allotted $15 billion in federal aid for independent venues and movie theaters that were forced to close down.

Although the $900 billion stimulus bill is the second largest in U.S. history, there’s the fear that the aid won’t last long enough. The Washington Post reported on this issue and interviewed economists who said the effects of COVID-19 will be long-lasting, even with the bill in place.

“This is better than nothing, and there’s some good news that we’re finally getting a deal,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial market economist at Oxford Economics. “The bad news is it’s less stimulative than the prior packages, and the relief measures are short-lived.”

The idea is that the bill will prevent the U.S. economy from backsliding more until the vaccine is widespread enough for people to gather and patronize restaurants and venues regularly. The dolling out of this money — and whether it indeed lasts long enough to keep the economy stable in the upcoming year — will be something to watch for as we move into 2021.

12. Pressure on billionaires and corporations to be more philanthropic

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is worth $121 billion — with a B. He is so rich that for him, spending $1.2 million is comparable to the average American spending around a dollar. Meanwhile, in comparison, his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott has donated $4.1 billion to charity in the last few months of 2020. Her beneficiaries included historically Black colleges and universities, food banks and YMCA centers.

While a record number of Americans face hungerevictions (though frozen under the recently passed stimulus bill) and other hardships, the revolutionary slogan “eat the rich” has been making a welcome comeback.

The world has needed the aid of wealthy organizations and individuals in recent months, and the Philanthropy News Digest has reported that seven in ten U.S. corporate funders did increase their charitable contributions in 2020.

However, a recent Washington Post survey also revealed that between April and September, 45 of the 50 most valuable publicly traded companies also profited significantly from the pandemic yet more than half made major cuts to their workforces.

“There is an obligation on the part of the largest and most successful businesses to help buffer the human impact of the crisis,” author Kirk Hanson, professor of business ethics and a senior fellow at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, told The Post.

In 2021, the responsibility of corporations and the assistance that the uber-rich could easily provide towards creating a better, more just planet will continue to be a focus as the country works to recover financially from the pandemic.

13. Post-pandemic reopening

While 2021 is beginning with a record number of COVID-19 cases across the country, the prognosis for at least a partial return to normalcy by year’s end is hopeful, given the ongoing vaccine rollout.

That means businesses reopening, and the stresses and chaos that are likely to come with it will be another facet of pandemic recovery we’ll all be stressing over in the new year.

While Facebook and Google have announced July 2021 as the official start of their workforces returning to the office, plans to reopen smaller, less affluent businesses on the same timetable may be too ambitious.

There’s also much debate over what life in a post-COVID-19 world might look like. How will testing be carried out? Will vaccinations be required as a condition of employment? Will at-risk and less at-risk populations return to the workplace at the same time, or will their returns be staggered? And what happens to domestic and even international business travel, conferences and even large group meetings?

The most important thing to keep in mind is that we’ll all need to stay flexible. The summer will likely see a greater return to “normal,” though businesses must also account for the time it may take for employees who return to in-person work to reacclimate to the office environment.

While many large corporations profited this year, some small businesses came close to closing their doors. Whether additional government aid will be necessary in the next few months will inevitably be of major political concern as Biden and Harris take office.

executions, Trump
From left, Alfred Bourgeois, Cory Johnson, Dustin Higgs, Lisa Montgomery and Brandon Bernard were all scheduled do be federally executed before President Trump leaves office. Bourgeois and Bernard were both executed in December.

Criminal Justice Reform

14. A movement away from the death penalty

Trump’s presidency is ending with a flurry of federal executions, executing more people in the last months of 2020 than had been executed in the previous 50 years. In December, Brandon Bernard and Alfred Bourgeois were executed, both maintaining their innocence until the end. In January 2021, Lisa Montgomery, Cory Johnson and Dustin Higgs are all scheduled to death despite activists and their respective families urging Trump to grant them stays. The legal teams of Montgomery and Johnson have each indicated that they are intellectually disabled and mentally ill. There is also evidence that supports Higgs’s co-defendants conspiring to pin the murder on him.

Montgomery, Johnson and Higgs’s executions are scheduled to occur just before Biden takes office. Biden’s history on the death penalty is mixed. He co-authored the infamous 1994 crime bill which expanded the use of capital punishment. But in recent years, he’s softened his stance, saying he is opposed to capital punishment and will eliminate the death penalty.

Now, advocates and Congress members are urging him to do so upon taking office on Jan. 20. In December 2020, more than three dozen members of Congress formally drafted a letter to the transition team for Biden and Harris.

Right now, there are 52 people on federal death row and 20 pending state executions, according to the Death Row Information Center. The final executions of the Trump presidency in 2021 will inform an urgent demand for Biden to abolish the practice once and for all in the new year.

15. Police reform

“Defund the police” became a powerful — and misunderstood — rally cry of the Black Lives Matter Movement after excessive use of force from the police killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black individuals in recent years.

While many activists called for defunding police forces and reallocating funds to causes that would benefit Black and brown communities, other people said police reform in the form of body cameras and external investigations into misconduct would be enough. During the presidential race, Trump tried to undermine Biden by saying he wanted to defund the police, but in reality, he has taken a more moderate stance.

In a recently leaked record, Biden was caught saying terms like “defund the police” were harmful to the Democratic Party. But activists in favor of defunding the police haven’t backed down and they say they’re not going away, no matter who is serving in the White House.

By August 2020, at least 13 cities — including Baltimore, Los Angeles and New York — had decreased police budgets and promised investments into at-risk communities. Cities like New York City and Eugene, Oregon have also shown promising developments of community alternatives in response to mental health crises.

What to do about the continuing reality of police brutality will take a new form in 2021 as advocates both for and against defunding the police demand action from the historically moderate Biden.

16. Marijuana legalization

In December 2020, the House passed a bill that would decriminalize marijuana and expunge convictions for nonviolent marijuana-related charges at the federal level, although it’s likely to die in the Senate. Still, the substance is only completely illegal in six states, and 15 plus the District of Columbia have fully legalized it. A November Gallup poll showed that 68% of Americans agree with marijuana legalization.

Marijuana reform also ties into racial justice, considering Black people are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites, despite both groups using the substance at roughly the same rate.

New Jersey is on track to legalize recreational use of the drug in the near future, but an earlier version of the bill that the state had proposed was controversial because it allotted money from legal pot sales for police training — a move which activists argue was against the entire point of legalizing weed in the first place. In the new bill, 70% of the tax revenue will go to programs that will uplift minority communities disproportionately affected by marijuana criminalization.

As marijuana legalization continues to find itself on an ever-expanding slate of state and federal dockets in 2021, questions about how profits from its sale can be banked and taxed, and where government revenue will ultimately go (and if legalization will truly be restorative for those who have been convicted of low-level drug offenses) will be central.

17. Judicial reform

If given the chance to nominate a Supreme Court justice during his term, Biden has promised to appoint a Black woman.

Although the Supreme Court will remain conservative-leaning for the foreseeable future, there have been numerous calls for Biden to appoint additional women and people of color to lower district and circuit courts as well. While many say these types of changes won’t ultimately rectify a Trump-stacked Supreme Court that’s bound to persist for years, it could still lead to significant change, diversifying the lower courts and ultimately impacting which cases ultimately make their way to the Supreme Court.

native, issues
Jeannie Hovland, the deputy assistant secretary for Native American Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wears a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women mask, in Anchorage, Alaska. She attended the opening of a Lady Justice Task Force cold case office in Anchorage, which will investigate missing and murdered Indigenous women. (Mark Thiessen/AP/Shutterstock)

Social Issues

18. A renewed focus on Indigenous Rights

Indigenous Peoples’ rights have long been a pressing issue in the U.S., but more diverse voices are finally seeing the spotlight. On the pop-culture front, Native American creators on Tik Tok have grown popular in the last year, showcasing their culture and discussing issues that impact their communities through short videos on the social network.

Meanwhile, in the realm of politics, Biden recently appointed New Mexico Congress member Deb Haaland to his Cabinet as the Secretary of the Interior. If confirmed, Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, would be the first Native American to serve on a presidential Cabinet.

During the 2020 election, Indigenous communities spoke out when CNN referred to voters who were not white, Latinx, Black or Asian as “something else.”

“This type of language continues the efforts to erase Indigenous and other voters who don’t neatly fall into the race categories listed in the graphic,” the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) said in a statement.

In January 2021, three laws that will strengthen Native Americans’ rights in the state of California will go into effect. James Ramos, the first member of a California Native American tribe to serve in the state legislature, is behind them. The laws address issues like the reclamation of tribal artifacts, the importance of encouraging voting in Native American communities and combating the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Undoubtedly, with new policies and new voices in place, the fight against the erasure of Native American communities will continue in 2021.

19. Immigrants’ rights reform

Images of children being detained in cages by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the U.S.-Mexico border may have come to define many aspects of the Trump presidency, especially because of its brutal and inhumane family separation policy, but the abuse of immigrants at the hands of immigration officials is sadly not new. There were people kept in chain-link enclosures described as cages during the Obama presidency as well, and U.S. mistreatment of immigrants has a history dating back decades, all the way to the Japanese internment camps of World War II and before.

Accounts of abuses at ICE detention facilities were common throughout 2020. One especially alarming incident even made headlines after a whistleblower revealed reports of doctors performing “questionable” hysterectomies on detainees and denying them COVID-19 tests.

The year even ended with even more protests against ICE, when detainees at a detention center in Bergen County, New Jersey took part in hunger strikes over the group’s unfair policies. In the state, Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez have even demanded Hudson, Bergen and Orange counties dissolve their ICE contracts.

The Biden administration has promised a reversal of Trump-era immigration policies but said “it will take time.” But as this human rights issue remains pressing, the public will have its eye on what path the Biden administration will ultimately take on immigration reform.

20. Increased representation of transgender people

In the 2020 elections, at least six transgender and gender non-binary politicians made history by earning legislative seats. Sarah McBride, now serving in the Senate representing Delaware became the first openly transgender state senator and highest-ranking transgender official ever elected to a government office. Taylor Small (Vermont), Mauree Turner (Oklahoma), Stephanie Byers (Kansas), Brianna Titone (Colorado) and Lisa Bunker (New Hampshire) all won seats in their respective state houses of representatives.

Upon winning the Senate election, McBride tweeted, “I hope tonight shows an LGBTQ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too.”

Meanwhile, beloved actor Elliot Page, famous for their role in the 2007 Oscar-winning film Juno, came out as transgender, announcing they use both he/him and they/them pronouns.

Judicially, in 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark ruling that transgender individuals and other LGBTQ individuals were protected from job discrimination, saying the wording “on the basis of sex” applied to sexual orientation and gender identity. However, advocates worry a majority conservative-leaning court may change the trajectory of future rulings.

With more transgender public figures and issues in the spotlight, 2021 will be a year for increased transgender visibility and a continued push for transgender equality in all areas of public and private life.

21. Where we stand on reproductive freedom

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court swayed its tilt from generally liberal to quite conservative, and Coney Barrett’s stance on abortion is one of the reasons she was a controversial pick. Though Coney Barrett has repeatedly insisted that her Catholic views won’t affect how she rules on issues like abortion, Trump’s nomination of Coney Barrett came after he had very publicly promised to only appoint judges who would reverse the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade judgment which guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion.

Meanwhile, as health care goes back up for government debate, Biden’s proposed public option for the Affordable Care Act is set to cover abortion.

Casting our gaze to the rest of the world, Argentina, a largely Catholic country that previously had incredibly strict abortion restrictions, just legalized the procedure countrywide after a large grassroots effort. With victories for abortion advocates abroad and setbacks in the U.S., reproductive freedom will continue to have the spotlight for many in 2021.

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