Democrat victory in the recent US election was significant for a number of reasons.
Firstly, with Joe Biden finally winning enough electoral votes to secure the presidency on November 7th, Donald Trump’s reign over arguably the most powerful country in the world is all but over.
Though he clearly had his admirers domestically, his time in office proved to be one of the most controversial in living memory. Politicians, businesses and investors will be monitoring the situation as markets around the world rise steeply.
Secondly, Kamala Harris made history by becoming the first woman and first black and Asian American to be vice-president-elect. In a powerful video shared to her Twitter account, Harris promised she wouldn’t be the last.
A hopeful sign of things to come
As the records suggest, American politics is an arena typically dominated by white men. Harris had previously become the first woman and first African-American to serve as California’s attorney general in 2016. Her achievements have the potential to inspire people of her gender or race, both young and old, to break the mould further.
Her achievements have the potential to inspire people of her gender or race, both young and old, to break the mould further.
Research from the likes of Harvard Business School’s Gender Initiative shows that seeing females in positions of power can encourage others to go on to reach similar or even greater heights.
Harris is one of those females - and arrives during a pandemic that looks set to disproportionately affect women due to lop-sided childcare demands. Promisingly, her husband recently subverted gender stereotypes by giving up a senior position at a law firm to support her political campaign.
It’s hoped that her experiences as an aunt and stepmother will also make her more attuned to the unique challenges of women. While it remains to be seen whether her perspective can drive change around issues such as childcare, school funding and even foreign policy, Harris’ background – unfamiliar in the White House - undoubtably gives cause for optimism.
There are many notable women to have come before Harris, of course. Though divisive, Margaret Thatcher became the first female British Prime Minister in 1979, while Emeline Pankhurst worked to win women the right to vote tens of years earlier.
But with racial tensions close to spilling over in 2020, her diverse identity is one rarely seen before.
She grew up with in Oakland with two immigrant parents but was raised primarily by her Hindu single mother, Shyamala, from the age of five.
Shyamala was a cancer researcher and civil rights activist at the time. She often took Kamala with her on visits to India, while at the same time making sure she and her sister Maya were immersed in Oakland’s black community.
Kamala went on to study at one of America’s preeminent black higher education institutions, Howard University, during the apartheid era. She then taught in primarily white communities in Canada in the early years of her career, broadening her experiences even further.
A leading example at home and abroad
It’s thought that Harris’ background will allow her to engage with America’s many identities. At the same time, her story is capable of inspiring those on the margins in her mother’s homeland of India, as well as other nations where women are still commonly oppressed.
More women than ever will be serving in American congress following progress made by the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the 2018 mid-terms. Today’s list includes Iranian-American and transgender female candidates too.
It’s not yet known how Harris’ time in power will turn out. But her achievements up to this point can give women over the world cause for optimism.