Record Breaker and Role Model

Women on Boards congratulates Kamala Harris, the first woman and only the second person of colour to hold executive office in the United States.

When Hilary Clinton spoke to The Hon. Julia Gillard at the International Convention Centre in Sydney on 11th May 2018, she famously said– “I should have watched The Apprentice.

She was, of course, referring to her shock 2016 Presidential election loss to Donald Trump. A loss after which I recorded a video in which I said; “voters in the great democracy of America will accept a flawed man, but they will not accept a flawed woman as their President.

In 2020 – just four years later – America has elected Kamala Harris as the first woman to hold the office of Vice-President. She now carries the mantle of being the first woman, first immigrant and only the second person of colour to be elected to the executive branch of the US Government in a long list of 92 American Presidents and Vice Presidents.

What has prompted this turn around? This record turn-out to support a Democrat team of a 77-year old veteran and a 56-year-old black woman in a nation where at best 60% of the voting eligible population actually vote?

Is it Trump’s poor record on COVID? Is it his conduct and (lack of) morals, ethics and values? Is it a repudiation of the old hierarchies and prejudices of the world? Is it at last recognition of the role of women? Or is it just despair and a desperate need for unity and grace in the face of a divisive and polarising government?

We may speculate, but in the end the victory has been sealed by Biden and Harris – who in the equivalent of an acceptance speech in Delaware on the weekend was gracious and grateful in her acknowledgement that she stood on the shoulders of other women and women of colour in becoming Vice President.

The woman, who as a little girl who was bussed to school during the racial desegregation policies of the 1970s, told the crowd that “every little girl watching tonight – sees possibility to dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not.

Her reference reminded me instantly of the response of a group of students from Unley Girls High School in South Australia when The Hon. Julia Gillard was elected Prime Minister in 2010. They said words to the effect that “this means we can become the Prime Minister too.” In other words, both Gillard and Harris offer hope to young women that they can achieve high office, just as female directors and leaders across all sectors of the economy offer the same hope. We speak to many of them in our regular Podcast series and they are both interesting and inspirational.

Kamala Harris is widely expected to be the Presidential candidate for the Democrats in 2024. She has promised that; “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.”  

I am hopeful that her words will ring true.

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