Kamala Harris : A step forward for all women?
Two days ago, Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States, delivered his inauguration speech to the American people. Biden and Kamala Harris, the first woman and the first person of African American and Indian descent to serve as Vice President of the United States, both began their term. Kamala Harris’s swearing-in has delighted many women around the world, but why is it a victory for women ?
Historically, women were excluded from North American politics, until the suffragette movement in the early 20th century, which fought for voting rights. So, it's no surprise that even to this day, the US government is predominantly male. Internationally, women MPs make up only 25% of parliaments.
The representation of women and ethnic minorities in politics is important not only for the sake of equality, but also because the United States political system is a representative democracy. This means that the government must represent and reflect the people. To do this, voters elect MPs who will have to make decisions that concern the electors. More than 50% of Americans are women and about 40% of Americans are ethnically diverse, yet both of these groups are under-represented in politics.
According to the theory of intersectionality, a concept developed by Kimberlé Crenshaw, the various forms of oppression overlap and intersect, for example, an African-American and Indian woman experiences racism, misogyny and sexism. The presence of women politicians from diverse backgrounds is important in order to tackle not only women's issues, including, among others, the gender pay gap, the pink tax, sexism in the workplace, but also issues specific to ethnic minorities, such as racism. Kamala Harris not only opened the doors for women, but also opened them for the African American and South Asian communities.
Moreover, as reported by some studies, increasing the political representation of women can only be positive. Indeed, the data shows that women in politics tend to prioritize the provision of public goods, such as health, education and welfare services. Empowerment of women is therefore seen as an important factor in improving the global health of the population.
However, as claimed by researchers, women are less likely to run for president. One of the possible reasons is that from an early age, girls tend to be much less encouraged to do so compared to boys. As Kamala Harris said in her victory speech last November, "While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities." Her swearing-in constitutes in itself an encouragement for all these little girls to become Vice-President, even President of the United States.
Taking into consideration the importance of women's political representation, Kamala Harris is a message of hope and inspiration to all women around the world. Her swearing-in represents a breakthrough for women in general.