Kamala Harris: Boldly Smashing One Of The Highest, Hardest Glass Ceilings

Photo credit: Joshua Roberts of Reuters/CNNpolitics

Finally it happened.

We now have our first female vice president. Our first Black vice president. Our first South Asian vice president. Our first Second Gentleman. Our first Jewish vice presidential spouse. Such a lot of firsts!

Amazingly, 158 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 101 years after women were granted the right to vote, Kamala Devi Harris stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with her husband Doug Emhoff as the newly sworn-in vice president of the United States.

At a perilous time when our country is beset by disease and death on a massive scale, economic disaster, unprecedented political polarization, catastrophic unemployment, a climate change crisis, immigration unrest and a host of other issues, who better to stand by our new president’s side, ready to work shoulder-to-shoulder, than a woman? And aren’t we glad it’s this woman?

Smart, accomplished, and blended-ly American

In many ways, Kalama and her husband represent not where American families are going but where they already are. “Today, the number of couples who are in an interracial marriage is around one in six, a figure that, along with the number of interfaith marriages, has been increasing since 1967,” says The New York Times. The daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, she was raised both Christian and Hindu, while her husband grew up attending Jewish summer camp.

She was in her 40s when they married, which is older than the median age of women in the US marrying for the first time, but that number continues to rise. Her husband was divorced when they met, with two children from his previous marriage. The couple does not have children of their own, but Kamala has often said that being “Momala” to her stepchildren is the role that means the most to her.

As a woman leader in the spotlight, she’ll have to be tough and tender

For professional women, as we know all too well, the expectations are quite different and more strictly defined than for men. Women in business need to be decisive but not autocratic, empathetic but not too soft, supportive but requiring results. And there’s little room for error.

How do we know this? For a start, read my new book, Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business.In it I tell the stories of 11 women (including my own) who refused to be held back by what society or outdated myths or gender-biased, male-controlled power structures told them they could and could not do. While pursuing their dreams, each one of them ran headlong into barriers that attempted to stall their trajectories. But instead of backing down, they kept moving forward until they achieved what they knew they could all along.

I love the saying, If you can see it, you can be it. Well, these ladies couldn’t see it there were no women doing what they wanted to do so they blazed their own trail and smashed a lot of myths along the way. A lot like Kamala.

As CNN’s Chris Cillizza writes, “History   and progress proceeds in fits and starts. But it proceeds.” Indeed it does. How do we know this? Because now we can finally say, “Madam Vice President.”

From Observation to Innovation,

Andi Rethink
Andi Simon, Ph.D.
Corporate Anthropologist | Author | CEO Simon Associates Management Consultants