Rebecca Hourston, Managing Director at Talking Talent, considers the significance of Kamala Harris’ appointment as the new US Vice President, and why it is important for all companies to weave D&I into the heart of all business agendas.
The past couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster for us all as we’ve watched the events surrounding the US Presidential election unfold. Whilst Biden’s win is a landmark event, the huge spotlight on Kamala Harris is fully justified, as she makes history as the first woman – and the first woman of colour – to be elected to the role of vice-president. Kamala has broken through glass ceiling after glass ceiling, becoming the first female attorney general of California and now the first female VP.
In doing so, she has helped to highlight the path of success that all women can indeed follow – helped along by the right support. At the moment that the results were confirmed, girls all over the country saw someone like themselves elected to the 2nd highest office in the country for the first time. Kamala has become that new beacon of hope for so many – and all because she refused to take the ‘no worries if not’ attitude that most women feel forced to adopt.
Not only this, but the new Presidential term will bear witness to a rise in the number of women across Congress’s two chambers – the House of Representatives and the Senate. The fact that women will hold over a quarter of the seats in these chambers in 2021 – a 1.5% increase from its current standing – shows that despite the challenges, there is still a continual improvement of the representation for women. This achievement marks a huge milestone for global diversity and one that all individuals and businesses around the world should take note of to drive their own D&I efforts forwards.
Though this year can be seen as a barrier to these initiatives, the pandemic is simply no excuse. Deloitte’s recent report has found that 82% of women said their lives have been negatively disrupted by the pandemic – and nearly 70% of these women are concerned their career growth may be limited as a result. Businesses, this simply can’t continue. More needs to be done to support women as they strive for leadership positions. Now is the time for companies to harness the best parts of the new way of working and drive further momentum on D&I to restore confidence in female employees that inclusion and diversity is being kept at the core of the business agenda. Investing in female-centric leadership coaching is a crucial part of this – not as a tick-box exercise, but to drive real meaningful change and authentic transformation, which protects talent pipelines as a result.
Put simply: we have to keep going. Kamala reaching the 2nd highest office in the free world doesn’t give us a pass to hang up our hats and consider the job done! We cannot leave it up to Kamala to represent all women, or all people of colour – just like how we wouldn’t expect Biden to represent all men, or all white people. Women who are a minority at corporate level often experience this pressure. But the main way to change this is to simply shift the balance so they are no longer ‘the only one’ in that position.
The same applies to business – the old ‘one and done’ on the board mentality holds no place in our world, so more must be done to help women break through their own barriers. Leadership programs last between six and twelve months – but the question for business leaders is: will you help these women to reach their full potential?
Across the world, the collective dreams of women and girls just got a whole lot bigger. For Kamala Harris, she has broken through her glass ceiling, having had the right opportunities to progress. With the right support, every woman can reach their zenith.
Image By Office of Senator Kamala Harris – https://www.harris.senate.gov/news#photos