Kamala Harris and the Glass Ceiling
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Just twelve years ago, Hillary Clinton stated "Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it." Now, thanks to Clinton and many women before her, women continue to break glass ceilings.
Following a controversial election, Kamala Harris has been elected as the first woman and woman of color Vice President of the United States. A record-breaking 131 women will serve in the 117th Congress according to the Center of Women and Politics (CAWP) and Sarah McBride will be the first transgender woman to serve in the Senate.
Although women have not been able to reach the final glass ceiling of the Presidency, many rejoice in the million “cracks” that have emerged as a result of this election. The journey to achieve this has been long and arduous.
Only a century ago did women received the right to vote, marking the beginning of a struggle for women to have their voices heard. Nearly a century later, women only make up 30% of the U.S. House of Representatives. Nearly two-thirds of the women elected to the House in history have been elected after 1992 (Pew Research Center).
Being elected is only half of the struggle. The Journal of Communication reports that women politicians are about 3.6 percentage points less visible in the media than male politicians and that coverage of women is disproportionately focused on their appearance, family, and gender.
In July, U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was accosted by Florida Representative Ted Yoho, a testament to the attitudes which many men in U.S. politics still hold toward women. President Trump himself has called Senator Harris a “monster” and refused to pronounce her name correctly.
The reality remains that female politicians are fighting to break a glass ceiling that has been built to keep them out and maintain a system of government in which men were valued as the sole decision-makers.
Unfortunately, the partisan divide regarding the representation of women in politics further underscores the work that has yet to be done: according to the Pew Research Center, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more than twice as likely as Republicans and Republican-leaning independents to say that there are too few women in high political offices.
It is obvious now, more than ever, that the “glass ceiling” is stubborn: the recent strides and “firsts” for women’s representation in politics are mere cracks in the long journey towards full representation. After all, the glass ceiling is impossible to break with just a single woman; it requires a vast coalition of feminists who fundamentally change the way women in politics are perceived.