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VP Kamala Harris a milestone in female representation

Then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign event at UH on Oct. 30, 2020. | Donna Keeya/The Cougar

Then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign event at UH on Oct. 30, 2020. | Donna Keeya/The Cougar

The inauguration of the first female and first South Asian vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, carries significance for women across the nation, including those working for equity, inclusivity and accessibility for all genders on campus. 

For Women and Gender Resource Center director Anneliese Bustillo, Vice President Harris is a reflection of the country and hopes it will have a positive impact on female students.  

I hope that female students will challenge narratives they’ve heard in the past about women not being leaders,” Bustillo said. 

I am very hopeful that the women currently in politics will continue up the ladder to break that ultimate glass ceiling and see our first female president. I can’t even begin to articulate how wonderful it is that our first female vice president has so many intersecting identities.” 

With the change in administration and the influx of women in policy-making roles, the more the presence of women in these positions becomes normalized and the more women that can be elected in coming elections, said Elizabeth Gregory, director of the women’s, gender and sexuality studies program. 

“As more women get into policy-making roles, they can build momentum around issues of concern to women (like women’s wages),” Gregory said.  

Harris’s intersectional identity as a woman of color makes her an influential figure, Gregory said. 

“Harris is breaking multiple ceilings at once, so she is a particularly powerful image – for women, for African Americans, for African American women, for South Asians and for South Asian women,” Gregory said. 

Devon Fan, the program manager for sexual misconduct support services at the WGRC, believes that having a female vice president will strengthen the UH community, regardless of their political party, due to the power of female representation and diversity. 

As an Asian woman, I know it has been an incredible experience seeing a vice president in office who represents even one of my identities, let alone multiple,” Fan said. “No matter what one’s political ideology may be, it is awe-inspiring to be able to look at the screen and say, ‘I have more in common with this VP than any other VP in the history of this country.’”  

Fan also hopes that having a woman in the role of vice president will have a positive impact on female students. 

“I think a huge part of college is the process of introspection and self-discovery; hopefully, having a female VP will add even more depth and nuance to female college students’ academic experiences,” Fan said. 

“I hope that seeing a woman get sworn in as VP, especially amidst the uncertainty of a global pandemic, will serve as a sign of the continued fight for gender equity.” 

Bustillo hopes that the idea of fighting to elect women to positions of political power will become an idea of the past. 

I hope we always celebrate the achievements of Vice President Harris, but I also cannot wait for the day that we look back and seem amazed that it was even a fight to have a woman vice president,”  Bustillo said. 

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