By Manita Rawat
It’s not that Geraldine Ferarro didn’t inspire me. When I saw her on my TV at the age of six and heard her vice presidential acceptance speech, I thought “women can be whatever they want to be.” But, I also wondered if that notion applied to people like me—women and girls of color. Growing up, whether on TV or the big screen, there just weren’t women of color for me to even see. Wonder Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Jem and the Holograms, and Baby from Dirty Dancing all had something I didn’t—a lighter shade of skin. This lack of visibility for people like me did not deter me from any goals, but did cause me to wonder if this dearth of representation would someday be a roadblock simply because the world had never seen a woman of color in a particular role. After watching Kamala Harris accept the vice presidential nomination, I no longer wonder.
Harris is the first Black woman and the first South Asian to be nominated for the VP slot by a major political party. Her charisma and energy has brought a vigor to the 2020 presidential campaign, which is dominated by white men. I saw a woman of color breaking the mold and in a role traditionally filled by men or white women. Seeing her on the stage at the Democratic Convention gave me hope and faith in my own ambitions. I now know that in my lifetime, I may see a woman of color go on to be a presidential candidate and, hopefully, president. More importantly, young women of color can now look to Harris and see a woman that looks like them on every screen in their home. As Joe Biden said, “little Black and brown girls, who so often feel overlooked and undervalued” can see “themselves for the first time in a new way.”
Harris’s meteoric rise enables young professional women of color to dream bigger and not limit their ambitions just because they want to be in a position traditionally held by white men or white women. Watching Harris, women of color doctors can now strive to be the chief physician of a hospital. Black and brown women with MBAs can move past middle management and become CEOs. Women of color actresses can have the lead role in a major motion picture. As Obama once said, “yes we can.”
As a young managing partner of an office for a large international law firm, I’ve wondered whether this position would be a stepping stone for another leadership role or, perhaps, I would plateau. After seeing Harris on the national stage, I no longer worry about some de-facto plateau. The limit does not exist.