Women make up half of the population in the United States. Yet, when it comes to representation in some of our most important institutions — including the U.S. Congress — women are sorely underrepresented. Today, women make up only 19 percent of the U.S. Congress. In a Senate of 100 representatives, only 21 are women. Of those, just four are women of color.
One of these is the Californian freshman senator, Kamala Harris, who is of black and Indian descent. Since her election, Harris has made her presence known and felt. Regardless of your politics, it’s hard to argue with her rock star status in the Senate and ability to inspire people. Here are four reasons why Senator Kamala Harris inspires the heck out of us:
1. She speaks up and fights back.
Over the last few months, Harris has participated in a number of high-profile Senate intelligence hearings. During two of these hearings, she was interrupted not once, but twice, by her male colleagues while questioning the witnesses. At one point, her tough but poised style of questioning was even referred to as “hysterical.”
This is, of course, no surprise. Research has shown that women are interrupted and talked over far more than men, especially in male-dominated environments. Harris could have simply accepted this as status quo behavior, but instead she spoke out and fired back. Shortly after the hearings, Harris tweeted: “The women of the United States Senate will not be silenced when seeking the truth. Fight back,” with a link to a fundraising page for female senators.
2. She pays it forward.
Harris attended Howard University, one of the country’s most prestigious historically black colleges. While studying at Howard, Harris double majored in economics and political science, participated in the debate team and was the class representative of the liberal arts student council.
While she clearly left her mark as a student, Harris recently returned to Howard University to give the 2017 commencement address and remind this year’s graduating class that part of their responsibility as citizens was to “speak truth — and serve.” Her return to roots and call to action for the next generation surely inspired countless students to take civic action for the causes in which they believe.
3. She crushes glass ceilings.
Before her election to the male-dominated Senate, Harris thrived as an attorney. Despite women entering law school in higher numbers than men, women make up only 36 percent of the legal profession. Unsurprisingly, the percentage of women decreases with seniority. Yet Harris was able to thrive in her profession and rose through the ranks to become San Francisco’s first female district attorney and the first woman to serve as California’s attorney general.
4. She's presidential material.
Hillary Clinton’s run during the 2016 presidential election marked the first time a woman ran at the top of the ticket. Although she didn’t win, we still hold out hope that the first female president of the United States is not far off. Unsurprisingly, Senator Kamala Harris has presidential material written all over her. Already, there are calls for a Kamala Harris 2020 run! With her intelligence, successful professional background and unique perspective, Harris would bring a breath of fresh air to presidential politics and reminds us all that the future is indeed female.
Natalia Marulanda is a former practicing attorney who currently works on women's initiatives at a law firm New York City. She also runs The Girl Power Code, a blog dedicated to empowering women in the workplace and in their daily lives.