This one’s for the girls

Ok, so I’m not a particularly huge fan of country music, but who doesn’t love a little Martina?

Yesterday, we witnessed the Inauguration of the 46th President of the United States and the 49th Vice President, and I am not the first to point out that the day was all about the women. I don’t care which side of the political aisle you identify with, I think we can all agree that the level of representation present was nothing short of inspiring. For the first time ever, young girls saw themselves being sworn in as Vice President of the United States. They saw themselves supporting, and being supported by, their fellow women. They saw themselves delivering their original poetry to millions of viewers. And they did it with poise and style.

We tell our kids from a very young age that they can be or do whatever they want when they grow up. We encourage them to work hard and they can achieve anything. And when little girls say “I want to be President!” we look at them proudly and tell them, “Of course you can!” And we mean it. Or at least we think we do. We want to. But historically, we haven’t modeled it, and if kids don’t see it – how can they really believe it possible?

This behavior and way of thinking isn’t isolated to positions of prestige and power. Fields like construction or mechanics are stereotypically male dominated, and even positions such as doctors and lawyers see more employed men than women, not because men are better at these jobs than women, but for reasons ranging from hiring discrimination to sexual harassment. There has historically been concern that if a woman has a demanding career, it will take away her ability to be a nurturing, supportive matriarch. As if 1) a woman can’t effectively balance both a career and a home, and 2) we as a society can’t require the same level of domestic commitment from men.

There are obviously many reasons we have been slow to see women step into these positions, but one common theme that seems to be keeping women from thriving in male dominated areas is lack of representation. The more women we see leading, the more empowered young girls are to believe they can be in those roles, too.

This is why representation matters. This is why Kamala Harris being sworn in as the first female Vice President matters. Because we can’t keep telling girls they can do and be anything they want if we have no way of showing them that it’s true; they need role models and success stories that look like them. The time is coming when the glass that was once the ceiling that held us in is completely shattered. I believe we’ll continue to see women being elevated to positions of leadership, and before long, we’ll see a time when we won’t even use the qualifier “female” President; it’ll just be President.