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Kamala Harris post to allow more Americans to see themselves in higher roles

By Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris arrives to speak on Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.

For decades in this country, children have been taught to work hard, educate themselves and then those who wanted to do so could aspire to be anything, even the president of the country.

After Barack Obama became president in 2009, young men who were anything but white saw that their hard work could also lead to the highest of office of the land. Today, young girls can see that their hard work can take them at least to the second highest ranking office in the land.

In Grayson County, there have been women in political power for more than 25 years.

Carol Seibman has been the judge in the Grayson County Court-at-Law #2 since 1999 and both the District Clerk and County Clerk positions have been held by women for more than two decades. In addition, there have been a number of women who have served as justices of the peace in the county.

Karla McCain is the program director for the interdisciplinary program in gender studies at Austin College and said in cases like these, seeing is believing.

"I think it's really important that young people see people who look like them in positions of power. They see that those things are attainable for them," McCain said.

She said it helps those young people envision things that they can do with their lives.

McCain said she is not sure that having a woman as vice president will make an immediate difference in other area's where women's issues lag behind men like being paid equally for equal work or having equal access to .

"I think that those things take time and it's not like the vice president has the power in the United States to wave a magic wand and make equal pay happen," she said. "I think those are some long standing structural issues that are going to take more time."

However, she said, see Harris as vice president of this country will help people see women as people who belong in professional careers and people who belong making important decisions," she said.

Harris teaches a class about women in science at AC, but said a lot of what she teaches in that class applies to other professions as well. 

"I'm in my mid 40s and I continually have students who will be like 'You mean we didn't solve sexism in the '90s," she said. "'I mean how could there still be a problem?'"

"I think it's absolutely in some ways shocking. I think that is one things that I find very endearing about about teaching that kind of gender studies and women's studies coursework to students that actually learning about really where we are at when it comes to equal pay and access to healthcare and access to health information is really shocking relative to some of the narrative that we tell kids which is you can be anything when you grow up."

She said because women generally come into college with better academic credentials than men and get bachelor's degrees at higher rates than men do, it is often not until women get out of college that they come to terms with inequalities in the way they are treated.

"It hits them when they start to form families of their own and they see the impact of trying to balance two careers and deciding which one of those takes more importance in deciding where you're going to live," she said. "Or when they start to have children and have to decide how the household labor and childcare is going to get divvied up in their families. Those things, I think, often come as a surprise to them because they haven't run into anything that's impacted their ability to achieve everything that they want that's been related to their gender at all to that point."