Women still struggling to get to the top

Kamala Harris makes history as US vice presidential candidate, but barriers remain for women in power around the world.

This week, US Democratic party presidential candidate Joe Biden announced that Senator Kamala Harris would be his running mate and future vice president if he wins the vote this November. This is frontier stuff – it is the first time a woman of colour has been given such a position on a major party ticket in the US. To some, this highlights how patriarchal the system remains as she had to have it bestowed upon her by a man – Biden. It remains to be seen if this is a real marker for progress, or a tokenistic effort on the part of the Democrats.

The fact is that the obstacles preventing most women from reaching positions of power remain firmly in place.

“It is quite astonishing to see that more than 100 years after women were first given the right to vote (in Iceland), the first-ever elected woman president is still alive,” says Koch-Mehrin.

She is speaking of Vigdis Finnbogadottir who won the 1980 Icelandic presidential election and became the longest-serving elected female head of state in history, with nearly 16 years in office.

“It is still a new phenomenon in political systems which have been set up and tailored to the needs of men for hundreds of years,” says Koch-Mehrin. “Women are still the ‘new’ group trying to get in.”

The climb to the top is even more fraught for women of colour, even in political systems which have made traction in the effort to ease the passage of women generally.


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