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By Abbie Hodgson, Director, The Ascend Fund
During the 11th (oof!) Democratic primary debate, I sat on the couch paying more attention to my phone than what the five remaining candidates on tv were saying. That is until Joe Biden promised to pick a woman as his running mate. My ears perked up. Did I hear that right? Twitter quickly confirmed, Biden had said: "I commit that I will in fact pick a woman to be vice president."
Thanks to the pandemic, the months between Biden’s declaration at the debate in early March and the announcement of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate in early August felt like a lifetime. But for generations, women have been waiting their entire lifetime for a woman president or vice president. Twice before women have been nominated for vice president by major political parties: Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sarah Palin in 2008. And dozens of other women, most lesser known like Margaret Chase Smith and Barbara Jordan, have sought the office of president or vice president previously.
Why then was the announcement of Kamala Harris as Biden’s running mate momentous? Sen. Harris is the first Black woman, and the first Indian American to be selected as the running mate of a major party ticket candidate in history. And while Sen. Harris is just one of a record breaking number of women of color running for office in 2020, she is a powerful reminder of how important it is for women and girls to see people who look like them in leadership roles and positions of power if they are to envision themselves in elected office.
The Ascend Fund, a collaborative fund powered by Panorama Global, is committed to accelerating the pace of change toward gender parity in U.S. politics. As we seek to create a reflective democracy and pave the way for the next Kamala Harris, The Ascend Fund invests in nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations that break down barriers preventing women from running for office and winning. This includes:
Women, specifically women of color, remain vastly underrepresented at all levels of government. According to a report recently published by New American Leaders, a partner of The Ascend Fund, less than 10% of state legislators are Black, only 2% are Asian/Pacific Islander, and fewer than 30% are women. Our grantees, including New American Leaders, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), and Higher Heights Leadership Fund are working to change that by recruiting and training women like Kamala Harris to run for office – and win!
Women have waited 230 years to see a woman in the White House, and while we’ll have to wait at least four more years to see a woman in the Oval Office, the pace of change appears to be accelerating and the face of power appears to be changing. Learn more about The Ascend Fund and our strategy to achieve gender parity in all 50 states by 2050 at www.theascendfund.org.