- “Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourself in a way that others might not see you” – Kamala Harris
- Gender stereotypes shape the beliefs about our own and other’s abilities.
In a world where gender stereotypes hold women back in the workplace and causes them to question their own abilities, Kamala Harris, the First Black Woman, and First South Asian Woman elected Vice President of the United States has acknowledged women as the backbone of the democracy in her victory speech.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “a gender stereotype is a generalised view or preconception about attributes, or characteristics that are or ought to be possessed by women and men or the roles that are or should be performed by men and women.”
Gender stereotype is harmful when it limits the capacity of women and men to develop their personal attributes or professional skills and to take decisions about their lives. Most times, men are characterised to have the major traits such as achievement-orientation, inclination to take charge and competence while women are known to have the traits such as emotional sensitivity, deference and affiliation tendencies.
It should be noted gender stereotypes affect girls around the world regardless of their country’s development. The characteristics listed in the previous paragraph are bound to make the society believe that women are the “weaker vessel” and the reasons women should not lead in the society.
However, Kamala Harris in her speech has stated the indefatigable work of women who demand change within the modern day politics. According to her, “women who fought and sacrificed so much for quality and liberty and justice for all, including the Black women who are often too often overlooked, but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.”
With gender stereotype, men are more likely to be credited for joint successes, and women blamed for joint failures. Stereotype has caused women to grow with weak self-confidence. It has held them back from prestigious roles in professions because it is believed that they might lose in such.
In Nigeria, some women have been involved in remarkable events which have served as strength for young girls, adults and unborn children. Some of them are Grace Alele Williams, the First Nigerian woman to obtain PhD in Mathematic; Captain Chinyere Onyenaucheya, Nigeria’s first female pilot; Sandra Aguebor-Ekperuoh, the first female mechanic; Ire Aderinokun, the first woman to become a Google Development expert among others.
The seed of gender stereotypes is sown in every sector of life such as education and politics. It has a way of determining people’s belief about themselves and others in general. However, a question to be asked is: What counts to be “women-ness”? It should be noted that the right to life, the right to freedom of speech, the right to vote and to be voted for, the right of movement among other rights count.
In Kamala Harris victory speech, she stated that, “I reflect on their struggle, their determination, and the strength of their vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been. And I stand on their shoulders and what a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exist in our country and select a woman as his vice president.”
Kamala Harris victory speech stands as a clarion call for women to believe in themselves. She added that, “I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. This because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities and the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message.”
Finally, the beliefs women have in themselves have important factors in shaping all kinds of decisions; to what career paths to choose, the willingness to contribute in the workplace and everywhere they may find themselves.
Therefore, the ball is in our court to play. Of course, knowledge is the power, but the ability to stand on our right is determined individually. Also, it should be noted that gender stereotypes are harmful in the society.