Kamala Harris was elected as the first female vice president of the United States yesterday, January 20, 2021. The achievement is magnificent, especially as Harris also represents an African-American minority less often seen in places of power.
At the same time as we rejoice this step forward, it must be remembered who has walked on that same path before Harris or our national examples such as Sanna Marin or Tarja Halonen. Women have been democratically elected to state leadership positions at least since 1961. It's not that long time ago. One generation, 60 years.
The world’s first female vice president was Maria Paretti in Romania, who served her country from 1961-1966. Chinese Song Qingling, on the other hand, began as vice-speaker of her parliament and later represented her country as the leader of it from 1968-1972. Of course, there have been empresses and queens centuries and thousands of years earlier as well, such as Taytu Betul, crowned in 1883 in what is now Ethiopia.
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, elected President of Iceland in 1980, is the first democratically elected female president in the world. She is an Icelandic teacher and a theater director. She served as the fourth President of Iceland from 1980 to 1996.
Steps towards equality have been taken at different times in different places, and that development has not been linear. One reason for inequality in representation is found from voting behavior. Studies have shown that on average, men vote for men and women for both sexes. In Finland, in the 2015 parliamentary elections, 73 per cent of men voted for a candidate of the same sex, but in the spring parliamentary elections the figure was 60 per cent. Other reasons for the unbalance can be found in discriminatory social structures, prejudices, unequal family responsibilities, and attempts to silence women active in the field of politics.
Change is happening, but it should not be taken for granted. Thank you to all the women who bravely worked in politics before us. Because of your work, your determination, and your unwaveringness, this day has been possible. The beautiful sound of one another glass ceiling breaking.