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The first but not the last

The first but not the last

Throughout Women’s History Month, AFSCME celebrates the proud and fearless women who drive change in our union, our nation and the world. And each International Women’s Day, I like to take time to reflect on the progress women have made over the past year.

This time around, in addition to the many women in our union family and others on the front lines battling this pandemic, I am thinking about the changemakers who stepped up to serve their country and their communities in public office.

That includes our history-making vice president, Kamala Harris, the first woman and the first person of color to hold the position. On Nov. 7, in her acceptance speech after the election was called, Vice President Harris looked both to the past and the future. She paid tribute to the trailblazers who made the moment possible and on whose shoulders she stands, but also to the next bold generation of women leaders who will inherit the legacy. “While I may be the first woman in this office,” she said, memorably, “I will not be the last.” 

President Joe Biden’s commitment to empowering and elevating women doesn’t end with his vice-presidential selection. He has tapped a record total of 11 women, including seven women of color, to be in his cabinet. Here is a look at just a few of the inspiring women who are ready to get to work as part of the Biden-Harris administration:

These women are challenging us all to think about where we can be the first, but certainly not the last.

If you are an AFSCME woman activist, I know you are already doing a lot: at work, at home and in your community. And you are already stretched thin, especially in this year of unprecedented challenges. During this pandemic, parents – especially mothers – and other caregivers are doing double and triple duty. So it doesn’t make any sense to ask you to do more. Instead, let me suggest that during this Women’s History Month, we each think about what we will do differently. How can you use the time you are already giving to your activism in a more impactful way? How will you make history in the coming year? What will be your challenge to yourself?

Perhaps that challenge is to take on a new role in your local. Perhaps it is to support a new activist who is ready to step into a leadership role. Maybe it is to shift to being more of a mentor and recruiter, and not just a doer. Or maybe it’s to run for public office yourself – because who better to serve the public in elected office than those who are already serving and strengthening their communities?

This International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Let’s take a few deep breaths and appreciate the women who are stepping into leadership roles for the first time in the Biden-Harris administration. Let’s continue to raise awareness about the ongoing struggle for equity and justice for women and all workers. Let’s run for office or encourage another woman in our lives – a friend, relative, neighbor or co-worker – to run for office and be a force for change in her community.

And let us make this promise: if we are the first women to reach a milestone or hold an office, we will help ensure that we won’t be the last.

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