It’s official: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) will be Joe Biden’s running mate on the Democratic ticket. The news is historic in a number of important ways. She is the first Black and South Asian-American woman to run as a vice presidential nominee for a major party, and if elected, she would be the first woman to serve as VP. No matter your political persuasion, having a woman as second in command would be an inspiring sight for our daughters.
Here are six more reasons why her nomination could lead to some much-needed improvements for working moms:
1. She wants to give every new parent six months of paid leave.
Kamala proposed the most generous family paid leave plan of the then-presidential candidates in October 2019, as part of her “Children’s Agenda.” In addition to offering six months of fully-paid leave to moms and dads making under $75,00 (and partially-paid leave to others), Kamala’s plan allows workers to take leave for a broader set of reasons than currently allowed under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), citing care for any medical or non-medical needs when a child or dependent has been a victim of domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault or stalking. The plan would let employees take paid leave not only to care for children, but also parents, grandparents, siblings, in-laws and even “chosen family,” meaning those not blood related but considered like family.
2. She wants to end school at 6 p.m. to help working parents.
To fill the childcare gap between the end of the school day and pickup, the VP candidate proposed a bill that would stretch the school day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., three hours longer than average, and, beyond summer, only close for weekends, federal holidays and emergencies. Kids wouldn’t necessarily be learning during these extra hours, and she said teachers would volunteer and be compensated fairly. Her reasoning: “Aligning school and work schedules is an economic growth and child development strategy.”
3. She wants to address maternal health disparities.
Black women in the US are three to four times more likely to die giving birth than white women and twice as likely to suffer from life-threatening pregnancy-related complications. Kamala first introduced legislation to tackle the problem in 2018, but this year she partnered with Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) to introduce the Black Maternal Health Momnibus. As she told Essence, the package of bills “would tackle systemic health disparities by making much-needed investments in social determinants that influence maternal health outcomes, like housing, transportation and nutrition. It calls for more diversity in the perinatal workforce, so every mom is provided with inclusive care. The Momnibus will make investments to ensure all women—including women veterans and incarcerated women—have access to resources and support, including doula services. This bill also provides funding for digital tools to improve maternal health outcomes, no matter where you live.” She also reintroduced her Maternal CARE Act, which would create programs that identify high-risk pregnancies and establish implicit-bias training throughout the medical profession and medical schools.
4. She wants to make preschool more affordable.
In a survey Working Mother sent to presidential candidates in 2019, Kamala said she believed the federal government should subsidize high-quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. She also said she supported greater childcare assistance to low- and middle-income families, with funding shared by the federal government and the states.
5. She’s a champion for the domestic workers who take care of our kids and homes.
The women who care for our children have one of the most important jobs in the world, but you wouldn’t know it by the way they’re treated. By and large, nannies, housekeepers and other domestic workers aren’t entitled to overtime pay, minimum wage, workers compensation or unemployment benefits. Kamala wants to change that. In 2019, she and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) introduced the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, which, according to Vox, would essentially amend federal labor laws to include domestic workers and would also extend new benefits to them, such as guaranteed paid time off, privacy protection and a written employment contract.
6. She’s a working mom.
Kamala became a stepmother in 2014 to new husband Douglas Emhoff’s kids, Cole and Ella, who were teens at the time. They lovingly call her Momala—it rhymes with Kamala and might be a play on the Jewish term of endearment, Mamale, which means “little mama”—because none of them were fond of the term “stepmom.” And Momala knows what it’s like to have to choose between work and family, as she had to in 2017. She wrote in Elle: “FBI Director James Comey was asked to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about his firing and the Russia investigation. It was the same day as Ella’s high school graduation, a scheduling conflict that I was acutely aware of, but that the Senate Intelligence Committee—and for that matter the rest of the country—was not.” Ultimately, Kamala missed Ella’s ceremony, but made it home in time for a family dinner, a consistent gathering she values so much. “Time is precious, and so many of us understand the struggle to seek balance,” she wrote in Elle.
Momala was also raised by a working mom, so she understands the struggles working parents face. “My mother raised my sister and me while working demanding, long hours,” Harris said in a statement. “So I know first-hand that for many working parents, juggling between school schedules and work schedules is a common cause of stress and financial hardship.” She’s in it to help working moms for the long-haul, and for that, we should all be grateful.