When Kamala Harris took the stage as Vice-President elect, it revealed how our leaders serve as our role models, for better or worse. Harris’s presence made it clear how much we need women, and indeed, women of color, in leadership.
Parents around the world watched Harris with their children of all sexes and races. They saw the future in their children’s eyes: a world in which diverse leadership moves from a shared central value to political and corporate reality. Make no mistake, this is not just for the girls, or for the Black, biracial or South Asian girls. This is for all children, who learn from her example, to value other children without regard to their sex or race.
That image – of Harris taking the stage – proved a point made so eloquently by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, our nation’s first woman Supreme Court Justice. In her statement on affirmative action, in which she said, “In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.”
In politics, we should expect the Biden administration to prove the most diverse in history. Five years ago, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named women to half his cabinet. When questioned why, he answered simply “because it’s 2015.” It’s now 2020, and we have every reason to expect Biden’s administration and cabinet will be the most diverse in U.S. history.
The private sector faces more challenges in some respects. Within the private sector, certain areas face greater challenges. The exclusion of women and people of color from leadership marks millions of missed opportunities, of brilliance and creativity left untapped, of profits and growth left unexplored. Good governance demands the inclusion of talented people from all backgrounds.
California is leading efforts to rectify the lack of equity in private sector leadership. It passed a quota for women on boards in 2018 and then in late 2020 a similar quota for “underrepresented groups,” which includes a variety of people of color as well as LGBT people. These quotas require representation on corporate boards, leading to the inclusion of a critical mass of women, people of color, and LGBT people by the end of 2022.
How do these quotas related to each other, and how will companies respond to these initiatives? Will they comply willingly or resist the state mandate? Many have assumed a negative response, but the private sector in fact has stepped up to integrate women into leadership.
Let’s take cybersecurity as an example. Since the concern about foreign interference in the U.S. election, it’s clearer than ever than this industry plays a central role in our economy. At the intersection of two heavily male-dominated sectors – technology and defense, cybersecurity may face more challenges than most in diversifying its leadership. With its fast growth, cybersecurity also provides opportunities for new entrants in the market, creating opportunities for