Take a look at Kamala Harris' husband Doug Emhoff's Twitter bio and you'll notice that it reads "dad and @kamalaharris hubby", before "lawyer" and "advocate". I was tickled when I read that because most of us lead with our jobs and accolades, not our familial titles, especially when we have high-profile positions like Emhoff does. Y'all would've gotten these "former entertainment attorney" and "current partner" credentials first and foremost. But perhaps this was all a hint to what was to come or maybe he was trying to make an important point.
This fall, Emhoff took a leave of absence from his law firm to support our new Madame Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on the campaign trail with President-Elect Joe Biden. Now that the appointment is official (regardless of what 45 and his cronies say!), Emhoff will be formally stepping down from his role at the firm by Inauguration Day to support his wife's new career move.
And I'm here for it.
While I'm not married, I think of marriage as a partnership that functions off of compromises that benefit the household, not decisions based solely on stereotypical gender roles.
Years ago, my former coworker's husband resigned from his job to stay at home with their two young children. It seemed that some of our colleagues who knew the couple personally suddenly respected him a little less than before. It was weird because my coworker had better growth potential at her job and made significantly more money than her husband. Plus childcare for two toddlers – one with special needs – pretty much wiped out her husband's paycheck, anyway. So really, what was the logical point of him going to work every day? But societal norms dictated that my coworker stay at home while her husband worked even if they had to struggle as a result of that decision.
The optics of "head of household" and "man of the house" trumped (no pun intended) their financial stability and health. It's one of the reasons why Emhoff's resignation is significant.
Granted as a partner in a law firm, Emhoff has the potential to multiply Madame Vice President's approximate $235,100 per year on his own but the exchange of his career for hers goes deeper and wider than who makes more money. Not only are women almost always sacrificing our dreams, goals and careers for our husbands and families, often making it difficult to re-enter the workforce and blemishing our resumes with employment gaps, but we're also already trailing behind men in position and average pay.
There's that thing that hovers over our heads as women that generally keeps us on the ground level of the one room we manage to enter. We can collaborate and network on that floor but we can't climb the stairs to open the doors to the upper rooms. We have a hard time moving into executive roles because that glass ceiling just won't let us.
Also, we can't forget that Black women were only paid $0.63 of what non-Hispanic white men were paid in 2019. It takes a full 12-18 months to earn the same amount and, at that rate, we never catch up. But in 2020, a Black woman just snagged the second highest leadership role in the nation, earning no less than her predecessor because the salary is set, and her husband has shown her that he has her whole back as well as the backs of other women.
In an interview with NowThis News, Emhoff said:
"I want more women in office and I want more partners, whoever their partner is, to support them and to provide an opportunity and an environment for success."
I think that can happen.
Outside of the wonderful return of ethics and norms, can we please acknowledge what it feels like to read about a man sacrificing his career to focus on supporting the career of his wife? Normalize this, so I don’t almost cry reading it. https://t.co/GmLcIiBSat— jet-sy (@jessielwilliams) November 12, 2020
Doug Emhoff isn't the first man to proudly walk in his wife's shadow. But the fact that his act is so public hits differently and I hope his message is clear. His career doesn't have to come first in his list of accomplishments or in his household. It doesn't change what he's done, who he is or what he can do because he'll always have opportunity.
Doug Emhoff is smashing traditionally accepted gender roles so that his wife, Madame Vice President, can flourish professionally, too, and for that he's a VP in his own right. In this case, an MVP.
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