Jane Harman: Crushing Gender Boundaries in Politics

Jane Harman. Courtesy of Congresswoman Jane Harman.

Since November 8th I’ve been thinking a lot about politics. Personally it was devastating to see Hillary Clinton lose the Presidential election. It took me a while to digest the news because nearly all the polls had predicted otherwise, and most people assumed it was a sealed deal. Trump’s victory forced me to think deeper: why had Clinton lost? Was it the sexist and biased media? The excessive attention on emails? What do the results reveal about the America we live in today? It made me think a lot about what it means to be a female politician in the world we live in, the negative connotations that can come along with it, and just how difficult the job can be. As a young woman looking towards politics and public policy as a possible future career, I find it inspiring to see female role models assume those positions of power in our political system, especially now that I am more aware of how challenging the task is. Although Clinton lost the election, she has had an incredible political career. In addition to Hillary Clinton and many other powerful female politician leaders in our country, a prominent female politician who I’ve discovered more recently is Jane Harman.  

Harman began her path to policy by obtaining a substantial education. She graduated from Smith College in 1966 and from Harvard Law School in 1969. I live in a privileged enough world to take access to education for granted. It’s easy for me to forget that most schools started admitting female students as late as the 1960s and 70s. I find it incredibly empowering to see that Harman was breaking the rules even before her political career officially began. Harman and other women like her laid the groundwork so that girls like me can go to school without question.

Harman led a successful career in policy representing her home district in Los Angeles in the House of Representatives for nine terms. Beginning in 1992 and extending until 2011, Harman played an important role in the House, serving on committees ranging from House National Security to Intelligence to Science, Space, and Technology. Harman is noted for being a big supporter of education, Israel aid, and women’s rights. Additionally, she cosponsored the Homeland Security Act. Harman’s career was long and eventful. She impacted issues that I care deeply about as a young Jewish woman: US-Israel relations, and access to quality education. Seeing a woman hold an influential role related to the political issues that affect me is uplifting. Harman and other female politicians like her are role models for me; learning about Harman’s career makes me realize that holding a political position in the future is a real possibility.

After her political career came to a close with her retirement from Congress in 2011, Harman became heavily involved with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, otherwise known as the “living memorial” to Woodrow Wilson. Harman now serves as the first female president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center. The center is internationally renowned for its in-depth research on public policy and international relations. After all of her policy experience, Harman is considered an expert in security and public policy issues.

Harman is inspiring for me because she defies the stereotypes. Even as a liberal millennial feminist, when I think of business or politics, I imagine a white man taking the reins. As the Trump presidency looms in the near future, I find hope in Harman and other female politicians like her. I see perseverance, and success against the greatest odds. I think we all need to channel a bit of that over the next four years. 

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

How to cite this page

Siegel, Madisen. "Jane Harman: Crushing Gender Boundaries in Politics ." 14 December 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 4, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/jane-harman-crushing-gender-boundaries-in-politics>.

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now