On Wednesday, January 20, the United States of America welcomed its first female, Black, and South Asian vice president into office. 

Kamala Harris’ ascension to the country’s second-highest political office marks a pivotal point — in politics and our national identity. CNN’s Brandon Tensley and Jasmine Wright might have written the significance of the shift best: “The California senator’s history-making win represents the millions of women in the demographics — often overlooked, historically underrepresented and systematically ignored — who are now the recipients of that new power for the first time in the country’s 200-plus-year history.”

When put in so many words, the symbolic importance of Harris’ position is hard to rebut. But, of course, there will always be those who argue against the point. Some might say yes, okay — but we’ve seen women in higher political positions in other countries. Aren’t the achievements of leaders like Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May, Angela Merkel, and Jacinda Ardern more impressive than Harris’ Vice Presidency? 

It’s a complex question. On the one hand, yes — all four leaders have effectively shattered the proverbial glass ceiling by achieving their country’s highest political office. Those victories deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated. But while it is undoubtedly inspiring to see female changemakers ascend to power across the ocean, it’s not the same as seeing them rise in your home country. A sense of limitation, of restriction, remains. We find ourselves thinking, those opportunities might be available elsewhere, but they aren’t accessible here.

Harris’ entrance to the White House effectively proves that line of thinking wrong. True, it would be even more exhilarating to see America’s first female president — but seeing a woman step into the West Wing is nonetheless inspirational. For the first time, a generation of girls will grow up knowing that the doors to the highest echelons of government are not barred to them. 

The symbolic importance of this historical moment resonates with me because I understand how difficult it is to be one of the first women to break into a male-dominated field — and how vital the representation you offer can be. 

When I first started working in the New York City real estate sector in the 1970s, women’s career paths were limited at best. Generally, female employees worked in lower-level administrative roles. But I knew that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my career as someone else’s secretary; I wanted to be the person owning the business. 

Over the next several years, I threw myself into learning everything I could about New York’s real estate industry. I worked at property management firms and went to night school for six and a half years. Eventually, I struck out on my own to found Bach Realty, my first real estate company.

Leaving the security of my job was an intimidating prospect. I had a lot of support from my colleagues and friends — but I also faced a lot of skepticism. At the time, female representation on leadership teams was laughably low; when I built my company, I was the first female CEO in New York City real estate. 

But now, I see women building thriving careers in every industry. Women hold leadership roles and set strategic direction at major Fortune 500 companies. When I started my career, the idea that a woman could lead a major corporation was met with dismissal. Now, the mention of it barely warrants a blink. Increased representation naturally opens the door to more diversity in business. 

The positive influence that representation affords isn’t limited by sector, either. As Pew Researchers noted in 2018, “Two years after Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party, and with a record number of women running for Congress in 2018, a majority of Americans say they would like to see more women in top leadership positions – not only in politics, but also in the corporate world.” 

Given this data, it stands to reason that Kamala Harris’ rise to the vice presidency could herald a wave of female changemakers in politics and business alike. Doors that were previously shut have cracked open — and through them, we can see the potential for a more diverse and gender-equal future. 


  • Debrah Lee Charatan

    Founder and President of BCB Property Management, Inc.

    Debrah Lee Charatan is a serial entrepreneur, dedicated philanthropist, and veteran real estate sales and investment expert. Charatan currently serves as the president and principal of BCB Property Management, a real estate firm that specializes in acquiring, renovating, and managing multifamily properties in Manhattan and Brooklyn’s most livable neighborhoods. The company has thrived under her leadership; since its establishment in 2008, Charatan and her team have acquired more than 1.6 million square feet of real estate in New York and New Jersey and grown the company’s portfolio by over 120 buildings and 1,800 apartments.    Charatan’s career spans over four decades working in New York City’s real estate landscape. Her career began in the 1970s, when she took a secretarial position at a real estate brokerage firm. Charatan would later pursue her passion for entrepreneurship by founding her first real estate investment firm, Bach Realty. The business earned considerable recognition both for its financial success and its capable, all-female sales team. In 1993, Charatan used her hard-gained experience and accomplishments in the sector to establish another real estate firm, Debrah Lee Charatan Realty.    Charatan became an active philanthropist and co-created the Charatan/Holm Family to support a wide range of cultural, humanitarian, and civic causes in New York City. Organizations that have benefitted from the foundation’s support include but are not limited to: the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Selfhelp Community Services Foundation, Park East Synagogue, Chabad of Southampton, the Jewish Museum, the Central Park Conservancy, Chai Lifeline, and the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation.    Charatan also serves as the vice-chair of the board of trustees for the Selfhelp Community Services Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps Holocaust survivors and other at-risk senior residents find secure housing and care support. An avid supporter of the arts, Charatan is also a member of both the Women’s Leadership Council of the Lincoln Center Corporate Fund and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Real Estate Council.    Debrah Lee Charatan’s accomplishments have earned coverage from several high-profile media publications, including but not limited to USA Today, the New York Daily News, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Inc., and Fortune. Her own writing has also been featured in outlets such as Entrepreneur, the Huffington Post, VentureBeat, SCORE NY, and CFO Magazine.    Outside of her entrepreneurial and philanthropic efforts, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family in New York City.