A Black Woman is on the cusp of shattering another glass ceiling and making history – again
By Hemal K. Vaidya, TalentNomics Board Member
With Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s retirement announcement from the US Supreme Court, the Washington establishment, the legal community, women’s advocacy groups, and even girls’ clubs of every sort are on pins and needles to witness history. While we do not yet know the nominee, we do know this important, unique, and seminal point: the next Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court will be a black woman, the first in America. Alongside the achievements of becoming US Vice President, a Member of Congress, NASA astronaut, corporate CEO (and the list goes on infinitely…), we are on the cusp of adding to this list the pinnacle of American law and jurisprudence.
Over the past several weeks, I have been discussing this moment with my daughter — a teenager, an 8th grader, and while not yet a lawyer, a young woman with her own convictions, her own view of the world, and the confidence to share them (often unfiltered and unsolicited with her Dad…). In this blog, I’d like to share a few thoughts from these conversations — as this moment is important not only for the US but for the world and the mission of Talentnomics.
While I am neither a woman nor black, I am a proud first-generation Indian American. I view this moment from the lenses of a minority, a citizen concerned about the deep divisions in the country and world — and what it means for future generations, and a father to a young woman. With my daughter, I discussed whether we can share in the joy of this moment nonetheless and share meaningful observations to capture the excitement of this time. In short order, we concluded that the answer is “Yes,” and there are three main themes that we see in the pending nomination: (1) Critical, sorely-needed representation in the adjudication of the country’s most important constitutional issues; (2) A concrete example of promise and hope to girls of all colors and races; (3) An aspiration that public discourse returns to a semblance of civility, respect, and sympathy.
These three themes relate directly to Talentnomics’ mission — for we need women’s leadership and stories of perseverance to remain at the forefront of our public discourse. And while Talentnomics is not expressly geared toward advancing the next generation of female lawyers per se, its primary mission is to harness the power of “influential change agents.” The pending Supreme Court nomination reminds me that “influential change agents” must come from all sectors and disciplines of our society — including the corporate world, nonprofits & NGOs, education, the arts, and shorlty — the law and highest court in the United States. As we soon witness the nomination announcement, confirmation hearings, and battles in the media and society (and, yes, let’s be cleareyed — there will be battles), let’s keep as our “north star” what this moment represents: the first time in the nation’s history that a black woman will have an indispensable role in deciding and writing the jurisprudence underlying American’s constitutional design. Let’s do right by her, and perhaps more importantly, by the millions of people — especially American black women — whose sacrifice and toil have made this milestone possible.
President Biden has promised to announce his nominee toward the end of February, and Senate Democrats have committed to an efficient, timely confirmation process shortly thereafter. By all expectations, the new nominee will be confirmed and sworn in well before the beginning of the Supreme Court’s next term in October. What that means for all of us is that the next several months will be intense. Out of respect for the nominee, and for all that she represents, let’s do all we can to make this experience one we can be proud of — and ensure that she while she is the first, she is not the last.