Closing The Gap

Vice President Harris' advice to young women: 'Continue with your ambition and don't apologize for it'

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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris‬ smiles after delivering a keynote address to the House Democratic Caucus virtually on camera from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, March 2, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

As the first female vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris understands the challenges many women face when it comes to sexism, ageism and navigating the demands of home life and work life.

In a recent interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Harris spoke with co-host Mika Brzezinski about why she's "never thought of age" as it relates to her career and the advice she would give women in their 20s and 30s who "feel like they have to pack it all in" because "there's a clock ticking."

"One, continue with your ambition and don't apologize for it," the vice president told Brzezinski as part of the launch for Forbes' 50 over 50 list. "And, continue to believe that you can do whatever you want to do."

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks to the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Unity Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, U.S., May 19, 2021.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters

As women in their 20s and 30s become mothers, wives and caretakers, Harris said she wants them to know that "you have a right to expect things like affordable child care, you have a right to expect paid family leave when you need to take care of your children or your elderly parents."

The 56-year-old Democrat, who has publicly addressed the pandemic's disproportionate impact on women juggling family and work, added that "you have a right to expect that you will be seen in the full dimension of who you are" and that your responsibilities "should be supported."

"These things can co-exist," she said in regards to some women feeling like they have to choose between family and career. "So, what I say then, do not accept false choices that you have to choose either this thing or that thing, that's a false choice. Don't accept it."

Harris, who has broken lots of barriers for women in her career, told Brzezinski she also advises young people to never take "no" for an answer as they work to accomplish their goals.

"I've been told many times during my career things from, 'Oh, you're too young, it's not your turn, they're not ready for you, no one like you has done it before,'" she said. "I've heard all those things many times over the course of my career, but I don't listen. And I would encourage anyone who's been told that, whatever their gender, to not listen, because again, don't be encumbered by the inability of others to see the potential of who you are."

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