MEDFORD, Ore. — After Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, the first female Vice President was sworn in, breaking a long line of men filling the role. Vice President Kamala Harris is not only breaking barriers by becoming the first female Vice President, she is also the first Black and Asian-American Vice President.
NBC5 News exclusively sat down with Oregon trailblazer, Governor Barbara Roberts, who made history as Oregon’s first female Governor. Sitting down for a Zoom interview with Roberts, shows just how far women have come in politics.
“On January 14th, just a few days ago, was the 30th anniversary of my swearing in as Oregon’s governor. 30 years! That gives you a lot of time to do a lot of learning,” said Gov. Roberts. Three decades ago, Roberts says women were hard to come by in public office.
“Whether women knew anything about the economy or forestry or anything which they thought were ‘men’s issues.’ We were supposed to know about children and maybe health care but that was about it,” she said. Governor Roberts says women have to work harder to be trusted as leaders. “I learned over the years, sometimes in order to be accepted as a leader, you have to share your credentials as part of every answer.”
She said it’s been an emotional journey watching Vice President Kamala Harris make it to the White House. “It was extraordinary. I don’t know if I’ve had so many emotional moments in such a short period of time,” said Governor Roberts.
She said in Oregon it’s clear, voters have opted to trust female leaders. The state’s current Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State are women. Oregon’s Supreme Court is made up of mostly women. “It makes me feel good,” said Governor Roberts, “I always remembered as Governor I had a lot of jobs and a lot of roles. One of the special things I had to remember as the first woman Governor, was that I was setting an example a standard. Maybe for other women, who would serve later and for making it easier for more women, because I held my job with responsibility and respect.”
Without Roberts’ leadership and initiative, it’s not clear how many women would be involved in Oregon government. Governor Roberts says with Kamala Harris front and center in the White House, she knows more women will be inspired to run for office.