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Kamala Harris makes history

January 20, 2021, 1:47 PM UTC
U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris smiles while delivering an address to the nation during an election event in Wilmington, Delaware on Nov. 7, 2020.
Sarah Silbiger—Bloomberg/Getty Images

This is the web version of The Broadsheet, a daily newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Justice Amy Coney Barrett hears a big oil case despite ties to Shell, Greece’s president thanks an Olympian for coming forward about abuse, and it’s Inauguration Day in the U.S. Have a historic Wednesday.

– First, not last. Today is Inauguration Day, the day Joe Biden goes from President-elect to just plain old President of the United State—and the day Kamala Harris officially becomes the country’s first-ever female vice president.

For those of you watching the Inauguration from home, Claire had a good recap yesterday of some of the women who will be featured in today’s events. For a broader rundown of the day, check out this FAQ on the festivities, which are expected to kick off around 11 a.m. ET.

With everything going on in the country (and wider world), it’s easy to lose track of just what a historic moment this is for the U.S. The United States is approaching its 250th birthday. That’s almost two and a half centuries of men occupying the two most powerful jobs in the nation. For Harris—a Black, South Asian-American woman—to finally break that streak and become the highest-ranking woman in the history of U.S. government is something worth celebrating at a time when very little seems to clear that bar. So far, that celebration looks like everything from cheers in the Indian village of Thulasendrapuram, which claims Harris as a descendant; to women across the U.S. donning pearls today just like Harris has during her highest-profile political moments.

At this stage, it’s impossible to know what forces will ultimately shape and define Harris’s time in the job, but one thing we can be certain of is that her role as the tie-breaking vote in the Senate will be critical—especially given massive list of legislative priorities the Biden-Harris administration has already laid out.

Emma has a new piece for Fortune this morning that looks at how Harris’s tie-breaking vote fits into the history of 50-50 Senate splits and investigates the ways that responsibility may impact the role she plays in the administration. (For instance, it’s likely that her travel will be curtailed somewhat during periods when big votes are expected at the Capitol.) Read it in full here.

Today will be a busy day. We all have a lot to do—and so does the country. But I hope you will find a moment to appreciate this milestone, and to think about what it portends. As Harris said on the day the election was called: “While I may be the first woman in this office. I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

Kristen Bellstrom
kristen.bellstrom@fortune.com
@kayelbee

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- So long, farewell. President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump departed the White House this morning, heading to Florida rather than attending President-elect Biden's inauguration. This story looks back at Melania's time in her position, describing her as "the first lady who arrived at the White House late and checked out early." New York Times

- Staffing up. In the final days before inauguration, President-elect Biden named a few more appointees to his administration. Jennifer Klein and Julissa Reynoso will cochair the White House Gender Policy Council, while Dr. Rachel Levine, currently Pennsylvania's secretary of health, is nominated as assistant secretary for health, which would make her the first openly transgender official to be confirmed by the Senate.

- She'll hear it. Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case against big oil companies. Justice Amy Coney Barrett chose not to recuse herself, despite doing so in the past on similar lower court cases because her father worked for Shell for 29 years, overseeing legal issues for the company's offshore drilling unit. Mother Jones

- Cover star. Rep. Cori Bush is on the cover of Teen Vogue in a story that follows along as she casts her first votes and challenges her GOP colleagues who questioned the Electoral College outcome. Teen Vogue

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Google Cloud hired former chief digital and marketing officer at Amway Giusy Buonfantino as VP of consumer packaged goods. Frances Fragos Townsend, emeritus vice chairman at MacAndrews & Forbes, joins the board of Investcorp. At sunscreen brand Supergoop, founder Holly Thaggard will step down as CEO, staying on as chair of the board; president Amanda Baldwin will be the brand's new chief executive. Supergoop also hired Natalia Obolensky of Charlotte Tilbury Beauty as GM for Asia-Pacific. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Political power. In Somalia, Amina Mohamed Abdi is vying for her third term in parliament. The 32-year-old critic of the country's government—whose speeches go viral, reaching far beyond the usual audience—is the only woman in a field of six candidates as she defends her seat. Reuters

- Not always smooth sailing. Greek Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou told a magazine last month that she was sexually assaulted by a sports official in 1998, when she was 21. Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou this week thanked the athlete for dissolving "a conspiracy of silence." Reuters

- Refugees welcome. The Biden administration plans to start its time in office by overhauling immigration policy, undoing many of the restrictions put in place by President Trump. In this op-ed, Jennifer Foy, VP of U.S. programs for World Relief, writes about a related issue: how welcoming refugees could help unify the nation. Fortune

ON MY RADAR

Women will bear the burden of getting our aging parents vaccinated Gen

New York Mets fire general manager Jared Porter after he reportedly sent explicit pictures to female reporter CNN

Tiffany Trump announces engagement on her father's final full day in office CNN

The uncomfortable truth: Why more white women didn’t rally behind the Biden-Harris campaign Fortune

PARTING WORDS

"I think that’s something that we can try to do, and it’s quite an assignment."

-Joanne Rogers on the mission of her husband, Fred Rogers, to "make goodness attractive." Joanne Rogers died at 92 last week.