When young girls watched Kamala Harris take the oath of office as the first woman to become U.S. vice president, they could envision their own future. It seemed a moment that showed us that a woman can achieve anything. Still, although there are dozens of women breaking the glass ceiling in various professions, women still lag in many markers of success.
Women still make less than men for the same kind of work. Women in the United States earned 81 cents for every dollar men made in 2020. The gender wage gap widens with people of color. Many hiring managers still hesitate to hire women on the presumption that they will not be as committed to their jobs once they have children.
I was born in Miami and reared in Little Havana in a humble household by a father of Chinese descent and a Hispanic mother. My dad passed away early in our lives, and my mom worked several low-wage jobs to support the family. My brother and I did not have out-of-town summer camps or family vacations to exotic places. We worked summers, among the fondest memories of my life.
Mother did not have a lot of time to volunteer, but she was a good listener, and people gravitated to her for help. Her attitude of gratitude sparked in me the love of public service.
During this month dedicated to women, I reflect on the enormous responsibility Mom took on when she was left alone to raise two small children. We had no nannies, after-school ballet classes, baseball games or abuelitas to give a helping hand. But what we had, we shared abundantly. That was her mantra: “Give with gratitude because you have been blessed with the ability to provide.”
As I look back on my childhood, then fast-forward to today, where I am the CEO of an organization that leads the industry nationally and internationally, I am filled with gratitude and a profound sense of responsibility. A female leader carries upon her shoulders the obligation of being a model to other women to pursue their dreams and become stewards of their own lives.
When the COVID pandemic began, I had been chief executive officer of the Miami Parking Authority only eight days — the first woman to lead the agency in its 60 years of existence. At the outset the pandemic, I was overtaken by a renewed spirit of service.
With the city of Miami sheltering in place by executive order, I took action to stop issuing parking citations. I knew that our community was vulnerable and that was one of the ways the Parking Authority could help.
From that moment on, the Authority, through a wide range of operational and marketing initiatives, has given more than $1 million in in-kind, on-street parking to restaurants and customers in Miami.
Intuitively, I knew we were doing what was right. This is a time like no other in our lifetime and it was the moment to act, to serve, to give. And that is what we did.
I drew my inspiration from the words of Anne Frank: “No one has ever become poor by giving.”
Alejandra “Alex” Argudin is CEO of the Miami Parking Authority.