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“Shaking the Table”: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Journey Pushing Through the Glass Ceiling

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Maine chapter.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is not just an inspiring congresswoman, but an inspiring leader as well. AOC is a woman who I really look up to. Although it’s not my intended career field, I’m still moderately interested in politics. I’ve seen many videos and interviews with her discussing her heritage and background, and how it’s shaped her overall leadership style. AOC’s story is very inspiring, and seeing her break the glass ceiling to obtain a strong leadership role truly paves the way for diversity in positions of leadership.

The reason that she’s unique compared to other congressional members is due to where she originated. In one of her interviews, she states, “I understand the pain of working-class Americans because I have experienced the pain” (Yann). She was born and raised in the Bronx, New York to a Puerto Rican family. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in both economics and international relations. Unfortunately in the midst of the economic recession in 2008, her father passed away. This meant that she had to work several restaurant shifts in an attempt to keep her family afloat (Biography.com). She would frequently be working 18 hour shifts. 

She often discusses how revolutionary it is for women like her to become leaders in office. She also elaborates on the challenges she faces from being specifically a woman of color in the congressional office. “I think they saw a woman of color—Latina, no less—that came from a working-class and poor background, that ascended to federal office, and they said, ‘We cannot allow this to have credibility, because if people saw that she did it, then maybe others will come—and we cannot let other people like her run for office. We need to make an example out of her’” (Tracy). It’s disheartening to know that the root of politics has revolved around several very specific demographics. 

As a leader, it seems as though AOC focuses heavily on a humanistic approach to management. Her leadership style focuses on empowering the people around her. There have been several news sources showcasing her empowering style of leadership, especially tailored to the young women of America. In 2020, she was approached by Republican Ted Yoho. He said that she was “disgusting and out of her mind.” Shortly after this event, AOC gave a speech at the House of Representatives to retaliate against the behavior she was faced with. Her motive behind the speech was to tell young women not to take verbal abuse from men. Many times, to combat men’s verbal abuse, people say that men should consider how they’d feel if something happened to their wife, sister, or daughter. Building upon this idea, AOC says, “Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man” (Wornes). It’s important to have a good leader with an emphasis on empowerment. AOC’s stand with women shows her ability to empower those minorities. 

One beneficial leadership trait is to have a sense of humor and a positive spirit. In politics, it’s rare to see politicians doing fun activities to show their personality. When recently looking through Youtube, AOC was seen playing the popular game among Generation Z known as “Among Us.” Seeing her fun and humorous personality provides an opportunity to see more aspects of her character. She was also recently in a Youtube video doing her entire makeup routine while discussing issues in politics. As previously stated, it’s rather rare to see politicians doing everyday activities. By being involved in fun and humorous activities, it can be a lot easier to take her seriously because she can be seen as a multidimensional human being. 

Although AOC empowers and entertains, the quality that makes her stand out as an amazing leader in my eyes is her passion and contagious ambition. On her first day in congress, she eagerly protested climate change outside of Nancy Pelosi’s home (Parlia). Before she was officially elected into congress, her campaign emphasized her fight for Medicare and financial relief. This is because she understood the experience of living paycheck to paycheck (Langone). Since she has lived as an American struggling with poverty, she works even harder to ensure people actually get financial relief. Many current politicians don’t come from that same financial struggle, so it makes it more difficult for them to understand and work toward the current situations in America. 

Unfortunately, for many leaders of color, they’ve had to deal with a glass ceiling as an obstacle. This glass ceiling serves the purpose of restricting minorities in America to obtaining positions of power. As of January 2021, 32% of people in the House of Representatives are people of color (Buchholz). Although the glass ceiling is a lot less dense now, it still seems to be a struggle for people of color to take those positions, as AOC has discussed in several of her interviews. Another rather relevant example of this would be the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Although she has recently been appointed to one of the seats in the Supreme Court, many republicans made it seem as though white people would be pushed aside due to a new “preference” to appoint people of color. As soon as Joe Biden exclaimed that there would be a black woman in the Supreme Court, Ted Cruz said “If you’re a white guy, tough luck. If you’re a white woman, tough luck. You don’t qualify” (Brownlee). By stating this, he makes it seem as though white people are underprivileged, when in reality, they are privileged. Whenever anyone tries to build a glass ceiling for white people, it further strengthens the glass ceiling established toward people of color. Luckily, many women have chosen to redefine the concept of a glass ceiling. AOC has described it as “shaking the table” and “building our own house” (Bennett).

AOC is seen as an amazing leader because she was not only able to push past a glass ceiling, but she did it with ambition and passion that is unseen in many. Her humanistic style of leadership that she possesses makes people feel as though anything is possible. She frequently discusses how her experiences frame her viewpoints on a more beneficial economy and society. She inspires me, as well as many other women simply by advocating for them and empowering them. 


Logan Swift

U Maine '23

Logan is a rising third-year student attending the University of Maine! She is a Her Campus editorial intern and the president of the Her Campus UMaine chapter. Outside of Her Campus, she loves photography, fitness, and playing some good 'ol Animal Crossing.