Why you should care
Because you’re a woman — or you know a whole lot of them.
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The times they are a-changin’ — at last! In a matter of days, and absent an act of God, Hillary Clinton will likely be elected to the most powerful post in the world and become the first female president of the United States. The 2016 election is a sign of huge progress in the area of women’s rights, and Clinton’s presidency, assuming it happens, will likely be a catalyst for more.
Of course, progress never follows an even trajectory. Almost a century after women got the right to vote, the gender wage gap is alive and well, and restrictive reproductive laws are still on the books. And, lest we forget, the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, cannot utter a line like he did at this week’s debate — “Nobody respects women more than I do” — with a mote of credibility. A host of other issues limit women’s power in the public arena. Women aren’t the only ones who stand to gain from parity: If the world got behind gender equality in the workplace alone, McKinsey & Co. says, $12 trillion could be added to the global economy.
The remarkable thing is that even with these holdbacks, the arc is patently clear: Women are rising in a multitude of areas.
A Political Groundswell
With a Hillary victory, plus Theresa May and Angela Merkel already in office, the ranks of the world’s most powerful are changing in dynamic ways. Imagine next year’s G-8 meeting if Hillary wins and how much would have changed in powerful political conversations since FDR, Churchill and Stalin kibitzed about divvying up lands and treasure at the Yalta Conference. We don’t know whether women leaders might prioritize matters of health and household while also tackling economic concerns — to speculate would be to tread some tricky, and possibly reductive, terrain. But with more women in power, we’d probably witness fewer awkward moments than, say, George W. Bush giving Angela Merkel a friendly … shoulder rub.
She’s just one of the growing number of women who’ve infiltrated an old boys’ club in Asia, while also making meaningful strides in education and healthcare reform.
Whether it’s in Australia or Iran, we’re seeing more women representing their constituents. In the future, we’ll see female leadership grow even more substantially in Asia’s giants. While women make up fewer than 5 percent of the ruling Central Committee in China, for instance, I’m watching the work of those such as Liu Yandong, one of the country’s top-ranking officials and a vice premier. She’s just one of the growing number of women who’ve infiltrated an old boys’ club in Asia, while also making meaningful strides in education and healthcare reform. Then there’s Mamata Banerjee, a folksy-charismatic chief minister of West Bengal who likely won’t become India’s second female prime minister but won a decisive victory in May. She’ll probably enjoy much more time ruling as a relatively moderate leader of this state, which gave up on decades of communism just a few years ago.
The Conversation-Shifters on Sexual Assault
Even before the flood of sexual-assault allegations against Trump, we were expecting this year to be a turning point in sexual-assault policy in the U.S. — and perhaps, ultimately, abroad. The Brock Turner case will be for sexual assault what the Anita Hill case was to workplace sexual harassment. It spurred a national conversation and changed cultural opinion — and with the backlash against Judge Aaron Persky, I think we’re heading into a new era of solutions and deterrence through more serious sentencing of perpetrators.
What will a President Clinton do, besides defeating a man who, to many, represents a virulent strain of American misogyny? Already, a Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights has passed in Congress, in effect creating a standard for treatment of victims when it comes to rape-kit testing and evidence-gathering. In addition, there’s deeper investigation into the handling of college sexual-assault cases, including at powerful campuses such as Brigham Young University. And expect New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to continue pushing for change in the military’s handling of sexual-assault cases as well.
Power Players of Color
Hillary is likely to bring a number of women to the political fore, including those of color, and in doing so is also likely to change conversations and practices — maybe even in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Big names who might serve as professional sounding boards or in a new White House administration are Maya Harris (a senior policy adviser for Clinton’s presidential campaign), Cheryl Mills (chief of staff during Clinton’s secretary of state days) and Huma Abedin (vice chairwoman of Clinton’s current campaign). And be sure to watch Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez in California, Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada — who could become the first Latina senator — and Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, a former veteran who would undoubtedly inspire more women to run for office.
Rising beyond activists, the Black Lives Matter movement has helped bring attention to the lives of women of color. Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil-rights advocate originally from Ohio, has spurred a conversation around the invisibility of Black women with her #SayHerName campaign. It’s carried through the entertainment world, where actor Thandie Newton and musician Janelle Monáe have spread the message, and other rising stars are changing the face of entertainment. While TV comedy took one step back when Larry Wilmore’s late-night show was canceled, Issa Rae has a new HBO show, Insecure, a project cocreated with Wilmore — and I predict the show will soon be must-see TV.
A Continuing Struggle
So am I saying that we’re now on a level playing field? Of course not. Territories of the world still see women as secondary to men, and their primary function as mothering. Russia will likely still exclude women from its innermost political circles. And wage disparity means continuing challenges.
But make no mistake, if Hillary wins, a new era will have begun — and other events are adding up in favor of real change. Which means 2016 will rightly be remembered as a turning point in the U.S. and globally for women’s rights and human relations.
What do you think — is it the real year for women? What did I miss? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or add a comment below.
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