Hillary Clinton speaks at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Oct. 24, 2016. (Photo: Andrew Cline/Shutterstock.com)
Let’s not kid ourselves. This hurts.
For all those women out there who’ve played by the rule book, Hillary Clinton’s loss feels distinctly personal. For women lawyers, particularly, she was one of our own.
She did what many of us did and still do: We were the good kids in school—the ones who didn’t interrupt or get into trouble. We not only did our homework and got A’s, but we did extra credit. We went off to top schools and graduated with honors. We wanted to prove ourselves and happily took jobs in a male-dominated profession. We worked our butts off, put up with all sorts of nonsense and sucked it up. We paid our dues and finally attained professional respect and success.
But seldom the top job.
That always seems to go to one of the boys. Some of them were whip-smart and deserving. But there were also guys who just seem destined—in a way women never are. You know who I’m talking about—the men who get invited by senior male partners to those after-work drinks, late-night dinners or some last-minute event. We see them leave together, like proud dads with their adoring sons or old drinking buddies, while we stayed at the office with our heads buried in a document.
Their promotions to partnership or senior positions seem to happen so easily and naturally—even though some of those guys didn’t work as hard as we did, nor did they have as much experience. Worse, some didn’t seem nearly as bright. Yet, somehow, they glided right in front of us, knocked us out of the running and left us in the dust.
The analogy between Clinton’s loss and the plight of women in corporate America is painfully obvious, though what happened in the presidential election is immeasurably worse with greater consequences. If it’s any comfort, corporate America is a model of gender equality next to the electoral process by which Donald Trump is breezing to the Oval Office. Indeed, I’m pretty confident that someone like Trump with zero relevant experience (and we won’t get into the sexual assault charges and temperament stuff) wouldn’t have a chance of beating out Clinton in most mainstream jobs.
Which bring us to this: Women always knew things weren’t fair, but they could live with that because they thought working harder and hanging tough meant we’d eventually triumph. We put up with a lot of B.S. because we believe, fundamentally, that things are getting better.
But Trump’s victory tells us we’ve been kidding ourselves. His win tells us how fragile women’s achievements have been. While we’ve been slowly and painstakingly building our foundation, he comes over with his loud, bombastic bulldozer and crushes everything in one fell swoop. And just like that, we’re reduced to a pile of rubble.
Of course, these days, everyone is knocking themselves out trying to figure out how Clinton could have lost to this bully who seems ill-equipped to govern. Did she fail to convey a positive message? Could she have handled the email scandal more deftly? Why didn’t she appear nicer to voters? How come she didn’t show the kind of human emotion that she displayed during her concession speech? And, for goodness sake, why is she just not likeable?
But what no one is asking is why wasn’t she more qualified.
And that is what makes her loss so painful.
Contact Vivia Chen at email@example.com. On Twitter: @lawcareerist