The Glass Ceiling Still Looms over the Women Who Will One Day Shatter It

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Glass-ceiling

By Alf van Beem (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

November 11, 2016; CBS News

Last week, the nation bore witness to the presidential election. Many women were anticipating a long-overdue celebration as Hillary Clinton became the first woman elected to serve in our country’s highest office. But alas, women, and scores of other voters (non-voters, too) were left dumbfounded when Donald Trump won enough electoral votes to grant him the title of President-elect. Another glass ceiling remains intact.

As Secretary Clinton said in her concession speech on Wednesday, the loss is profoundly disappointing. “This is painful and it will be for a long time,” lamented Clinton. It’s painful for a deluge of reasons, but this woman losing to this man is strikingly significant. Jessica Bennett writing for the New York Times last week pointed to Clinton’s “play by the rules” demeanor that so many women in the workplace have abided by for generations.

She put her head down and worked hard, devoted her life to service, waited her turn, and never got angry (or at least never showed it). She made mistakes along the way, certainly—but she had the résumé, the qualifications, the stamina, and she didn’t lash out when those things were questioned. Mrs. Clinton took the high road, again and again: deflecting interruption after interruption, maintaining her momentum in the face of a man hovering over her, not responding when he called her “nasty” in front of millions of viewers.

But despite all this, it wasn’t enough. As we sort out our confusion and anger, the election results did offer some glimmers of hope that should give women good reason to celebrate.

The 115th Congress will be the most diverse in history thanks to the minority females elected to serve in the Senate, including California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who will be the first Indian American to serve in the Senate and the first black woman to serve in the upper chamber in nearly two decades; Illinois Representative and Iraqi War Veteran Tammy Duckworth, who will be the first Thai American in the chamber; and former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who takes over the seat of Minority Leader Harry Reid to become the nation’s first Latina senator. As the three women join Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, who is currently the only non-white woman serving in the upper chamber, they will set a new record for the number of minority females serving in the Senate.

While the record number of four is rather underwhelming, it should be counted as a step forward when considering the representation of women in both chambers overall. Take for instance the fact that the total number of women in Congress will remain unchanged this session, with 104 females accounting for just 19 percent of both houses of Congress. The United States continues to trail other nations in female parliamentary representation, including countries like Cuba, Bolivia, and Rwanda, some of which have instituted gender quotas in an effort to reach such parity.

As women recover from the astonishment of last week’s vote, they should find promise in our newly elected women and emerge renewed, recharged, and ready to continue the fight. We owe it to the women who have helped pave the way throughout years past. We must never stop reminding ourselves that the Glass Ceiling will only be able to withstand these cracks for so long.—Lindsay Walker