Breaking through the glass ceiling: On November 8, 2016, the world paused as it waited all night and watched one of the world’s most recognized woman’s quest to become president of the United States fall short in disbelief.
Several pundits and polls were wrong. The questions now are did she lose the election due to her political ideology; push back from the changing demographics of the country; disconnect with the working class, downtrodden, low voter participation, hidden racism, or a diminished journalism?
A few even blamed Oprah Winfrey, a media mogul and billionaire for what some saw a less than enthusiastic endorsement and even after she called for acceptance of the new president-elect.
However, it seems that elephant in the room still believes that it is not the role of women to lead a country, or even a bible school.
Hillary Clinton would have been the first woman president to hold the nation’s highest office in its 230-plus years of history.
Decades ago, she would not been permitted to vote and, if she was black, she would have been considered a property and three-fifths of a person. So there is some progress.
The result was painful for many, and communities were left divided. However, a few bright spots emerged after three more women became US senators and the Senate now has 21 out of 100.
It gives hope to young girls who were watching, especially women of color globally.
Kamala Harris was one of the new elected senators. She is the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica. She was first black attorney general of the state of California. She supports equal women’s rights, LGBQ, and equal pay. This is critical for continued mobility.
Although more women today have rights to vote, most are still seen as domestic helpers, whose role should be providing services to their families in the kitchen and other places in the home.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recently said that his wife belongs in the kitchen and the other room after she questioned his leadership. And despite progress, some women still face danger in many countries and that only creates more barriers.
Fortunately, for few of us public safety servants the task continues, especially for victims of crimes where the centrality of women’s issues is woven into their safety and that will not change because of an election.
Why is this opinion appearing in the Caribbean news?
This election stretches beyond the US. It provides an avenue for a global reflection.
I thought about few Caribbean islands that should be proud as they were ahead for recognizing and have elected women leaders.
The late Eugenia Charles, first and only female prime minister of Dominica. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and Portia Simpson-Miller, former prime minister of Jamaica.
Other countries such as Australia, England, and Germany, Pakistan, and Liberia have already debunked a prevailing rotten domestic ideology about women’s capacity to lead.
The ongoing climb: Despite gains, and present barriers, leaders must mentor and promote new generations of women, and equally important know when to step aside to create a pathway for the next generation.
The never-ending quest for power can cause more division, disconnect and stymie new ideas and future leaders to drive policies for their advancement.
Living in political vacuum also has contributed to what appears to be decline in the representation of women in several local key government functions across these islands.
Many titles are now “former” for women, and that cannot become a comfort zone.
Quietly, I still believe that elephant in the room remain relentless in its opposition, and the local community suffers while they blame others.
Every election has consequences and, in these events, one side has to win. Nevertheless, losing an election does not mean that upward mobility for a woman is dead.
With more opportunities, security, preparation and collaboration, another woman will emerge.
After Mr Trump was elected, chatter emerged that people of Caribbean heritage should consider leaving the US. However, I believe that is not a good idea as the region still struggles on many socio-economic, and safety fronts.
A recent academic journal also noted that an absence of access to crucial career paths is critical especially for young women. As a result, they are leaving to seek a better way of life elsewhere.
Additionally, during several conferences and workshops I have attended, a majority believes that, after an election cycle, the lack of congruity still roars, diversity, discrimination, gender bias, empowerment, depression, low representation in government, and business, and a constant vulnerability of becoming a victim of crime.
Domestic violence also remains an epidemic, especially Afro Caribbean woman. They have limited safeguards from being harassed, sexually stalked, raped, and other forms of exploitation.
These issues must be addressed to build a brighter future:
That image: I am not a scholar on women’s issues, but unapologetic and passionate on the hurdles they face in these poor communities from job discrimination, limited access to education, healthcare and other barriers.
The ongoing migration from the kitchen to the workplace by women globally; a few still find it hard to embrace an ever-changing world.
I have known several law enforcement female officers, who stay at a disadvantage to men. They are often overlooked for promotions and paid far less that their male colleagues for same work.
Studies have shown that significant gaps remain in how much they earn compared to men: another quest for equality.
Beyond the boardroom, grassroots social and economic growth strategies such as get-out-the-vote in an election is necessary to fight barriers.
Far too often, women’s leadership accomplishment and roles are seen more in a political cycle when it should have been an economic and academic platform that connects and advances their accomplishments to motivate other generations of women or an entire community.
Mrs Clinton’s failure to win a pivotal election should give women globally some psychological boost of what’s possible despite an underlying cognitive bias rooted in history.
Getting back to the fundamentals: In the mid 1840s, women’s movements staged marches in communities, churches and homes in the right to vote, and other civil rights movements for equality.
Today, connecting and mobilizing for equality sometimes takes more than likes on Facebook.
Social media has become a critical platform not only to collaborate, but also express oneself, connecting to the world, share ideas, and seek advice.
However, it is hard sometimes today to differentiate what is entertainment, or an important issue from the anything-goes reality social media platform. We have to get back to the community organizing.
It is also delicate balance between liberation and expression. Not everyone agrees on the same norms, virtue, or values.
In a divided society searching for a socio-economic and equality, often one can simply be judged by appearance even when all have the same ideology, moral compass, and academic qualities.
Society has to begin see these women’s issues as one and not those women over there because of cultural disconnect.
Unfortunately, some of the ghosts, despite modernization, coupled with an unwilling elephant who has decided to stay put, have shown that some changes are difficult.
The evolving woman remains critical for all society. This requires mobilization through common threads, education, acceptance and opportunities.
No one has to move to Canada, the Caribbean, or elsewhere: Regardless of location, start recognizing that socio-economic, cultural, and the justice elephant has to start seeing not only barriers, but also an inalienable right for all, because women and men are created equally.