A Painful Loss for Women / by marilyn salenger

                                                                                                           Photo by Gage Skidmore

                                                                                                           Photo by Gage Skidmore

My roots are midwestern, though I've been a transplanted east coast woman for years. Born in Chicago and raised in northern Indiana on the outskirts of steel country bordering the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, I watched the area I grew up in be devastated when steel mills jobs were cut and white flight began. Some of what took place was closely aligned with Detroit's downfall, and became the subject of a Washington Post Opinion piece I wrote after its bankruptcy. I understand what just happened as we elected a new President. But that doesn't mean I am not bereft.    

Every segment of our society who wanted to see Hillary Clinton win the White House is dealing with shock, pain and fear trying to absorb our new reality.  As a woman who watched the one woman we thought could break the barrier to holding the highest office in our country lose this election, I can say the pain is deep. Yes, Hillary, it does hurt. Why did I get choked up in the middle of an unrelated phone conversation the day after the election?  Because the loss created a deep visceral pain, the kind that comes from seeing a genuine beacon of hope for a more equal society abruptly crushed.

We have waited since our country's founding days to have a woman serve as President of the United States. I don't know how it would feel if there had been many female Presidents preceding Hillary Clinton's stunning loss. But there has never been a woman who held the job, and never is a big word. Never means you're blocked from achieving goals and dreams because of of your gender. Never sends a strong signal to women of all generations that the door remains closed. Never is the antithesis of what we want our daughters, grandaughters, nieces, cousins or friends to feel.

As millions of women in this country continue to face the daily inequities of being a woman in the work force, the realization that our country was close to electing its first woman President became highly symbolic. And highly charged. There are currently only 23 women (4.6%) CEO's of Fortune 500 companies, while women make up 40% of top business school enrollment. We have yet to reach equal opportunity for most women professionally in the United States, and it's long overdue.

Hillary's final words closing out her role in the 2016 election spoke to the reality of today:

"Now, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will — and hopefully sooner than we might think right now. And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams." 

It was hearing her say, "someday" that struck a powerful cord. Someday sounds ominously far away. Especially when so many of us thought someday would be today.