“they kilt us but they aint whupped us yit”
~ William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (Random House, 1936)
~ Senator Tim Kaine, Nov. 9, 2016
How can we move forward from the 2016 U.S. presidential election? The pundits and pollsters may have gotten this one wrong, and, like many people, I have my own ideas why, but I will leave it to them to explore. Meanwhile, here are some random thoughts inspired by the events of Tuesday, November 8, 2016.
In his endorsement last June, President Obama described Hillary Clinton as the most qualified person to ever run for president. And yet. A recent study found that women only apply for jobs for which they are 100% qualified, compared to 60% for men. A Harvard Business Review analysis of this study went on to note that the reason for this was not a simply a lack of confidence; less than 10% of women feared they would not be able to do the job if they did not meet all the qualifications. The most gendered reasons given for not applying for jobs had to do with the application process itself, with women much more likely than men to report being afraid of failure or breaking the rules. The HBR report goes on to cite a McKinsey & Company study which noted that “women are often evaluated for promotions primarily on performance, while men are often promoted on potential.” Taking this one step further, Vu Lee has written about how nonprofit job descriptions mask biases which not only lead to employers filtering out applicants, but also to job-seekers disqualifying themselves; either way, the result is a less diverse job force. In the correlation of qualification to hiring, promotion, and diversity, this U.S. election has lessons for both workers and employers.
On election day, I attended the National Philanthropy Day events at my local AFP Chapter. In the afternoon panel discussion, a Community Dialogue, philanthropists and leaders from local corporations, foundations, and nonprofits talked about how to move our city forward. Key priorities, brought forward by major donors and organizations alike, were addressing income inequality and gaps in opportunity and achievement. They spoke at length about the Milwaukee neighborhoods located in 53206, “America’s most incarcerated zip code.” They discussed scalability, sustainability, collaboration, place-based giving, “halo” benefits, and whole-system thinking. The conversation wasn’t political, but it was both strategic and caring. It was philanthropic, and it gives me hope.
I won’t pretend my hopes and dreams survived wholly intact after the early hours of November 9th. As a woman, a feminist, and the daughter and mother of strong women, electing a female president mattered deeply to me. Statements made by our president-elect have reawakened painful memories from my own life. And, with two LGBTQ daughters, I worry even more now for their future opportunities, freedoms, and safety.
But now it’s time to get back up again, and get back to work. It’s more important now than ever.