President Hillary and the Next Generation of Leaders

No matter whom you vote for today, I think we can all agree that the next four years will challenge America’s perceptions about our country’s elected “CEO.” Today, November 8, 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton is predicted to shatter the most fortified and multipaned of glass ceilings in the United States, joining the ranks of such leaders as former Icelandic prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. Of course, this otherwise momentous occasion is in many ways just one step along what promises to be a very long and bumpy road. Clinton has already accomplished an extraordinary amount in her career, all while facing challenges that her male peers did not. As they say, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did “backwards and in high heels.” Likewise, women in leadership roles must run countries and companies while managing the extra work created by gender bias, such as navigating expectations around “niceness” or the seemingly never-ending scrutiny of their physical appearance and personal lives. Samantha Bee’s interview of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, Marshallese president Hilda Heine, and Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović reveals a glimpse of just what female world leaders have to deal with beyond leading their nations.

Though the United States is a country rather than a company, there is no reason to believe bias would operate differently as our CEO and commander in chief interacts with Congress, a body whose demographics don’t vary much from the Fortune 500 in terms of female representation. On top of that, research shows that women get blamed more for corporate failures than their male counterparts. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that, according to new analysis out of the Rockefeller Foundation and Global Strategy Group, the media cites the CEO as the reason for a company’s crisis 80 percent of the time when that CEO is a woman versus 31 percent when the CEO is a man. Clinton is all too familiar with the blame game, noting in the first presidential debate, “I have a feeling that, by the end of this evening, I'm going to be blamed for everything that's ever happened.”

What happens in the next four years will undoubtedly influence the course of politics and business culture—and inform the lives of women and girls—across the globe. So, what’s HRC to do when “the toll we’ve paid” to get her there “has been the most graphically sexist election in living memory” according to the New York Times, an election too many of us are quick to put behind us? Well, she could continue to name the issue. She could call out the sexism of her colleagues, as former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard did in her famous 2012 misogyny speech. She could call out sexism in the media, as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer did. Of course, any of those things would be on top of just being a damn good president.

That’s why Clinton shouldn’t have to do it alone. We, as her delegates, must stand up against sexism in whatever realm we occupy, whether it’s a war room or a boardroom (or a courtroom or a newsroom or a classroom or a kitchen). This is not just the job of women, or of women CEOs and elected leaders, but of all of us. We can all say enough is enough, as Michelle Obama encouraged us to do in her New Hampshire speech. We can engage in self-reflection to ensure we aren’t piling on, criticizing anything less than perfection for our women as role models or in the way they choose to grapple with certain sexism. And, most importantly, we can keep appointing and electing women to leadership positions until it is normalized, until we as constituents, board members, or frontline workers learn to judge our leaders fairly, based on competency and character, and take the “nasty” out it.