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One Step Forward, Miles to Go

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UGA chapter.

On Tuesday, November 8th, the American people chose Donald Trump as their president. His opponent was Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first female presidential nominee for the Democratic party, not to mention the first woman to be a major party’s candidate. Clinton, though flawed, had plenty of the experience necessary to be president. Trump is regarded as our most unprepared presidential elect, with no political or military experience. Clinton’s loss has been compared to that of the everyday qualified woman who loses an opportunity to a man simply due to to the fact that she is a woman. Although many speculate Trump won because he has no political experience, Clinton’s loss hit hard for many hoping to see the first woman president, but the glass ceiling remains intact.

However, November 8th should not be regarded as an overall defeat for women. Women made great strides in the United States government that night as well. In January 2017, there will be 21 women (16 Democrat and 5 Republican) in the Senate. The number of women of color in the United States’ Senate quadrupled, from being one to four. Four of the women who will take a senate seat are particularly noteworthy due to the representation they bring not only to women, but to minorities. Tammy Duckworth (D) of Illinois is a biracial veteran who also happens to be a double-amputee. Kamala Harris (D) of California is the second African American woman to ever be elected to the Senate. Harris is also of Indian descent and thus became the first Indian American senator as well. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) of Nevada is the first Latina senator. Pramila Jayapal (D) of Washington’s 7th District is the first South Asian female Senator. In the House of Representatives, history was also made with the election of Ilhan Omar (D), the first Somali-American lawmaker ever elected. Omar is a Muslim woman who spent four years of her life as a refugee before coming to the United States.

While this is indeed progress, women are still severely underrepresented in the government. Of our 50 states, only 27 have ever had a woman represent them in the Senate. In the 2015 House of Representatives, there were 84 female representatives, which made up 19.3% of the body of the house. In the 2020 election, women will have held the right to vote in the United States for 100 years, but still fail to see equality in their federal government. This statistic is especially disheartening when you consider the fact that the United States’ population is 50% female, and we let ourselves be represented by mostly white males. Especially when issues concerning women’s rights come into play, it is critical there is enough of a voice from actual females. While each election brings progress, it is still slow-going and frustrating. Equal representation becoming an expectation is something the country should strive for.

Countries, historically, benefit from having women in office. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave half of his cabinet positions to women. Trudeau’s reasoning was simple: “it’s 2015.” Barack Obama, in comparison, only gave four of his 15 cabinet positions to women. The Swedish ministry is composed of 52% women, and their Parliament is 43% women, and they have the highest female employment rates in the European Union. Finland, where the government is 62% female, has school systems that are better than the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia in all academic areas.

To achieve equal representation, the American people have to want it. Women have to go out and seek to better our communities for our fellow women. Women have to learn, to achieve, and to commandeer, and to show every man who expects differently that we are just as capable of running the government as them. Perhaps women choose not to go into politics because the odds seem to be overwhelmingly against us. Perhaps we will let the big picture on November 8th deter us, because if Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton couldn’t win it against Donald Trump of all people, who can?

Someone will. Not this election, but in the next, or the one after that. Within our lifetime, it is entirely likely that we will see a “madame president” taking residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In the United States, little girls and boys are taught they can do anything, and be anything they want to be. That should include the presidency. While this particular election did not break the glass ceiling, it made cracks. I, personally, am confident that someday it will be shattered. Television show host Seth Meyers spoke of the election’s outcome, voicing the disappointment many felt. Meyers spoke to the future female president watching this election, saying, “I imagine this moment today will be a defining one for you. One that will make you work harder, and strive farther, and whoever you are, I hope I live to see your inauguration.”

To close, here is a quote from Clinton’s concession speech. “And to all the little girls… never doubt that you are valuable and powerful. And deserving of every opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

Maggie is pursing a Public Relations degree with a certificate in Public Affairs Communications at the University of Georgia. Her favorite cities are Washington, D.C. and Orlando, Florida. Her regular Starbucks order is a grande iced vanilla coffee, and you can find her on Instagram and Twitter @maggie_cav.