The French Ambassador to the UK is a woman. The President and Managing Director of the French Chamber of Great Britain are both women. The main speaker at the French Résidence was a woman. There was a record turnout of aspirational women at the French Chamber’s Women, Inspiration and Leadership event. It was the eve of the American elections. There was a huge air of anticipation that we would wake up in the morning to the first woman President of the United States. It was not to be.
The glass cliff was debated. Why is it that women often only get the chance at leadership in times of crisis? Is it because they are more likely to succeed at such times? The odds of failure are higher. Or are women better at calming a storm?
The vile Brexit referendum and vitriolic US election campaign are enough to put women off politics for good. Both results have revealed huge divisions in modern-day society and a clamour for change. While some of us struggle up the stairs to the top floor; others get to take the lift or elevator.
I greatly admired Hillary Clinton’s magnanimous speech in what must been an utterly heart-breaking day in her life: the end of her dream.
Many women pull up the ladder once they reach the top. It seems extraordinary that many white women voted for Trump. Undoubtedly, Hillary Clinton made mistakes. You never get to high office without making mistakes. The standards by which men and women’s actions and words are judged are unequal. Even women were prepared to excuse Donald Trump’s utterances as merely locker room talk.
A woman in business or politics walks a thin line between sounding too bossy one minute and too weak the next. She feels pushed
- to work harder than anyone else for recognition and promotion;
- be comfortable with every element of the job specification in advance;
- be three times as good as any man in the same role.
Childcare costs may swallow all or most of her salary. She learns to dodge the largely female daggers out for her dress, shoes, hairstyle, voice or accent. Developing a very thick skin is a pre-requisite for survival.
As often in business, the best qualified, most experienced candidate for the job didn’t get the job. It was hardly about policies. It was character assassination. Hilary Clinton was on the absolute last step before pushing through that highest and hardest of glass ceilings: the American Presidency.
Even in her most painful moment, she sought to inspire others to push on through the setbacks in their careers ahead. She urged all to:
“Never stop believing that fighting for what is right is worth it.”
Not only did Hilary Clinton calm rather than stoke a storm, she took the time to send the elevator back down:
“To every little girl in the world: never doubt that you are valuable, powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity.”
Hillary Clinton failed to shatter the glass ceiling. She did amazingly well in the face of the glass cliff.
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