What a Hillary Clinton presidency could really mean for women

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens as she is introduced at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, November 2, 2016.
Bryan Snyder | Reuters
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens as she is introduced at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, November 2, 2016.

This election, perhaps more than any other in our collective lifetimes, has had more than its fair share of shocking developments. I know: obvious statement of the year.

But, putting aside the gasp-inducing headlines for a minute, here's what I find most shocking: how novel female political leadership is in the US. It's especially stark when you compare us to other countries in the Western world.

For the first time in history, we've had female presidential candidates in both major political parties, and even a female third party candidate. After Election Day, we may have our first female president.

On the one hand, these facts are encouraging (#progress), but on the other hand, we have to ask ourselves: Why is this a novelty? In 2016? Why do so many of our institutions lack women in leadership positions?

Consider that:

  • there has never been a female director of the FBI,
  • there has never been a female director of the CIA,
  • there has never been a female head of the UN,
  • there has never been a female Supreme Court Chief Justice,
  • of 112 Supreme Court justices in our nation's history, only 4 have been women,
  • perhaps less surprising, there has never been a female NFL Commissioner, ( but there are numerous male heads of female sports organizations or teams)
  • there has also never been a female director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern art, or the New York Philharmonic.

Meanwhile, Angela Merkel and Theresa May are out there on the global stage, leading their respective European countries through turbulent, significant challenges, and they're hardly the first. Margaret Thatcher, Édith Cresson, and Erna Solberg have all been prime ministers in the EU (in Solberg's case, she is currently), and Thatcher shattered the ceiling first in Europe in 1979 – almost forty years before we did.

So when I note our institutions and the lack of female leadership, here's what I'm trying to say. Women make up 51 percent of the population and thus a majority of the nation's available talent pool. Surely, drawing on only a fraction of this powerful demographic weakens our nation's ability to tackle the most critical issues facing society today.

I believe that our country's institutions would be refreshingly different with more women in leadership positions. And by that, I'm not lumping all women together, saying there is an essential "something" we all have from birth. But, I am saying we bring a shared set of life experiences to the table. You don't have to like Hillary Clinton. You don't have to like Condoleezza Rice, Jill Stein, or Carly Fiorina. But it's worth stopping to applaud the fact that these women have simply gotten to where they are, which is what I wanted to show with "Now Is The Time."

"Now Is The Time" is an image I created cataloging women's firsts, and the year they happened – first woman to be a 4-star general in the U.S. Air Force, first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, etc.

However, while I initially wanted to celebrate the fact that we might have our first female president, I was struck with the stories I heard from people about the "firsts" in their own lives: "My grandmother was her town's first female postal worker." "I was the first woman in my family to go to college." So I created this interactive web page enabling anybody to add their own, their friends' or their family's U.S. women's first.

My hope is that eventually, "women's firsts" won't be such a big deal – they'll just be the way we live.

In the meantime, this country is in for some much-needed healing. By turning to the women in our lives now and after the election, and acknowledging something incredible they did – some "first" they bravely took on and mightily accomplished – we can evolve the faces of leadership in this country. We can normalize female achievement, and we can do it no matter your political orientation. Now is the time.

Commentary by DrueKataoka (www.Drue.Net) an artist based in Silicon Valley, merging art & technology often for social impact. Her portfolio spans traditional disciplines like mirror-polished stainless steel sculpture, Japanese ink painting and emerging techniques like brainwaves,virtual reality, and web technologies. Her work was featured at the first art exhibit in zero gravity at the International Space Station. She is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. Follow her at @DrueKataoka.

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