On the morning of Nov. 8, I took this picture of my daughters before they headed off to school. I planned to share it with family and friends 24 hours later to celebrate a milestone of historic significance. I’d even added a caption of one simple, if exultant word: “yes.”
No, I did not share the celebratory photo. The party was cancelled. The U.S. did not elect its first female president.
This is not a partisan message, because the cause is not partisan. Every mainstream party in every corner of the world can benefit from involving more women in political leadership.
This was the potential I saw when I decided many months ago to dedicate myself to the mission of increasing the number and influence of women in politics. Especially tantalizing was the prospect of both the United Nations and the United States anointing their first women at the top within a few weeks of each other. The fourth quarter of 2016 was to be The Big Breakthrough.
Neither the UN nor the U.S. is celebrating the ascension of a woman to their highest heights. Interestingly, the two very different processes yielded what amounts to the same result. For the 10th time in 71 years, the UN Security Council selected ― through a system still plagued by opaque diplomatic negotiations ― a man to be Secretary General. And for the 45th time in 228 years, the electoral college of the United States was led by citizens to elect yet another male president.
Initially disappointed, I did not share the photo with friends and family ― certainly not with the affirmative caption. Then I thought again. Major progress has been made. Witness:
For the first time ever, women made up a majority of the candidates (seven of 13) formally nominated to run the UN.
For the first time ever, three of these female candidates garnered “encourage” votes from a majority of the UN Security Council members early in the selection process.
For the first time ever, a woman was nominated by a major political party to be U.S. president.
For the first time ever, a woman won electoral college votes from not just one American state, but 20.
For the first time ever, a woman won the popular vote for U.S. president, with more than 60 million citizens casting their ballot in her favor.
So, it could be easy to focus on the disappointment that The Big Breakthrough will have to wait ― at least five more years in the case of the UN, at least four in the case of the US.
YES!!! My photo stands defiantly valid. Already now we should recognize the year’s historic achievements. Important progress has been made. There is reason for optimism. The women who will be “the firsts” are out there, watching. The ground has been laid for them. Some years from now, I look forward to taking another photo of my daughters. And to sharing it within 24 hours, not in consolation, but in celebration.