What does Hillary losing mean for women leaders?

Back in 2008 a relatively unknown woman took the national political stage as the chosen vice presidential candidate. The world waited with baited breath to find out who she was. She appeared on that stage calm and collected—an everyday woman in a well-tailored skirt suit—unabashedly feminine. She was immediately labeled a soccer mom, but she was in the position of a leader.

In that moment, I remember thinking how much more appealing she was than Hillary Clinton. I admired how she embraced her femininity and didn’t apologize for it. She sounded intelligent and relatable, that was until she opened her mouth without a teleprompter… By the end of that election cycle, I did not find her to be a compelling politician, but that one speech gave me a glimmer of what leadership could look like in a skirt.

Fast forward eight years and America was given the choice to elect a female leader—not just as vice president, but as president. While it is difficult to flesh out a political resume for Sarah Palin, the opposite is the case for Hillary Clinton. She has been called the most qualified person to ever win a major political party’s nomination in the US. Hillary was prepared. She had binders full of policies and plans to execute, and she lost.

Fast forward eight years and my appreciation for Hillary as a leader has grown. This election has brought her supporters out of the woodwork to applaud her relational leadership style and call attention to her approval ratings when she is doing a job as opposed to asking for a raise. I’ve now had the experience of being the only woman in the boardroom; I’ve had male executives comment on my appearance; and I’ve had to ask for almost every raise I’ve received. I’ve had to be the most prepared person in a meeting to be able to get a word in edge-wise. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a soccer mom; but I do see dishwater hair and notebooks full of research and plans.

Today I have to face the fact that that doesn’t win. That a man with a single refrain and a knack for spewing controversial comments that people want to talk about wins. People would rather vote for something than against someone. Hillary’s best argument was not Trump. That wasn’t good enough.

We can analyze why Trump won and why Hillary lost, but our lives go on. This election will have consequences; I hope one of them is that we see more women leaders. I hope that women across the country and around the world see their potential to make an impact in their communities and have their voices be heard. I hope that women raise their hand to take on leadership positions and reach out their other hand to support other women who want to lead and serve. I hope that men and women see women as potential leaders, that we acknowledge the women in our lives for the work that they are doing and encourage their voices to be heard. We have the choice of how we respond, how we treat other people, who we follow and give influence to in other areas of our lives, and how we lead. Hillary Clinton has shown us what being presidential and female looks like. Today the answer doesn’t seem to be try harder, but rather to keep trying.