Dear Mr. President-Elect:
Please don’t let me down. Please don’t let decades of progress in diversity disappear. You are soon to become one of the most powerful men in the world. In the world. Let that weigh heavily on you. The words you speak cannot be taken back so easily. In fact, they will be projected, recorded, replayed, tweeted and snap-chatted worldwide. You will leave an impression – on all of us, from the very youngest to the oldest. What you say, how you act, what you do will be the example a generation will emulate or despise.
As you surely have seen in your campaign, one sexist remark today becomes a legacy that evokes an atmosphere of acceptance of women as objects rather than intelligent, worthwhile human beings. Your remarks, your body language (stalking behind Hillary during the debates), your superior inflection that indicates you – a man – our soon-to-be-leader – can say and do anything he wants without repercussions is like a haunting from my workplace past – and one I would choose not to revisit or to have my daughters visit.
You would not know, of course, how hurtful and harmful your womanizing and denigration of women has been on a personal level to women and on a societal level to our country. You would not know how you and men like you who collude in a presumed private “boys club” where only the physical attributes of women are extolled, examined, weighed and rated continue to set equality on the back burner. You would not have truly experienced this in your heart and soul because you have lived a gifted life…a life where you are welcome at the boardroom table, a life where you can speak freely and in your own style without having to edit what you will say and how you will say it for the mostly-male audience, a life where you put on a suit and tie and shirt pressed by someone else and are not judged for the height of your heels or length of your skirt or amount of cleavage you display.
In our society, there exists a genuine and innate bias that negatively impacts women in the workplace. And in nearly all cases, we find this is not so much a conscious effort as it is a reflex that causes us to judge a woman (woman to woman and man to woman) by archaic notions. Words – simple words – mean something different when said by a man and when said by a woman. We must change these perceptions to realize a happy, healthy prosperous future. Job one if you are to improve this nation, our economy, our joblessness, our education, our healthcare, is for you to embrace all insights, all voices. But that won’t happen if we continue to relegate women to the seat of trophy mother and wife. That won’t happen until all of us – every one of us – acknowledge and respect our differences.
Right now, I’m not feeling too respected by you. Change that. Please.
I am not the same as a man. And that is more than okay. I don’t want to have to think like a man, act like a man, speak like a man to be successful. An accelerated economy will be driven more by disparate viewpoints than the same tired old thought processes. We – as a nation – need to see women as more than things of beauty for that to become our reality.
I envy you. Maybe that’s my problem.
I envy the fact that you can say whatever you want without consideration of weighing your words to think “do I sound too bitchy?”, “do I sound too aggressive?”, “am I assertive enough?”, “do they respect me? ” You haven’t had to balance child rearing with career, figure out how to take a phone call from a sick child during a high-powered meeting, or leave your child with someone you barely know while you go off to make money.
Ginger Rogers did say it best: “I do everything Fred does only backwards and in high heels.” I would like to ask you to think about that. In fact, I would like to invite you to spend a day in my high heels – or better yet, in my daughter’s work shoes as she and her wife both work their way up separate management ladders and while raising a child. Or my other daughter’s shoes as she racks up college debt to ensure employment.
We need you, Mr. President Elect, to create a kinder, friendlier world. It will take so much more than simple answers like walls.
I “get you”, Mr. Trump. I have compassion for you. You are embarking upon the most difficult job of your entire life. And you are ill prepared in so many ways. I hope you will choose strong advisors. And – yet – in all ways you will represent the United States of America. I pray that you represent us with open ears, mind and heart. And an understanding of what it takes to dance backwards in high heels.