Hillary Hit The Glass Ceiling, But Women In India Have Touched The Sky

29/11/2016 1:54 PM IST | Updated 29/11/2016 2:02 PM IST
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Jim Urquhart / Reuters

Women fought for it back then, women are still fighting for it now—"gender equality". Shirley Chisholm was the first woman to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and 44 years later, it was Hillary Clinton clinching its nomination. Over the years, what remains unchanged is the fact that back then there was Edgar Berman who argued that women could never be effective presidential leaders because of their menstrual cycle; today it is Donald Trump who thinks a woman doesn't have the "stamina" to cope with the top job.

India with all its complexities and a strong patriarchal society has had women as either President or Prime Minister for 21 out of the past 50 years.

It's now more than ever that women must question their support for other women. I have time and again reiterated that there is this seemingly invincible and invisible glass ceiling that exists and it's almost as if that damn thing will never crack!

In her concession speech Hillary Clinton said the same thing:

"We have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling. But someday, someone will." In her conclusion she said she 'hopes' for the young and for the millennial. "To all of the little girls, who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams."


As much as I would love to turn my disappointment into a rant about men's inability to accept powerful women, it is heartbreaking to see that 53% of White women voters chose Donald Trump, the same man who was accused by over a dozen women of sexual assault or harassment. And they chose him over Hillary Clinton, a woman who believed in executing policies which would better support women. With this, women who voted for Trump not only made it difficult to shatter the glass ceiling, but shattered a dream of millions of hopeful women around the world.

A Pew Research Center survey conducted last year shows that 75% of men and 72% of women said they expected to see a female President before they die, as did 85% of Democrats, 64% of Republicans and 75% of independents. The results belied this. The dream that America would see a woman candidate as President was so close. Only a few of those women who recall the passage of the 19th Amendment got to vote for a woman for President on Tuesday. They won't live to see a woman inaugurated. But like Hillary said—someday, someone will.

Though I am an Indian, it almost felt as if we lost the elections, because Hillary stood for each one of us women. She stood bravely and courageously, even in the face of public criticism. The gender-based attacks on Hillary throughout the campaign were a reflection of how society treats ambitious women.

While corporate America leads in gender diversity initiatives, political diversity continues to be an issue. For all of American history, it has mostly been White men who have held public charge through political positions.

I stand proud that India with all its complexities and a strong patriarchal society has had women as either President or Prime Minister for 21 out of the past 50 years. Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister between 1966 and 1984, for a period of 16 years; from 2007 to 2012, Pratibha Patil served as President. But in the United States no woman has ever held the presidency. After independence, India witnessed a sequence of women leaders filling significant posts in the political hierarchy of the country. Sucheta Kriplani was India's first woman Chief Minister, serving as the head of the Uttar Pradesh government. The Iron Lady of Orissa, Nandini Satpathy was the first woman Chief Minister of Orissa and the second woman to head an Indian state, Syeda Anwara Taimur was first female Chief Minister of Assam, Vijayalakshmi Pandit served as Governor of Maharashtra, Padmaja Naidu was Governor of West Bengal and the list goes on. India has seen 16 women chief ministers and 23 governors.

While corporate America leads in gender diversity initiatives, political diversity continues to be an issue.

In general as well, women in India show high political participation. The Government of India Election Commission stated that in the state-wise voter turnout in general elections 2014, female voter turnout (in percentage) was higher than male turnout in 16 states and UTs.

Why is this rhetoric important? Quite often we as Indians forget that our legacy is not a privilege—a few strong women fought for it. In that sense it may be worthwhile for the United States to look at India and be inspired and enthused.

To all of my sisterhood: it's important to continue to stand for things that are important to us and while I'm asked often why am I so vocal about women's rights, it's for the same reason that Hillary did not win the election, its takes all us and a collective push to crack open the glass ceiling.

Quoting from The Colour of White, "I can see a million colours and a billion dreams through that glass roof that's white..."

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