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Trump Presidency and Women: Shake Up or Shameful?

As a business we have a strong interest and focus on women in leadership.

Donald Trump’s election, and inauguration today, as President of the United States, raises innumerable questions and concerns for us as women, as a business and as members of the humanitarian community. The assumption is that the imminent Trump administration is looking pretty dismal, and as we noted in our blog in November, we don’t expect Trump to be a pioneer for women in the humanitarian world. But, in the spirit of optimism, what if we are wrong?

For the humanitarian world, Trump’s early appointment of Nikki Haley as Ambassador to the UN was interesting in a number of ways. Firstly, the very nomination of a woman as Ambassador to the UN is a positive step. Further, Haley has previously been outspoken about her lack of confidence in Trump during the election campaign. During the primaries she described herself as “not a fan” of Trump which led many to see her as more than just a ‘yes-woman’. At her confirmation hearing Haley admitted that Russia is guilty of war crimes, which places her in opposition of Trump’s support of Putin. Haley’s nomination occurred earlier than usual, and against convention before candidate for Secretary of State had been nominated. Trump was not always a fan of Haley and openly criticised her on Twitter during the primaries. Despite this, there was obviously clarity about her fit for the role and, hopefully, the importance of the position, as well as a desire to bring more diverse opinions into the policy making circle.

Incoming US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.

Haley appears set to shake things up. Of course as humanitarians we shudder at the thought of a US Ambassador to the UN questioning and undermining the very core and foundation of the United Nations and all it stands for. We also fear the erosion of human rights commitments in an era when the US is far more likely to prioritise cooperation with Russia despite alleged war crimesnational security over refugee and migrant rights and explicit support for torture. But at the same time isn’t a shake up of the humanitarian system exactly what we have all been calling for? Don’t we need something earth shattering to bring about required change in the UN? We might not like the way it happens but maybe the outcome will move us closer to finding solutions to some of the intractable problems we face in the world, such as the ongoing conflict in Syria or the rise of ISIS.

A group of women display support for trump.

We might be able to cherry-pick less alarming aspects of this impending presidency to focus on but ultimately it is deeply disconcerting. As women that feel passionate about overcoming the conscious and unconscious biases that impact us at home and in the work place on a daily basis, the inauguration of Trump presents a much more worrying prospect: that Trump succeeds and women fail.  If Trump actually manages to hold together an administration that makes political headway and begins to address some of the intractable issues of our age, then his deeply damaging rhetoric around women gains a legitimacy that it should never have.

Trump’s misogynistic commentary around women is not in dispute. He has consistently objectified women casting serious doubt on his ability to respect them as colleagues and citizens. As it was eloquently and rightly pointed out by Meryl Streep, when this kind of behaviour is modelled by someone in the public platform it “gives permission” for others to do the same. This shameful behaviour will impact women in the humanitarian world and beyond.


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