We Already Live In Trump’s America — Our Workplaces
By Ruchika Tulshyan
Like much of America, I was heartbroken as the results of the U.S. presidential elections poured in on November 8. I, too, despaired at how I would explain a Trump presidency someday to my four-month-old son — the only American in my family. Like you, I shed tears when Hillary Clinton made her concession speech, urging us to keep fighting for what was right.
But I can’t say I was utterly shocked by the results. You see, we already live in a version of Trump’s America — the American workplace. And while much of the post-election narrative has focused on how Trump’s election was bolstered by an electorate clamoring for change, I would argue that his success hinged on rhetoric and policies aimed at maintaining the discrimination that we already see in offices across the nation today.
The truth is, as a society we are all deeply uncomfortable with women, people of color, disabled people, veterans, immigrants, and LGBTQ individuals advancing in the workplace. Indeed, when 96% of S&P CEOs are male and under 1% of black chief executives head the Fortune 500, we cannot claim to be the liberal progressives we fancy ourselves to be.
Our lofty support for the Clinton campaign — to finally break through “the highest glass ceiling” — was akin to teaching a woman to negotiate her salary to overcome the gender wage gap. In both cases, women were tasked with effecting change within a system that was set up to fail them. We know that when women ask for salary raises, they are 25% less likely to receive them than when men ask. Similarly, we never were ready for a female leader.
Under Trump’s America, we can be certain that very little will be done to progress women’s rights in the workplace; there’s a good chance we may regress. But if we’re being honest, how great are professional women’s rights today as is? Eighty-eight percent of working mothers don’t have access to a single day’s paid maternity leave. We lag behind nearly every single nation on this; and even in businesses where paid leave is made available, it is culturally unacceptable to take it. The idea of paternity leave is whispered in some offices like a dirty secret, never to emerge as a viable option for real men committed to their careers.
Childcare costs more than in-state tuition in many states, and isn’t even comparable in quality to our Western European counterparts. So to express rage and devastation at Trump’s sexism, while heading to work in offices every single day where women are forced back to work days or weeks after giving birth, to me, reeks of hypocrisy.
The wage gap for married mothers in this country represents the biggest chasm compared with male counterparts. And we know for sure that the pay gap is significantly worse for women of color — African American women make 64 cents to a white man’s dollar, and Latina women make 54 cents.
Still, we continue to head to workplaces day after day, believing that the gender wage gap will correct itself naturally. If we want to effectively channel the rage about Trump in the White House, how about we prioritize correcting the gender wage gap first?
We may rail against Trump’s record of sexual assault — and rightly so — but we still continue to work in offices where 1 in 3 women report experiencing some form of sexual harassment. And are we not all complicit in upholding structures that tell women “not to be so sensitive” or “it’s just a joke”?
Let’s also critically examine whether our nation was ready to be led by a woman. From Hillary Clinton’s sartorial choices to her voice modulation, the media left no stone unturned to examine how voters perceived Clinton. Men and women consider women who speak up to be less likeable — one study found that men get 10% higher competence ratings when they speak up more than their colleagues. For women, that competence rating drops by 14% — by people of both genders. Where white women experience a glass ceiling, women of color face a concrete ceiling to advancement. When I interviewed women of color about speaking up at work, they reported facing more bias than white women when they shared their ideas. It’s no wonder 53% of white women voted for Trump.
We categorically continue to deny people of color opportunities to enter and progress in our most lucrative industries such as technology and finance. Part of this is linked to our choices of who we break bread with — a 2013 study found that 75% of white people surveyed had no non-white friends. This plays out in the workforce in deliberate ways; we are less likely to hire or advance someone who doesn’t look like us. We can’t support “Black Lives Matter” without supporting black lives in the workplace; ask yourself, when was the last time you hired or promoted an African American man or woman?
It is easy for CEOs like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to rail (subtly or overtly) against Trump’s tirades, but when examining the number of women and people of color represented at leadership level at either company, the data doesn’t support the outrage. Just 2% of employees at large Silicon Valley tech companies are black and 3% Hispanic, despite graduation rates in technical degrees that are twice that. We blame the “pipeline” while refusing to take a cold hard look at our own biases — unconscious or otherwise.
Here’s the reality: The average Trump supporter was reasonably well off and overwhelmingly white. But for progressives to disassociate from the hate of this ugly campaign is farcical — we may not be spewing vitriol or talking about building walls, but until we make significant gains in equalizing the workplace for all, we cannot claim to truly be working toward the social justice we pretend to be.
Today, many Americans spend more time at work than at home. So it’s only natural for us to normalize the values we see in the workplace. And the racism and sexism of American workplaces today have given rise to a Donald Trump presidency, even in the face of all the handwringing for social change that has emerged since Tuesday.
Do I think Donald Trump has the character and ability to lead the United States in the inclusive and thoughtful manner that we so need right now? Given his track record, absolutely not. But at the same time, I believe it’s easy to despair and blame bigots for bringing Donald Trump into the White House. But we are all complicit in holding up the racist, sexist structures that enabled Trump to become president.
If we truly want to effect change, we must make the workplace more equitable for all. We have a right to be shocked by the results of this election. Devastated, yes. But let’s not pretend these values aren’t ones we recognize and take part in every day.