Getting the Best of a Bad Trump

Anne-Marie Slaughter fears that Trump’s over sexism will mask the more insidious unconscious kind that is more prevalent today https://www.ft.com/content/82e3989a-944e-11e6-a1dc-bdf38d484582 . But what if Trump’s toxicity is exactly what the moment needed? His rabid sexism, and – even more – its vast popularity, has collectively woken us up to the fact that the fight for gender equality isn’t over. As Nate Silver has pointed out, Trump could win the US election if only men were voting.

This will help those of us who work for gender balance. It will stop the ‘gender is over’ arguments that have become common, especially in the US and the UK, recently relayed most publicly by former Saatchi Chairman Ken Roberts. This attitude was taking over at different levels. First, among men and the male managers we work with every day. But also among young millennials who think the gender issue is ‘so yesterday.’ Trump’s gift is to have so vividly proven that it’s no time to rest on our too-partial progress.

My day job is to gender balance large corporates. In every leadership team we work with, there is at least one person who hates the idea of gender balance as much as Trump. He (it’s almost always a he) is absolutely crucial to advancing the issue. Because he is the one who shakes all the others out of their complacency. Most think this kind of overt sexism is history, if they think about gender at all. A single reactionary individual makes the rest define and explain their own positions. It wakes them up to the fact that issue is still alive and brewing at every level of business, politics and society. In the end, it is this individual that teaches the others what they no longer want to be associated with. He is, surprisingly, always one of the most powerful change agents we have met in our work.

Trump and the long shadow of his 40 million US followers have revealed the work that remains. It has invited a lot of men to come out of the closet on where they stand – consciously or unconsciously – on gender equality. It has let millennials see that history doesn’t disappear quite as quickly as an outdated iPhone. So, let’s take the best of Trump. Make this a teachable moment, show everyone where we stand, and hope they vote that it’s ‘so yesterday.’

Avivah Wittenberg-Cox

Chief Executive,

20-first,

London SE1, UK

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