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Donald Trump's Win Demands That We All Fight Harder

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Today is a difficult defeat for many people. A man -- Donald Trump -- who is characterized by racism, xenophobia and sexism, has been chosen by the American people to be their President. He has been favoured over a highly experienced and competent female opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump's candidacy was marked by erratic and destructive opinions, and many fear that his actions in the Oval Office will follow suit.

The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America demands that we take a hard look at our judgments about women in power.

Gender equality continues to elude us, and it won't be realized without a fight. Never before have we needed to fight harder.

In over 240 years of presidential elections in the U.S., only men have been deemed fit to lead the country. Yet globally, 2016 has been a year of unprecedented female leadership, with 18 nations currently being led by women. Over the past 50 years, 59 women have led countries.

This doesn't include the countless girls and women from the grassroots level to CEO corner offices that are fighting for equal rights and equal pay, and to have their voices heard. Not to mention the girls here in Canada that recently challenged our own leaders to let them sit in their seat for a day, shining a light on the inherent power and potential of girls.

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Plan International Canada's Youth Ambassadors taking the lead on Parliament Hill for International Day of the Girl. (Photo: Plan International Canada)

Gender equality continues to elude us, and it won't be realized without a fight. Never before have we needed to fight harder.

Hillary Clinton faced disproportionate barriers to achieving the presidency because of her gender. Like women everywhere who overstep the age-old boundaries that have been established by society, she faced stigma and double standards throughout her entire time in the public eye.

She has faced controversy over her last name and over the sound of her voice. She even came under fire over home-baked cookies in 1992 when she said, "I suppose I could have stayed at home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life".

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Hillary Clinton addresses a crowd at her final campaign stop. (Photo: LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)

Clinton has been called shrill and cold, where a man might be called firm and resolute. Her election journey was paved with sexism and impossibly high standards, and she had to prove her worth repeatedly despite Donald Trump's evident lack of competence and experience in politics. Never before has there been such a clear example of an underqualified man getting the job over a highly competent woman.

Women with far less privilege than Clinton face the same, and worse. They grapple daily with receiving less money for the same job as men. They face less leadership opportunities on executive teams, on boards and in industries like information and technology. Canadians still feel that men have it easier in politics than women, and our female politicians still describe a sexist political system in Canada.

In many contexts around the world, girls and women are often the last to eat, receive health care or access a basic education. Too often they are denied their basic human rights -- simply because they are women in a world that favours masculinity.

Never before has there been such a clear example of an underqualified man getting the job over a highly competent woman.

Clinton's loss needs to fuel our continued fight for gender equality. Part of this is working with those people who feel threatened by women in power. We need to work with them and bring them along the journey to gender equality.

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Girls raise their voices during a rally against rape culture in Brazil. (Photo: Plan International / Maurício Neto)

How do we do this, practically speaking, when we feel outrage and disappointment? It starts by listening to people of varying perspectives, and working constructively with them to change mindsets. We also need to intentionally create space for girls as well as boys to see positive diverse role models, to try activities outside of traditional gender norms, and to voice their opinions. A common thread that ties all women leaders is that their families bravely resisted gender norms and empowered them to be vocal.

Defeat is not an option. Change is possible, and it is happening, regardless of any single election. It was less than 100 years ago that women were even legally allowed to vote, though despicably in Canada women of colour could not vote until the late 1940s, and Aboriginal women could not vote until 1960. So much has changed in the decades since then, and it only changed because people fought for what they know is right.

We now need to fight even harder. The Donald Trump presidency adds fuel to the fire that burns more brightly every day. More than ever, the world needs us all to stand up for what we believe in. The world needs us to fight tirelessly for gender equality, until that day when women and men enjoy equal power everywhere -- including in the White House.

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