"Upsetting," "shocking," and "troubling."
Since last week, these words have come up frequently in the dozens of interviews that Inc. has conducted regarding Hillary Clinton's loss to President-elect Donald Trump.
"It's deplorable," says Tiffany Dufu, who served as president of the women's advocacy group the White House Project until it closed its doors in 2013. "It's a referendum on our culture. He [Trump] has brought to the surface the undercurrent of our culture, which is misogynistic and sexist."
Dufu is referring to the troubling remarks that Trump has made over the course of his career (i.e., referring to women as "disgusting animals," and "slobs"). The billionaire businessman has further threatened to remove key protections for women under his term, defunding the healthcare non-profit Planned Parenthood, and threatening to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.
She isn't the only one who feels discouraged by Trump's victory. According to new research from InHerSight, more than 75 percent of women now feel worse about their career prospects. The organization, which lets women anonymously rate their employers, surveyed 750 professional women in the U.S. last Wednesday. Many have argued that Clinton, who has held multiple governing positions including Senator (D-NY) and Secretary of State, was far more qualified to assume the office.
"She made it far, but still lost to a man who is less qualified for the job. This is what we go through every day," said one respondent. Today, women continue to fight for equal pay, and often must outperform in order to be taken seriously at the executive level. Women entrepreneurs, meanwhile, scare up just a fraction of the venture capital dollars awarded to men.
To be sure, millions of women voted to elect the political outsider and real estate mogul, with many citing his tax reform proposals and promise to do away with the Affordable Care Act. Around eight percent of those surveyed reported that Clinton's loss actually made them feel more optimistic about their chances for professional success, according to the study. (Sixteen percent reported no difference in their feelings.)
"I don't think there's a large sexist basis for Clinton not winning," argues another respondent. "We already won by having her as a candidate."
Still, for the millions who are feeling discouraged, entrepreneurs and activists have several suggestions. Dufu, who now serves as chief leadership officer at the millennial networking startup Levo, underscores the importance of self-care as a first step.
"I'm still hearing from and talking to women that are in trauma," she says. "Honestly, one of the most courageous things a woman can do is to just stop and take care of herself." Others agree that it's important to count the positives of the 2016 election. Consider that three minority women were elected to the U.S. senate last week -- the highest share on record.
Jenny Fleiss, co-founder and head of logistics at Rent the Runway, a fashion rental service, said that she's glad that the election has fostered a national conversation about gender equality. "There's been a wake up call," she said. "It's a reminder that there are other women that are fighting for the same goals but there's still more work to be done."