It's a jubilant moment for many in the United States. Donald Trump, a political outsider and real estate mogul, claimed victory over Hillary Clinton as president of the United States. For many others--women, namely--it's a reckoning.
Trump has openly referred to women as "disgusting animals," "pigs," "dogs," and "slobs." He has also been accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women and has insinuated they shouldn't be allowed to work. He has threatened key protections for women, including defunding Planned Parenthood, the nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health services, and overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in 1973.
At a time when working women must still fight for equal pay, outperform to be taken seriously in the boardroom, and hustle over the mere fraction of all investment spending open to them, a Trump presidency is seen as a blow for many. According to a recent Gallup poll, as many as seven in 10 women have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, and experts say his presidency could have a serious, negative impact on women's rights.
"Donald Trump's vision for America and the policies he has proposed are a clear and present danger to women, our bodies, and our freedoms," Ilyse Hogue, president of the nonprofit Naral Pro-Choice America, recently told Reuters.
Yet millions of women voted for him anyway. Women entrepreneurs in particular did so, but--according to the dozen or so interviews Inc. has conducted since election day--it wasn't because they are OK with his sexist commentary. It's because they believe Trump will have a positive impact on the economy--and their bottom lines.
Ever the pragmatists, women entrepreneurs (like their male counterparts) are eager to see a loosening of corporate taxes, which could open up increased venture spending. Many of them hope that Trump will make good on his promise to do away with the Affordable Care Act, and come up with an inexpensive alternative that lets small-business owners offer benefits to their employees on a dime. (What exactly that could be remains unclear.) His proposed paid leave policy for mothers is just half the time that Clinton proposed, and may not extend to fathers; yet women supporters say any leave is better than nothing.
In effect, many women are not only willing to endure a degree of sexism, they've come to expect it.
"I was the first female executive in a division of a Fortune 50 company [ITT Corporation] that was totally dominated by men," says Susan Solovic, who founded the St. Louis-based website for entrepreneurs called Small Business TV. "What Donald Trump said was very mild compared with what I heard on a regular basis."
The entrepreneur, who now splits her time between Florida and New York, expanded: "When I was elevated to an executive position [at ITT], I made $40,000 less than the man who had the job prior to me," says Solovic, who was refused extra compensation, as her predecessor held more seniority. "The position came with a company car, and that was taken away because I had a husband who worked and I didn't need it. I learned that you pick your battles wisely. I did raise my hand a few times when I thought things were really off the charts. You just can't keep whining and complaining. It is what it is. You just can't fix everything."
That pick-your-battles sentiment is shared by Rebecca Wheeling, who works in the male-dominated field of insurance claims adjusting. Her company, Schedule It, makes software to set up inspections for adjusters. Wheeling is on track to do $400,000 in revenue at her Elizabethtown, Kentucky-based firm.
"It doesn't bother me one bit that [Trump] said those things about women," she says. "Believe me, as a woman in the insurance adjuster field, I've heard much worse than that." Homeowners often balk when they find that a woman will be inspecting their house, she says, not expecting that a woman will be able to complete the job as well as a man.
"It's not anything that we don't deal with on a daily basis," Wheeling adds, referring to Trump's sexually explicit comments.
The entrepreneur likes Trump's plan for paid leave, which would give working mothers six weeks of paid time off. While Clinton's proposal--of 12 weeks of paid medical and parental leave--was more generous, she implied that Trump's would be more realistic. "My viewpoint is that paid leave is fantastic, and anything is better than nothing," says Wheeling, who adds that women comprise 78 percent of her work force.
Others, like Kate Woolstenhulme, point out the ways in which the Obama administration has hurt their companies. The founder and CEO of Designer Concealed Carry, a Plano, Texas-based company that makes handbags for concealed firearms, says that over the past several years, she's noticed a decline in the number of stores willing to sell her bags. She specifically blames her losses on the mounting cost of health insurance. According to a new report from health care researcher Kaiser Family Foundation, premiums for policies purchased through the health insurance exchanges could rise by as much as 25 percent in 2017.
"There's this lingering concern that is suppressing sales because they don't have the money to spend," she says. She's hopeful that Trump will repeal the Affordable Care Act, which could help kick-start growth for some businesses.
Asked if she is bothered by allegations that Trump had raped or assaulted women, the entrepreneur pauses. "There's a certain amount of personal behavior that keeps you out of [those] situations," Woolstenhulme says.
"I'm in a business where I'm emphasizing self-defense, so I'm certainly not saying we're inviting these situations," she backtracks. "But I've always been very careful about my behavior, and nothing has ever happened to me."