By Angela Hill • November 28, 2016•Writers in Residence, Careers, Firms and the Private Sector, Issues, Women and Law in the Media
Like him or dislike him, there is a lot to be said about President-Elect Donald Trump. While surprising pollsters and many in the business community, there is no doubt that it has been a tumultuous election year in the United States. It is one that has polarized urban and suburban Americans, arguably contributed to some (what we hope are) misunderstandings along the lines of rights for same-sex partners, and issues of race, income, and religion.
While comments from the new President-Elect have often led to inflammatory interpretations by the media, particularly along the lines of women’s rights (e.g., Planned Parenthood) and safety against sexual misconduct, it would surprise many legal professionals to know that Trump has also demonstrated a culture of performance and equality in his successful business organizations.
From hiring MBAs to legal professionals on his team, what does Donald Trump demonstrate through his actions about the capabilities of female professionals in all business sectors?
The Post-Election Shock and Sentiment
Interestingly, while pollsters did not predict a presidential victory for Donald Trump, social media polls consistently asserted that he was the candidate to watch, particularly in the past six months. Experts in criminal and family law in Indianapolis were shocked at the number of protests which occurred in the city. On November 12, 2016 there were four arrests for violent protests at an anti-Trump rally. Three of the individuals arrested at the rally (which attracted more than 500 participants) were not from Indianapolis.
From pop culture icons and celebrities, to members of the Republican party who opted not to vote in good faith for Donald Trump, America is bracing for change – even if we aren’t quite sure what that change is going to look like. If President Trump can affect as much reaction as his election to office has garnered, it will be four years of change management and navigating public opinion. Donald Trump must address and re-build bridges with American women, and assert as a leader that his personal comments are contradictory to his real views and personal values when it comes to women.
What His Employees Think of Him
At the labor level, particularly in entry-level jobs at some of his business ventures and casinos, there has been some negative criticisms of Donald Trump as a business owner. Understandably, some of the furor may be generated from Trump’s criticism of illegal immigrants and immigration policy with Mexico. For some employees at the service level, this criticism was taken very personally from a racial perspective.
While it may surprise no one that senior executives would speak highly of their CEO and president (after all, their jobs are on the line), one can trust that the critique might not be so positive if Trump was a consistently prejudiced or abusive employer or manager to work with. Many news articles have provided us with scenarios that paint him in a favorable light, by showing a track record of recruiting and hiring women for top paying leadership positions in all his organizations. Forget what he may have said – there are plenty of historical (and not just recent) articles that show us that in marketing, sales, accounting, and legal support, Donald Trump enjoys being surrounded by talented, attractive female executives.
In a 2015 article for The Washington Post, a former employee, Louise Sunshine, revealed that she had worked for Donald Trump in Manhattan for over 15 years, starting in the 1970s. During that time, Sunshine was a young mother and managing a demanding career alongside Mr. Trump in real estate. Her body weight fluctuated, which was something that she disliked, and she struggled to maintain her level of physical fitness. She indicated that Donald Trump kept a “fat picture” of her in his desk drawer, and when she was not performing to expectations, he would pull it out and show her.
Despite the innate mockery, Louise Sunshine harbors no ill will against Donald Trump, which is surprising until you learn that she came to Trump Tower as a political fundraiser with no real estate experience. Years later, she worked her way to become the executive vice president of the Trump Organization, and still considers Trump (despite his candor toward some women) to be an excellent business mentor, coach, and employer. Trump denied having ever had a picture.
Trump Has More Women at the C-Level (And Pays Them Well)
Michael Cohen is Donald Trump’s general counsel, and the current executive vice president of the Trump Organization. In an interview on CNN news with Chris Cuomo, Cohen reported that the gender division is close in the organization, with 57 percent of positions being held by men, and 43 percent of positions held by women. However, at the C-Level, there are allegedly more female executives than male leaders, and they are paid much more than their male colleagues.
And before we discount the claim without evidence, the salary records were disclosed under confidentiality to support the claim. Fewer women overall, but more “at the top,” and in one case, one female executive was paid $25,000 more per year than other men in her division. However, the sentiment was not echoed in his political campaign in 2015 and 2016, where Trump hired more men, and allegedly paid them more money than Hillary Clinton’s staff, but also at a rate 35 percent higher than women in his administrative and political team.
The Flip Side: Female Professionals Who Have Worked with Donald Trump
For every positive story there is about Donald Trump as a mentor and champion through example for the rights of women in the workplace, there are articles like the one published in Rolling Stone on March 29, 2016. The magazine interviewed former Trump employee Barbara Res, who served as vice president, senior vice president, and executive vice president of the Trump Organization through the 1980s.
The interview recounts an alleged intolerance that Donald Trump had for women who were not attractive; one that he reportedly had great difficulty concealing with his unique management style. His belittlement of women reached frequently to his former spouse, Ivana Trump, a talented business professional. When asked about her performance, Trump reportedly stated: “My wife, Ivana, is a brilliant manager. I will pay her $1 a year and all the dresses she can buy!”
The jury is out when determining if he meant it as a compliment.