What Jessica Williams & Other Glass Ceiling-Breakers Want You To Know

Photo: Russo/Variety/REX/Shutterstock.
Today, I went to an event that was meant to be a celebration: a lunch, hosted by Marie Claire, in honor of the 50 women that the magazine named to its New Guard list. It defines that list as "the next generation of women leveraging their smarts and all-important contacts to build fortunes, upend industries, and even change the world."

The lunch had clearly been planned to coincide with a Hillary Clinton victory. After all, what better way to ring in the country's first female president than with a room full of rising female CEOs, Broadway producers, and entrepreneurs, including Hollywood hit-maker Meryl Poster, podcast chart-topper Phoebe Robinson (Williams' co-host on Two Dope Queens), and Hamilton producer Jill Furman, plus a panoply of fashion VIPs from Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Bulgari, and Coach?

Of course, this was not the case. Last night, Donald Trump pulled off a shocking victory to become the country's 45th president-elect.

Music played as guests began to arrive at the glass-enclosed Hearst Tower in New York City, but the room felt heavy with disappointment and concern. "A very bad decision was made, and I think that it was a reactionary one," Robinson told Refinery29 of the election results. Some of her fellow honorees wore sequined Hillary shirts and "I'm With Her" pins, relics of a campaign now tinged with sadness. Most expressed confusion and said they felt as if they had awoken to a surreal world.

What does the New Guard, women who have broken glass ceilings in their respective fields, want you to know as our country attempts to move forward? That we are stronger together, and we will rally around each other.

"I was listening to Hillary Clinton on the way here and was getting really emotional, especially at the part when she got emotional talking to young women," said Jessica Williams, the 27-year-old former Daily Show correspondent who is now developing her own show. "For me, I just want young women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and immigrants to know that they are valid. This election and the way that it turns out empowers us to fight."

For those of us struggling to accept the results of last night, Williams echoed a familiar sentiment: "For me, the hardest part is realizing that the world is not a fair place and sometimes people that are bad succeed," she said. "Growing up as a millennial I had this idea that the Civil Rights Movement had already happened and that as we got older we wouldn't have to really worry about racism. For me, this election was a real wake-up call."

Marie Claire
's editor-in-chief, Anne Fulenwider, who led the discussion with Williams, raised a good point: Had Hillary Clinton been elected president, those of us who supported her may have issued a sigh of relief and relaxed. Now, actively standing up for what we believe in and the rights of those around us is more important than ever.

"There's collective grief, and then there's collective action, to protect those who will not be protected in this current establishment," Alysia Reiner, one of the stars of Netflix's Orange Is The New Black, told Refinery29.

Reiner's advice to President-elect Trump: "Collective healing. Your number-one job is to heal our country right now because there is so much fear and there is so much rage. How can we make everyone feel included and valued? Because that is what makes America great."

I don't know what that process looks like any more than others do at this point. But I know that a room full of some of the most talented, creative, and bright women is a very good place to start.
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