How Did It Come to This?
Our nation has all but thrown away its reputation as leader of the free world for up-and-coming banana republic. Warren Buffett once said that “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you'll do things differently."
That sentiment seems to be completely lost on our current White House occupant and his team of downward-spiraling misfits. Our current theatre of the absurd actors seem to believe that they're reality show contestants. Somehow, albeit barely, we've survived Trump's first year in Washington.
But the damage already rendered to our democratic institutions, at home, and to our alliances abroad will linger long after he leaves office. Global confidence in U.S. leadership has fallen to a new low, according to an opinion survey conducted across 134 countries.
The U.S. rating is down nearly 20 points from the 48 percent approval rating in the last year of President Barrack Obama's administration, Gallup reported. He evidently believes that a seemingly booming economy vindicates all. It doesn't.
Over the past year, the stock market has boomed, GDP growth has improved and unemployment is at an almost 17-year low. However, job gains were lower than any of the past six years and wage growth was less than last year. Trump inherited an economy that was on a good trajectory with solid job growth and low unemployment.
Trump's own mark on the economy will be based on the long-term impact of his new tax laws. The most significant (economic) questions going forward are how much growth will tax reform generate, and what will Trump do with the various trade agreements such as NAFTA?
These may determine what will likely happen to the U. S. economy and the stock markets over the next few years. Listening to Trump boast about the recent surge of the stock market, one might get the impression that the bull run of 2017 was greater during his first year than any other.
In fact, of the few areas where this president produced higher numbers than his predecessor, most were dubious achievements: the 2017 deficit under Trump climbed to $666 billion, up from $585 billion in 2016.
The national debt crossed the $20 trillion threshold and is projected to rise faster in the future. And America's trade deficit, which candidate Trump famously blamed on poor presidential dealmaking, was worse during Trump's first year than in any of Obama's eight. Like most of Trump's boastful pronouncements, his claims clash with reality.
America's standing across the globe has been greatly diminished by isolationism and vitriolic tweets. Trump insulted the prime minister of Australia, despite that country having stood by our country for nearly a century. He also attacked Germany, our most steadfast ally in continental Europe, leading Chancellor Angela Merkel to tell her countrymen that they can no longer depend on the United States.
But Forbes noted that the stock prices grew at a faster pace during the Great Depression. Even Obama's first year in office saw the broad S&P 500 Index exploding by 23.5 percent compared with last year's 19.4 percent clip. Wage growth also declined after Trump became president.
Trump also insulted France's young leader by expressing support for his right-wing opponent and withdrawing-contrary to U. S. interests-from the Paris climate accords. He even blasted both the British prime minister and mayor of London after a terrorist attack.
If that wasn't bad enough, Trump reaffirmed his well-documented poor character with a disgusting slur against people from El Salvador, Haiti and countries in Africa. Trump's ally-bashing was matched by his elevating the status of dictators and racist organizations. His kowtowing to Putin was as unrelenting as it was disgraceful.
Not much has changed since 2015, when he praised the Kremlin autocrat as a “strong leader" who “gets things done." Trump also praised President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines for a bloody drug war marked by extrajudicial killings. He even saw fit to lavish praise on Turkish autocrat, Recep Tayyip Erdogan for human rights abuses, giving him “high marks" and that it was “a great honor" to meet him.
Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of NBC
Our unrepentant Commander-in-Chief is cementing his legacy...
The most damning legacy of Trump's first year is simply that he has ruled as an unapologetic racist and sexist, incapable of empathy and anything that slightly demonstrates leadership.
He provided comfort to white supremacists after Charlottesville, attacked black athletes to garner cheap political points and fought-tooth-and-nail-to close America's doors to anyone who doesn't look, think or act like his most fervent sycophants.
At least 22 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct...
In a 2005 recording obtained by The Washington Post before the presidential election, Donald J. Trump talked about in vulgar terms to Billy Bush, then the host of “Access Hollywood," how he can get away with assaulting women, because he's famous.
Bush is no longer employed by “Access Hollywood," and Trump is now the 45th President of The United States.
Following the October 2016 release of the now infamous “Access Hollywood" tape, in which Trump was recorded as boasting about grabbing women's genitals in 2005 many women came forward. Some others made their stories public months before the tape's release, and still others came forward more recently.
Trump has dismissed all of the allegations made against him as “fabricated" and politically motivated accounts pushed by the media and his political adversaries, and promised to sue all of his accusers after the election is over. Although Trump has not made good on his promises to sue these women, one-Summer Zervos-has sued him for defamation.
Summer Zervos (R). Photo courtesy of Business Insider
During the second presidential debate, Anderson Cooper asked Trump point blank whether he had either kissed women-without consent-or had groped them. Trump asserted that “nobody has more respect for women," Cooper persisted, “Have you ever done those things?" Trump denied that he had, saying: “No, I have not."
And yet, in Trump's own words, he reveals an entirely different narrative of repulsive behavior. During an April 2005 interview with radio host Howard Stern, he said that he regularly walked into contestants' dressing rooms on the beauty pageants he owned while women were not dressed: "I'll go backstage before a show and everyone's getting dressed and ready and everything else. And you know, no men are anywhere. And I'm allowed to go in because I'm the owner of the pageant," he said. "You know they're standing there with no clothes. And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that." Despite all of Trump's denials, 50 percent of voters-59 percent of women and 41 percent of men-surveyed in a Quinnipiac poll released December 19 think the president should resign as a result of the sexual misconduct allegations against him.
One accuser, Samantha Holvey, who recently spoke out again about her experience with Trump as a Miss USA pageant contestant, said that while his election was painful, she and others see the #MeToo movement as an opportunity to “try round two." At least 22 women have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct between the 1970s and 2013...let that sink in for a moment. He has consistently denied all of the allegations, calling the women “liars." But if there's one common theme, when it comes to Trump, it's that he has a consistent pattern for sexual misconduct and then denying it.
Once again, the question begs asking, how did it come to this?
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.