On February 13, Hillary Clinton, joined by Melinda Gates, spoke at New York University in a conversation called “Women and Girls Count.” The largely female audience received a special message from Clinton: “Develop skin as tough as rhinoceros hide.”
Clinton’s speech at NYU, moderated by her daughter Chelsea, was part of the joint venture of both the Clinton and the Gates Foundation called, “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project.” The initiative’s goal is to both evaluate and spread awareness of the progress made by women and girls since the United Nations Fourth World Conference of Women that took place in Beijing.
The foundations have teamed up with technological leaders to gather data about the participation of women and girls worldwide. In a recent press release by the Clinton Foundation, the data will be released in a report in 2015.
In regard to the importance of having data, Clinton said, “If we don’t have data, we can’t tell you or ourselves what has been accomplished and what is left to do.” She went on to say, “We have to be able to prove the naysayers wrong.”
Both Clinton women and Gates took a number of questions on different topics. The topics included the recent decrease in women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), questions on women being in leadership positions, as well as the role that men can play in empowering women in the workplace.
Clinton and Gates strongly addressed how men can support women and how they can encourage younger women to become leaders. Clinton said, “I think the last three presidents have modeled with their daughters how male leaders can invest in their daughters, but I would like to see more leaders in countries where women are second class citizens or below to set a standard as well.”
Clinton made an interesting point in noting that she believes women and girls need to receive more encouragement than males of the same age. She offered her own insight in saying, “I have employed by this time a lot of very talented young men and young women and offering a promotion or expanded responsibilities almost always provokes a response something like, ‘I don’t know if I could do that’ or ‘Are you sure I could do that?’” Clinton went on to make a larger point in that young men very rarely make the same comments.
Gates named Warren Buffet, one of the Gates Foundation’s partners, as an example of a male leader who has been of great help to many women in developing their careers. Gates believes that it is important for more men to do the same.
Furthermore, Gates said in reference to the world’s future female leaders, “Be yourself. Don’t use the few stereotypes of ‘female leadership.’ Be yourself when you lead and have a base of support that will always support you.”
Clinton and Gates had a profound impact on the audience, who gave the women a standing ovation upon both their entry and exit. After the talk, #NoCeilings was trending on Twitter.
It will be interesting to see what impact the report will have when it is released in 2015 and if it will help to create a group of new female leaders.
– Julie Guacci