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Have We Really ‘Come a Long Way’?

photo: Hillary Rodham Clinton at NYU

At the UN Fourth World Conference in 1995, officials from 189 countries gathered in Beijing to imagine and plan for the full participation of women and girls in the political, economic, social, civil, and cultural lives of their societies.

Nearly 20 years later, just how far have we come? That’s the question posed by No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, a new effort led by Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Clinton Foundation to bring together partner organizations—including the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation—to collect and analyze data on what has (and hasn’t) changed since Beijing.

One recent morning, Melinda Gates joined Clinton to introduce the No Ceilings project to a packed crowd of some 500 NYU students, faculty, and staff in Kimmel’s Eisner and Lubin Auditorium. Chelsea Clinton moderated the discussion on why data and research on women and girls are critical to advancing global progress.

Below are just a handful of the ideas that came out of that conversation.

“When I sit down with women in the developing world and talk about what their aspirations are, they talk about their daughters, and educating their daughters.”
—Melinda Gates

“I remember an economist telling me, when I was in Africa in the ’90s, that the women who I saw in every village—who were carrying firewood, who were manning the market stalls, who were caring for the children, or who were out in the field, planting and harvesting the crops—were not part of the economy. And I remember saying, if the women who are in the informal economy stopped working tomorrow, your entire economy would collapse. We need to be valuing work that women do and we need to be opening doors so that more women are able to participate in the so-called formal economy.”
—Hillary Rodham Clinton

“In 1987, women comprised more than a third of computer-science graduates. When I graduated from Stanford in 2001, women comprised more than 20% of computer science graduates. And in 2011, women comprised just 16% of computer science graduates across the United States. This is an area where we’re losing ground.”
—Chelsea Clinton

“Even here in the United States and in the other developed countries, when we get past the laws and regulations leveling the playing field, we are left with attitudes and with the doubts and uncertainties that plague even highly qualified women.”
—Hillary Rodham Clinton

“I have employed a lot of very talented young men and young women, and offering a promotion or expanded possibilities to a young woman almost always provokes a response like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I can do that,’ or ‘Are you sure that I could do that?’ or ‘I’m not positive I can take that on.’ I have never heard that from a young man. Ever.”
—Hillary Rodham Clinton

“I think that we need to ask for men who are in management or leadership positions to look for women who have skills and help lift them up. With scientific jobs open at the foundation, we’ll get all male candidates, and I won’t let the interview loop go forward until there are female candidates. That doesn’t mean a woman always gets the job, but there have to be females in that pool.”
—Melinda Gates

“One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever heard is from Eleanor Roosevelt, who said in the 1920s that women in politics or in public roles should grow skin like a rhinoceros. I think there’s some truth to that. It’s important to learn to take criticism seriously but not personally. Your critics can be your best friend if you listen to them and learn from them but don’t get dragged down by them.”
—Hillary Rodham Clinton

Photo ©NYU Photo Bureau: Hollenshead

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