This morning, students, faculty, and media gathered in Kimmel to join in a discussion on women’s global participation with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businesswoman and major philanthropist Melinda Gates.
Dubbed “Women and Girls Count,” the conversation was part of the Clinton Foundation’s “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project,” an initiative which seeks to evaluate and share the progress of women and girls worldwide since the UN Fourth World Conference of Women in Beijing. Chelsea Clinton, Hillary’s daughter, moderated the discussion.
After a brief introduction from NYU President John Sexton, Clinton, Gates, and the younger Clinton took the stage. Announced only a few days before it was held, the event sold out just 2 hours after RSVPs were posted online. For those who couldn’t make it inside the filled-to-capacity auditorium, the Clinton Foundation live-streamed the talk.
Though the dialog focused primarily on using data to measure the social, political and economic progress of women and girls in the 21st century, Clinton and Gates spoke at length about a wide range of topics relating to women. The event also marked the launch of a new partnership between the Clinton Foundation and the Gates foundation.
The opening remarks discussed specifics of the new partnership, which teams the Clinton and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations with leading technology partners to gather and analyze data about the status of women and girls’ participation around the world. According to a press realize from the Clinton Foundation, the data will be released in digital and written forms as part of a progress report in 2015.
“If we don’t have data, we can’t tell you or ourselves what has been accomplish and what is left to do,” said Clinton. “We have to be able to prove the naysayers wrong.”
Clinton and Gates spoke for about an hour and answered several questions, including queries about how men can support women and what advice to give future women leaders.
“I think the last three presidents have modeled with their daughters how male leaders can invest in their daughters,” said Clinton, “but I would like to see more leaders in countries where women are second class citizens or below to set a standard as well.” Gates cited Warren Buffet as an example of an influential male leader who has helped dozens of women in their careers, and called for more men to follow his lead.
“Be yourself,” said Gates, referring to future female leaders. “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.”
“The best advice I can give to women leaders is what Eleanor Roosevelt once said— ‘Every woman in public life needs to develop skin as tough as rhinoceros hide,’” said Clinton. “Women leaders need to take criticism seriously, but not personally.”
“I dream and hope that we will be ahead of where we are today,” said Gates. “I see incredible progress when we invest in women worldwide. If we empower women they’re going to lift their families up.”
The audience gave standing ovations as the two women entered and exited, and #NoCeilings quickly trended on Twitter. NYU students, for their part, ate it up.
“I loved how she talked about women and girls in developing countries,” said Yujia Liao, an NYU public relations grad student. “Most people only focus on the economy of developing countries, but focus on women gave me a lot of hope.”
“I really liked the part about the importance of girls in education,” said Gallatin sophomore Chloe Chik. “I think that’s a great way for women to work toward leadership positions.” Madhuri Indaram, an NYU GIPH grad student, said that she “was hoping that they would go into more detail about the program, but I found a lot of what Melinda and Hillary said to be really insightful and motivating.”
As the presentation came to a close, Chelsea Clinton had the last word. “I certainly hope we have fewer— it’s hard to imagine no— ceilings in the future. But hopefully the work that we, and others, do will give us a clearer view of what we can do to break these ceilings for women in political and social spheres.”