Presumed democratic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton has used her first public appearance of 2015 to demand progress on gender equality.
At a conference in Silicon Valley, Clinton spoke about the need to break down the remaining glass ceilings for women, especially in the workplace. She said women need to support other women and that industries like IT have to stop allowing themselves to remain stagnant on gender equality.
Her address was direct and powerful, and made it very clear that gender equality could form a central focus of her presidential campaign.
Echoing President Obama’s explanation in his State of the Union address last month that childcare is not a “nice to have”, Clinton said this about gender equality:
“Where women are included, you’re more likely to have democracy; you’re more likely to have stability and prosperity,” she said.
“It’s not just a nice thing to do.”
She also referred to Patricia Arquette’s demand for wage equality in her Oscars acceptance speech earlier this week, saying Arquette “was right”.
“It’s time to have wage equality once and for all,” she said.
She then spoke specifically about the gender problems in Silicon Valley and the tech industry more broadly, saying it is unacceptable that progress is not being made for women.
“You bump your heads on the glass ceilings that persist in the tech industry,” she said.
“We can literally count on one hand the number of women who have actually been able to come here and turn their dreams into billion-dollar businesses. We’re going backward in a field that is supposed to be all about moving forward.”
She then returned to the issue of the importance of women supporting and promoting other women, particularly in industries where promotions for women are few and far between.
“There is a special spot in hell for women who don’t help other women,” she said, quoting former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
She placed her discussion of gender in the context of a “new economy”, explaining that including women will be key to harnessing this economy.
“We have to restore economic growth with rising wages for the vast majority of Americans, and we have to restore trust and cooperation within our political system so that we can act like the great country we are,” she said.
“Wages no longer rise with productivity, while CEOs’ pay keeps going up. We have to figure out how to make this new economy work for everyone.”
While Clinton did not directly answer questions about whether she will run in the democratic primaries for the 2016 election, her address seemed to be framing a possible campaign structure. If that campaign is based around growing the economy by lifting female workforce participation, that is truly exciting.