Hillary Clinton: Empowering women is a ‘core imperative’

Holly Bailey

NEW YORK—Hillary Clinton delivered a rousing speech on women’s rights on Friday, insisting that empowering women is a “core imperative” for society if the United States is to enjoy economic success and remain a global leader.

Speaking at the Women in the World Summit organized by Tina Brown, editor in chief of Newsweek The Daily Beast, Clinton acknowledged women “have come so far” in areas including politics and in the workplace. But she called gender equality the "unfinished business of the 21st century"—not just in developing countries, but also in the U.S., where women continue to be “marginalized” when it comes to access to education and their ability to receive a salary equal to their male peers.

“For many American women, the dream of upward mobility … the American dream remains elusive,” Clinton declared. “No country can achieve its full economic potential when women are left out or left behind."

It was Clinton’s second major speech this week—and the second time she spoke of the need to empower women around the world, an issue that has long driven her career in public life.

Echoing remarks she made earlier this week at the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards at Washington's Kennedy Center, a ceremony honoring women in leadership, Clinton spoke of how she tried to make women’s rights a central tenet of her four years as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, insisting that empowering women “advances security and prosperity for everyone.”

She added, “But as strong as a case we have made, too many otherwise thoughtful people continue to see the fortunes of women and girls as somehow separate from society at large. They nod, they smile, and then they relegate these issues to the sidelines.”

Giving working women a “fighting chance isn’t a nice thing to do," she said. "It isn’t some luxury that we get to when we have time on our hands. This a core imperative for every human being in society.”

And she sought to energize a younger generation of female activists, calling on them to realize equal rights isn’t just their “birthright,” but an ongoing struggle.

“Women are not victims. We are agents of change. We are drivers of progress,” Clinton declared.

Clinton’s remarks weren’t overly political, but her speech came amid speculation about a potential 2016 presidential run. The former first lady made no mention of her political future. But in introducing her, Brown made an oblique reference to the frenzy over whether Clinton will run for president.

“The big question for Hillary now is what’s next,” Brown said, prompting the crowd of several hundred women in the audience to stand and cheer wildly.

Clinton, who stood next to Brown, laughed and smiled, but she said nothing.