This past Thursday, I had the honor of watching Hillary Clinton, her daughter, Chelsea, and Melinda Gates speak at NYU about women’s progress. The event focused on the importance of research and data on the status of women and girls around the world. A joint venture between the Clinton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations, the No Ceilings Initiative shines light on the gathering of statistics to support women. Without statistics and data, how are we to know how well our world has evolved?
I am obliged to begin by expressing my utmost respect and reverence for these three remarkable women. As a driven, no-nonsense girl with aspirations in politics and public affairs, I look up to Hillary, Melinda, and Chelsea. They are exactly what I hope and dream to be. Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and Secretary of State and rumored Presidential hopeful in 2016, has carved a praiseworthy path for herself, pushing boundaries and setting the bar higher for not only women in government, but everybody in the field. Her work in politics as well as in her non-profit organization has made a remarkable impact on the world, proving solidly that women have the power to soar above the restrictions placed by society. Furthermore, Melinda Gates, wife of millionaire Bill Gates, has come a long way from graduating with a computer science and economics degree from Duke University. Forbes has listed her in the Top 10 Most Powerful Women in 2011 through 2013, climbing higher and higher every year. As she said at the event, she held her ground in a male-dominated profession, forever believing that talent and ability were what determined one’s position in life, not their sex. Lastly, Chelsea Clinton, daughter of two of the most influential politicians in the United States. Emerging from the shadow of her famous parents, she has made a name for herself in her own right, graduating with honors from Stanford University, earning degrees from University College, Oxford and Columbia University, and participating heavily in Clinton Foundation work.
The event is also special to me, because the three lovely ladies answered a question I submitted. I asked, “As an engineering-hopeful, my sister was discouraged in pursuing a male-dominated field. How can we diminish discouragement of females in masculine professions?” They answered the question more thoroughly and thoughtfully than I could ever imagine. Chelsea Clinton began by detailing how the US has lost ground in the fight for equality in all professions, noting that in 1987, women comprised 33% of all computer science graduates, but in 2001, they only comprised about 20% and in 2011, only 16%. Continuing upon the data-rich theme, Melinda Gates quoted a statistic that girls lose interest in science and math fields around middle school age. She urged that middle school girls are not as aggressive as the boys, and so lose faith in themselves much faster. Hillary agreed and added that girls seem to acquire the “perfectionist problem.” It is during middle school that girls develop a mentality that they need to have every answer right, or they should just give up.
Out of the many lessons learned from the experience, I feel most empowered knowing that if I strive and work hard enough, it could be me one day on a stage at a university giving an inspirational panel discussion to wide-eyed, hopeful students. It seems rather self-indulgent or naïve to suggest, but every goal starts off with believing you can do it, as the Clintons and Gates mentioned in the discussion. The battle is lost before it begins when you choose to lose hope, and they emphasized that it is a choice. Women can either choose to submit, or they can choose to become equal or rise above their male counterparts.