20 Apr 2015

Chelsea Clinton on Using Data to Eliminate the Gender Gap


Speaking to students at Harvard Business School recently, Chelsea Clinton recalled a formative moment.

“In 1995, my mother spoke at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and said something that should not have been controversial then and certainly should not be controversial now,” Clinton said. “But it was incendiary at the time, and is not yet a reality today. Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.”

Some 20 years later, Chelsea Clinton is focused on ensuring that human and women’s rights are one and the same, equally championed and protected. As Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, she is a driving force behind No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, which codifies and makes publicly accessible what she called the largest aggregation in history of data regarding the rights of women and girls. The initial goal of the No Ceilings report, sponsored by the Clinton Foundation, was to assess the progress, inertia, and gaps in the advancement of women’s rights that have persisted and widened over the last several decades.

“One of the reasons we focused on data was that it not only helps measure success, it also helps inspire it,” Clinton said. “We need people asking questions and acting on the findings to make sure the data doesn’t just live on the No Ceilings website.”

Welcomed to campus by the HBS Women’s Student Association, Clinton sat down with HBS professor Youngme Moon for a more in-depth Q&A session on female leadership and the No Ceilings findings.

Over the course of the conversation, Clinton recounted some startling statistics from the report:

  • More than 800 women around the world die every day because of preventable pregnancy-related causes
  • The women’s labor force participation rate in the U.S. was 55 percent in 1995 and remains 55 percent in 2014.
  • A third of the world’s countries have had a female head of government. The U.S. never has, and women represent only 20 percent of the U.S. Congress.

“We can’t mistake progress for success,” Clinton said of the road ahead. “We need to do a better job of making visible women that are in the vanguard, and there are a number of other structural and policy shifts that also have to happen.”

A great deal of that progress, Clinton noted, has come in the education pipeline, where the gap between the number of boys and girls in primary school is closing quickly around the globe, though the challenge of keeping young women enrolled through secondary school remains.

And how will Chelsea Clinton define whether or not her own efforts and the No Ceilings project are successful going forward?

“For me, success means that any girl anywhere in the world can grow up and be anything she wants to be,” she said.

“We were very appreciative that Chelsea Clinton prioritized visiting HBS to share the news and information contained in the No Ceilings report,” said event organizer and second-year MBA student Alina Staskevicius. “Personally, I feel that women’s empowerment is not only a priority of the WSA but of HBS as a whole, with a number of conversations occurring both inside and outside the classroom. So it was great to have a thought-leader like Chelsea Clinton contribute to the discussion.”

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