On April 17, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, and America Ferrera hosted “Girls: A No Ceilings Conversation.” This conversation was the first in a series of live and virtual dialogues designed to hear directly from girls about their lives, experiences, and hopes for the future. The event was part of our No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, which is working to advance progress for women and girls around the world. We believe that in order to enable more women and girls achieve full participation, we need to understand the gaps they face and the gains they’ve made.
The first conversation took place at the Lower Eastside Girls Club in New York City with a roomful of adolescent girls. It also included students at four schools, the York County School District in Virginia, KIPP Delta High School in Arkansas, The Hathaway Brown School for Girls in Ohio, and The Seattle Girls School in Washington via Skype. Additionally, people from all 50 U.S. states and around the world including Mexico, Canada, England, Brazil and India participated through Livestream.
Throughout the conversation, Secretary Clinton and Chelsea were able to hear firsthand from girls and women and offer their thoughts and advice for how young women can help and empower themselves and other women in their communities.
Below are our a few of favorite moments from the event:
ONE: Because You Were There
Asha, an 8th grade student from The Seattle Girls School, shared an experience via Skype about how girls are often underrepresented in STEM fields and how they often lose interest in typically male dominated fields. Asha, a competitive chess player, explained how it is often scary and intimidating to be the only girl in a chess tournament, which can lead some girls to hold back. Chelsea thanked Asha and told her that her persistence in participating in a male dominated field will help other girls have the courage to do the same.
Every girl that follows you, it will be easier for her. It will be easier for her to sit at the table, to stand in that room, and to compete against the boys because you were there.
– Chelsea Clinton
TWO: Be As Good As You Can Be
Secretary Clinton shed light on a barrier to full participation of women: the perfectionist gene. She also left us with an important question to ask ourselves and other women.
Be as good as you can be. And you may not be the best but you are going to be good enough. I think too many young women get stopped by the perfectionist gene. You think you have to be perfect instead of good enough. And believe me there are so many young women who artificially stop themselves from progressing because they are not perfect. And I have rarely met a young man who doesn’t think he already is if not perfect, darn close to it. So, why do we impose these kinds of burdens on ourselves and why do young girls push each other in that direction? – Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton
THREE: The Smart Thing to Do
When one Livestream viewer asked how women can collaborate with men to achieve full participation of women and girls, Chelsea explained that men and women must understand how investing in women and girls is not just the morally right thing to do but the smart thing to do.
If women and girls had the same opportunities that boys and men did, economies would be stronger, countries would be more secure and more stable, and there would be less violence. So on any metric that often seems to be a more conventional or hard power metric, investing in women and girls is the surest and most sustainable path to success in those areas. A moral argument may be sufficient but sometimes hard facts and evidence really matter. –Chelsea Clinton
FOUR: Don’t Stifle It, Don’t Swallow It, Speak Out About It
Jules, a young woman in the audience from Brooklyn, asked how young women can speak out about issues that may not be popular among others. In response, Secretary Clinton and Chelsea provided actions to help girls and women speak out about issues they care about:
1. Practice how to speak out
2. Decide who is your audience and how are you going to reach them
3. Take criticism seriously but not personally
4. Provide a potential solution and not just anger
5. Have a friend or supporter
6. Support other women or girls
FIVE: Becoming Visible
Nova, one of the young women in our audience, courageously spoke up and told us, "For the first time publicly I want to say that I am an undocumented immigrant.” Nova asked Secretary Clinton and Chelsea what is essential for immigration reform and how girls like her, who feel invisible, can empower themselves to live to their fullest potential.
Secretary Clinton shared her hopes for the future:
It is important to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. That is one of the big hopes I have, is that we can get back to being a country where people can understand what others are going through and have empathy for it and really try to help each other.
Chelsea and America also encouraged Nova to continue to speak out for what she believes are her rights and deserved opportunities, as well as how to partner with others who may have the power to make the change that she wants to create.
SIX: Just Ask
Secretary Clinton and Chelsea both shared how they believe that today, due to technology, there are greater opportunities to be a part of larger efforts to create positive change. Technology allows us to connect and collaborate in ways not possible before. Chelsea explained that the first step in creating partnerships is asking to collaborate.
If there are people that you want to collaborate with in your own work, whether it’s here in the Lower East Side or Helena or somewhere else, ask. The worst anyone is going to say is no. You will never know what opportunities or partnerships you could forge if you don’t ask.– Chelsea Clinton
America also added that it is important for girls to collaborate with one another instead of viewing each other as competition.