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Hilary Clinton Visit-2224 ;

World Questions with Julia Gillard and Hillary Rodham Clinton

WOMEN – the topic dominating the World Questions discussion between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Julia Gillard at King’s College London on Wednesday.

Global threats of violence towards women; amplified misogyny via social media platforms; societies' view that women need intelligence to be successful, as opposed to men; the next US election; and the Americans’ view of Meghan Markle joining the Royal Family, were just a few of the subjects highlighted by the thought-provoking conversation between these two global leaders. 

The conversation began by touching on one of Secretary Clinton’s most famous quotes, said in Beijing almost 25 years ago: “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights”, setting the tone for the inaugural event of King’s special World Questions series.

Painting a picture of her speech, Secretary Clinton spoke of how she raised her concerns around certain Chinese policies affecting women, including the one child policy and rights to inherit property, and later discovered that this criticism resulted in her words being muted further afield than the room in which she spoke. Some 25 years on, she expressed her delight recalling when a friend informed her that this exact speech was recently projected in a Beijing shopping centre, highlighting the progress and positive change women have experienced over the years in the city.

The conversation then flowed on to progressive and positive changes to voting rights around the world, driving, and other steps in the right direction for women from a legal perspective, which she said were such “blatant barriers for women’s autonomy and freedom.” 


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Bringing the conversation forward to today, she said “we are still struggling with attitudes towards women’s rights and roles in society, in employment and the political system, and there is a push back going on in some parts of the world right now which really fall into that area of culture.”




Women work harder to get ahead

Complementing the discussion, the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, with the Policy Institute and IPSOS Mori, carried out a survey in 28 countries to reveal underlying public perceptions of ‘What helps or hinders women’s equality?’ in Britain and around the world.

Around 20,000 people were surveyed and the results showed that 26% of people think that intelligence is one of the most important factors helping women get ahead, compared with 17% who say the same for men.

The survey results also found that one in ten Britons say a woman’s looks are a key factor in helping them get ahead, while just 4% say the same for men. This finding was raised during the discussion with Secretary Clinton, who agreed and added that it’s not just looks in general, “it’s certain types of looks and a certain way to look, and the image that is expected of women that’s the problem.” 

She said: “Men are allowed to come in all shapes and sizes, all forms of dress, all kinds of presentation. But, back in the day, so long ago it’s lost in the mists of memory, those of us who were in the professional world in the 70s and 80s, we had to figure out what our uniform was and we would wear skirt suits with white blouses and ribbons tied round our necks in bows.”

Both Ms Gillard and Secretary Clinton highlighted how they had experienced misogynistic behaviour during their careers and there are a number of female politicians who have recently claimed that they will not run in upcoming elections due to abuse they have received because of their gender. Secretary Clinton spoke of her sadness around the fact that women might not run in elections due to the threats that they face, saying, “it is not only a threat to individuals but a threat to our democracies.”

If people are intimidated out of running for office in a democracy, because of hate-mongers on the left or on the right, motivated by whatever, that is the path of authoritarianism, that’s the path of fascism.– Hillary Clinton

Ms Gillard went on to add: “If you had a time machine and could visit a younger Hillary Clinton and explain to her what the 25 years ahead would look like, would your advice to her be ‘you still have to run, women are relying on you’ or would it be this is too hard a path, pick another?”

Secretary Clinton replied: “I’d tell her to go ahead and forge the same path, just recognise that there will be boulders and sinkholes, and all kind of challenges along the way.”

The 2020 US Election was also on the discussion agenda, with Ms Gillard  expressing her desire to see a female President in power. Secretary Clinton noted that the odds had certainly increased as there are more women running now, continuing to say that “when I  ran, there were more American women in space than running for President.”  

The conversation between these two influential leaders can be watched in full via the King’s College London YouTube channel. Read further insight in the ‘What helps or hinders women’s equality?’ research report undertaken by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, the Policy Institute and IPSOS Mori.

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'An inspiring start'

Professor Rosie Campbell, Director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, said: “The event was an inspiring start to our World Questions series, with both women expressing their determination to bring about change in gender parity across the world.  

“Students, staff and the wider community heard about the women’s rights challenges which impact us all. Secretary Clinton warning of women being harassed out of politics leading to a path of authoritarianism particularly resonated."

“Ideas and solutions were offered by Secretary Clinton and Ms Gillard that we can all be motivated by to bring about change in our own communities. We are looking forward to announcing the next World Questions series event next year.”

World Questions

World Questions is King’s new event series, inviting global leaders to the stage to discuss some of the world’s most challenging problems. The series enhances King’s efforts in achieving its vision of making the world a better place. By shining a light on issues which impact us all and promoting new perspectives, insights and solutions, King’s can help to drive change.

You can rewatch the event below:

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