Mother-to-be Chelsea Clinton thinks fondly of technology – from the Commodore she received as a kid on Christmas Day in 1987, to the anticipation of giving her child a first computer.
But Clinton, who was in town Wednesday for a women in tech conference, knows not everyone, especially girls, has the same access to technology and its career benefits that she had growing up.
“So when I think about how technology has expanded opportunities for so many and transformed billions of lives, even how we think of life itself, I find the juxtaposition to the diminishing of women in technology in our country deeply troubling,” Clinton, 34, told an audience at the National Center for Women & Information Technology Summit, held at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa.
The former first daughter, who recently earned a doctorate in international studies, discussed the under-representation of women in the science and tech fields, and how she and the nonprofit Clinton Foundation are tackling female inequality worldwide.
Here are five takeaways from Clinton’s appearance:
Troubling numbers: Clinton rattled off a series of discouraging numbers that relate to tech education. The share of female computer-science grads has declined during the last decade, from 21 percent in 2001 to as low as 16 percent, a trend she finds “deeply challenging.” She also cited a Microsoft study that found roughly 2,000 high schools nationwide have programs that are equipped to produce students who can qualify for an entry-level tech position. “We aren’t imagining ourselves to be as the next engineers or programmers or coders,” Clinton said.
Work in progress: Clinton has been collaborating with her mother, Hillary, on the Clinton Foundation’s latest program, No Ceilings. The endeavor will analyze the state of women’s rights and programs, and laws that have helped or hurt the movement, in order to further advance the cause. The nonprofit has been collecting data, including how women bank on mobile phones to how their use of technology is different from men.
Tech advances in Africa: The Ethiopian government now has developed what Clinton believes to be the world’s first birth-tracking mobile app, which connects new and expecting mothers to health workers and updates on what they can do to prepare for a healthy birth. She says the innovation, created by East African developers and the government, can serve as a model for other countries, including the U.S. The benefits felt in a program like this one “does percolate back to us,” she said.
Advice for women: “Continuing to tell stories of people that are not – and I really like and personally respect Mark Zuckerberg – people who don’t look like Mark Zuckerberg as successful individuals,” Clinton said. “It’s really hard to imagine what you can’t see.” Fewer than 20 percent of computer programmers are women, and among them, 7 percent are women of color, she said.
Inspiration for younger women: Asked what she would tell a middle school or high school version of herself, knowing what she knows today, Clinton said: “What makes you most angry? What really pisses you off? Because I found anger to be a deeply kind of sufficient motivating force in my life.” She suggested girls and women match that anger with their talents and skills for a fulfilling career
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