2014 NCWIT Summit - Special Guest Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation

May 30, 2014

LUCY SANDERS: I am extremely excited to introduce our special guest, Chelsea Clinton. She's the vice-chair of the Clinton Foundation, and in that role she's also very active with the Clinton Global Initiative, and on their foundation's health programs. The Clinton Global Initiative, if you don't know, is an effort that convenes and mobilizes change leaders around the world to focus on the world's most pressing problems. And she's also an NBC special correspondent, and recently graduated from Oxford University with her Ph.D. How about that? [audience clapping] Yay. I don't know if we're the first to welcome Dr. Chelsea Clinton to the stage, but we're very excited about that. So last summer I got a text message from Paula Stern, who was watching Chelsea talking about computer science, and women, and the importance of women's participation in computing, and what it would bring to the world, and she's sitting there texting me right from the 2013 Women in the World Summit, and at that moment in time we said Chelsea's coming to our summit. And here she is, welcome to the stage please, Chelsea Clinton. [audience applauding] [upbeat music]

CHELSEA CLINTON: Good morning, it's wonderful to be here on such a bright and sunny day. I don't know how many of you are from the east coast as I am, but after six months of winter, sunshine is just such a blessing, so thank you for being inside on such a sunny day. Thank you Lucy for that introduction. I think it may be the first time I've been introduced by anyone besides my husband as Dr. Clinton. He embarrasses me on a regular basis. Thank you Paula for instigating this invitation and for all the Shabbat dinners you fed me over many years. I've known Paula Stern for more than half my life. So I'm grateful to NCWIT for many reasons, for enabling me to give Paula a hug, for sharing the stage with Lucy for our subsequent conversation, and most of all to all of you for all the work that you do. This is NCWIT's 10th anniversary, I understand, so happy anniversary. 10 years is eons, not just a decade, in the life of technology as many of you know better than I do. I certainly track many of my memories kind of with technology milestones. One thing I think I spoke about at Women in the World that Paula may have been texting to Lucy, was one of my seminal memories is in 1987 when Santa Claus gave me a Commodore computer for Christmas. Equally exciting to the gift of the Commodore was the accompanying Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego game. Oh, you can applaud for that, I love Carmen Sandiego too. And so when I think about technology, invariably I do think about it in terms of my own life. I'm sure that's true for many of us, and so when I think about how technology has expanded opportunities for so many and transformed billions of lives and even how we think of life itself, I find the juxtaposition to the diminishing participation of women in technology in our country deeply troubling. So in 1987, when Santa Claus was so generous to me, oh you can keep laughing, now that Marc and I are expecting our first child I very much plan on having Santa Claus be deeply part of his or her existence. And probably to have the pleasure of giving his or her their first computer too. Women comprise 37% of computer science graduates in our country. When I graduated from Stanford, just a little bit further north from here in 2001, women were 21%, and in 2012, depending on which statistic you rely on, women were 16 or 18%. Given that the denominator was growing at the same time that opportunities for computer science participation were expanding, that's deeply challenging to me when I think about our country today, our country in the future. Thanks to research done by NCWIT and the US Department of Commerce we know that we'll have a million net new jobs sometime between 2020 and 2022 in the United States, just in computer science and information technology fields, yet we're only training about 40% of those that we need to fill those jobs. That's both a supply and demand challenge. It's a supply challenge because our high schools aren't engaging in sufficient computer science AP classes. Microsoft estimates that only about 2,000 high schools across the country have programs sufficient to what they would need to hire someone at an entry-level position. Similarly, our community colleges and our four year college and universities are not providing sufficiently robust or sufficiently extensive opportunities. But it's also a demand challenge. Women and girls aren't imagining ourselves as the next engineers, or programmers, or coders at sufficient levels to ensure that we can help close the gap between what the opportunities will be and what we as an American community will need to meet them. So I'm grateful that all that NCWIT is doing to help change that dynamic, ensuring that those Microsoft statistics will ameliorate over time, that more schools are providing more real opportunities to more students at K through 12 levels. Lucy mentioned the Clinton Global Initiative, I'm grateful that increasingly our CGI members are galvanized around these issues, that we've been able to create partnerships between, for example, CA Technologies and the Boys and Girls Club of America. Something Girls Tech Rock, good name I think. A program that launched in 2011 and has now trained more than 10,000 girls in both their imaginations, helping them imagine themselves as coders or programmers, and teaching them the skills they need to pursue their newfound dreams. Focusing on the ages of nine to 13, because we know that the middle school years are crucial. At an early elementary school performance girls do just as well, if not better, than boys on math and science tests. But by middle school girls performance starts to fade away and by high school there's a real gap. So we know that we have to reach girls and boys in the middle school years to ensure that dreams remain closely held and that competencies and skills match those talents and aspirations. But we also know that this is not just a uniquely American challenge, which is partly why the newest program of the Clinton Foundation is something called No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, something I'm really proud and excited to be working on and leading with my mother. In 1995 she gave a speech in Beijing, that was far more seminal than I think she'd even anticipated, when she declared that women's rights are human's rights and human rights are women's rights, something that seems self-evident but wasn't at the time, and hopefully by now would be imminently true but isn't anywhere, including in our own country. And so the mandate of No Ceilings is twofold, one, what is the current status of rights and opportunities for women and girls around the world today, and to assess that, we're compiling what we believe to be the most comprehensive data-set ever gathered around this question, relying on traditional data partners like the UN data system, the World Bank, the IMF, the OECD, and what may seem like, to many of you, traditional partners, but in the development community, aren't. Companies like Google, Microsoft, but also technology companies and telecom companies in the developing world. What is the real mobile penetration in the developing world for women and girls? How do women and girls use mobile technology, whether for banking or to access information, differently than men and boys do? What from those differentials can we then extrapolate for how women and girls see ourselves and our possibilities throughout the world? Which then leads to the second part of No Ceilings' mandate. What has really worked to help achieve progress from 1995 until today for women and girls? Have there been laws that have made a real difference in increasing women's labor force participation or political participation? Has there been changes in technology? Has mobile penetration really made a difference to how women and girls define our aspirations across the world or seize opportunities? Have social media campaigns made a difference to cultural and social norms maybe even more than laws have that can correlate to less female genital mutilation or fewer child brides? What has really worked and candidly what hasn't so that we can better focus our energies and our efforts in advocating for what has worked into the future to try to reach a world of full participation. We know that's not only the right thing to do, but it's a smart thing to do for our country and for so many. But whatever that answer may be we know that we need many partners like the organizations that many of you represent here today to get to where we want to be, to ensure that opportunities are equally democratized, and we know that we at the Clinton Foundation are trying to do whatever it is that we can think to not only scope the challenge out and highlight the opportunities for what really has worked, what the real solutions are, but whatever we can do too, along the way. So that not only includes continuing to work with our CGI members on programs like Girls Tech Rock, but it also includes one of our newest efforts at the Clinton Foundation, our Codeathon Series through the Clinton Health Matters initiative. We had our first Codeathon Series launch last year in partnership with the Ace Hotel and Jawbone, where we focused on different specific health challenges at four different Codeathons. One of the winners of the Codeathon was a graduate student from Stanford's Graduate School of Design, I am deeply biased toward Stanford, I apologize to any of the Berkeley students in the room, and her winning app was called Morrow. It helps you track how much water you drink in a day. I love water, I drink a lot of water. I'm thrilled that every day I exceed whatever my goals are. Oh, yeah, laugh, I love laughter. And I know that it's also helped my husband who doesn't love water as much as I do, kind of think about how to get more water into his daily diet. And we were so encouraged by the success of our first Codeathon Series that we're having a second, hopefully annual, Codeathon Series starting this August, focused just on women's health challenges. And so we hope that many of you will participate. We also hope that many of you will give us your ideas for what each of the four Codeathons in the series should focus on, and even more if you have ideas for what we could be doing at the Clinton Foundation to leverage our platform, leverage our partners, to help solve so many of the challenges that each of you think about in your lives, and clearly each of you are focused on by being here at the NCWIT conference. So thank you for all the work that you do, thank you Lucy for this warm introduction, thank you for the subsequent conversation, and I'm thrilled to be here. Thank you. [audience applauding]

LUCY SANDERS: Thank you very much Chelsea. The Clinton Global Initiative, I just have to brag on Denver, Colorado, CGI America coming to Denver in June.

CHELSEA CLINTON: So yes, if any of you are from Denver please come.

LUCY SANDERS: Yes, of course, where are the Denver people?

CHELSEA CLINTON: Consider yourself invited.

LUCY SANDERS: Boulder, Denver, where are you? Okay, we'll be there.

CHELSEA CLINTON: Awesome.

LUCY SANDERS: Awesome. So speaking of CGI lets turn first to your perspective. You have a very unique lens on international development and technology. What challenges have you seen in technical development around the world, and conversely, what inspires you and what breakthroughs have you seen?

CHELSEA CLINTON: Well I think one of the challenges in the intersection of technology and development is that candidly there aren't enough people like all of you at the beginning of the conversation. And so that oftentimes technology is treated as this kind of panacea, as if it can just solve whatever challenge it's directed to without understanding that of course human behaviors have to change alongside that. So I think that's actually a very significant hurdle. How do we ensure that more people like all of you are at the beginning of the conversation to solve x, y or zed specific challenge, so that you're part of the not only imagining, but the design of the technology itself and that the technology isn't sort of then heaped on top of a problem. I think another challenge is how do we in the developed world have enough humility to learn from a lot of the real exciting innovation that's happening in the developing world? For example, through the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which is the Clinton Foundation's Global Health Program, we helped the government of Ethiopia build what we believe to be the first national SMS-based birth tracking system. Now admittedly, that came after almost a decade of work in Ethiopia, helping the government initially solve specific health commodities challenges. How to secure sufficient anti-retrovirals at a low enough price to help their affected HIV population, how to think about mapping the country in such a way that the Ethiopian government could afford and then execute against a plan to build a health clinic within a half a day's walk of every village. So the work to build an SMS-based birth tracking system came after many other challenges had already been solved and after Ethiopia had a real health infrastructure, physical infrastructure, old fashioned infrastructure, in place. And today the Ethiopian government has a more comprehensive view than probably even we do in this country of how many babies are being born, where, how and with what complications, because they have a unitary system that's tracked at a national level, so that every community health worker in a clinic or every doctor in an urban hospital in Addis registers with the same system. Expectant mothers register with the system, they get SMS updates as to what they should be doing when along their pregnancy. They have communications with their health workers, all of that information is stored at a national level. And so that is technology that solved a very specific challenge that the Ethiopian government was confronting, which was that now that they were keeping people alive who had AIDS, they wanted to know how they could tackle their maternal and child health mortality burden, which was still far too high. And so this helps, for example, foresee who's more likely to suffer from hemorrhagic bleeding, a leading cause of maternal death in the developing world, because there are many signs, particularly later in pregnancy, that correlate to higher risk during delivery. So that I think is a perfect example of when, you know we knew that we didn't know how to build this platform, but we could engage developers, some from Ethiopia, many from nearby Kenya, so trying very much to still have an east African developed solution to this particular conundrum that the Ethiopian government was facing, engaged from inception, so it wasn't that we kind of designed what we thought might work, tried to bring in developers later into the process and then just kind of dumped that on to the ministry of health. We're seeing that that more holistic approach works, and we're trying to engage not only developers earlier in our own work, but encourage our partners who work in public health around the world to adopt a similar paradigm. And then we also hope that so much of the exciting development in the developing world does percolate back to us, if only through inspiration or, candidly, shame. I think shame has a really powerful place in general, but particularly in conversations like this. I think we should at least feel a little sheepish that Ethiopia has something that we ourselves don't yet in this country.

LUCY SANDERS: Well in moving closer to home I know our audience, y'all reinforce this now, we believe that computer science is the most important discipline underlying solutions, right, right you all? [audience clapping and cheering] We believe it's a key to solving some of the world's toughest problems, whether it's developed here or abroad. But yet here, rigorous, relevant, inclusive computer science is almost out of reach to many students. And so what do you see as some of the right policies that could help put computer science, which is undeniably the most important 21st century skill, into our classrooms?

CHELSEA CLINTON: Well, so I won't quibble with the fact that I think it's very important. I also think other things admittedly are important. I think teaching kids how to think critically, for example, is really important, so that, which is related, sure, obviously. So I would have three answers to your question. The first would be, I would deeply and quickly become embedded in the conversations around the next wave of the Common Core, which are focused on science. So the Common Core, which will kind of successively launch across 45 states that are participating in the Common Core over the next year, initially focuses on math and English. The next tranche of work for the Common Core is science, so I would quickly work to ensure that computer science is part of the definition of science, of the kind of pedagogical minds that are working on architecting the next generation of the Common Core. The second area of focus is less of a national conversation and more of a state-based conversation. Many states are now experiencing budget surpluses again after years of really struggling to have balanced budgets. States, unlike the federal government, have to have balanced budgets, 'cause they can't print currency, largely, unlike our federal government that seems to not be focused on having a balanced budget. But many states, including New York state, what I call home, are experiencing surpluses, and are expected to, at least over the near term. And so what states choose to do with those surpluses is very much up for debate, so I would ensure that you're embedded in those conversations. There are other things that I also hope are embedded in those conversations, for example, physical education classes. I know that for computer science, as any subject, kids that are kind of well fed, with healthy food and who have been well activated in their bodies, will be able to learn and retain information in any subject better than if they're not, but fewer than 10% of elementary and middle school kids in our country now have daily PE classes. When I was a public school student in Arkansas I had PE class every day and recess twice a day when I was in elementary school. That sadly is not the reality for many kids, so I would think about not only trying to secure part of those budget surpluses for states to invest, either in more AP computer science classes or more supplemental computer science programming in middle school and high schools, but also how to engage with other people whose aspirations are complementary and not competitive to yours in those debates. Like those of us who were arguing for more dollars to be placed again in hiring physical education teachers for elementary and middle school students. And the third thing that I would focus on is just continuing to tell stories of people that are not, and I really like and personally respect Mark Zuckerberg, but people who don't look like Mark Zuckerberg as successful in computer science and technology. It's really hard to imagine what you can't see, and there is a reason that fewer than 20%, not in this room, but fewer than 20% of computer programmers are women and there's a reason that among those 20% less than 7% are women of color. There's a reason that those ceilings exist. Now again, some of it, as I was talking about earlier, is a supply challenge, and some of it is sort of this macro demand challenge. But some of it is an imagination challenge, so help us close the imagination gap.

LUCY SANDERS: Yay, that's awesome, thank you. So one of the things that it leads us to too, maybe just a quick follow up, and I think this also gets back to your comment about technology in Africa. Why does it matter, really, that women are inventing technology, from your point of view? Why does it matter, you know we hear this argument often that as long as great technology gets invented why does it matter that women aren't inventing it?

CHELSEA CLINTON: It's just so hard for me to answer questions like that candidly. It's like when people ask me why I believe in equal marriage, it just seems so self-evident to me. But I will try to answer that. So I think who participates matters, and I think we see that clearly in a few ways. For example, if we think about women in security, so if we think about extrapolating to the answer in technology through other fields. Women who participate in peacekeeping negotiations and then peace enforcement, whether in Europe, thinking about Bosnia and Kosovo, Northern Ireland. In Asia, thinking about East Timor, for example. In Sub-Saharan Africa, thinking about Mozambique or Angola. Women who participate in peace negotiations and peace enforcement, that highly correlates to peace being kept and prosperity returning. It matters who sits at the table. We've seen some deeply challenging, troubling even, what I would call either lack of progress or reversal of progress in women's rights in some specific areas. So in Kenya, for example, not only was polygamy just once again recognized as legal by the national parliament, but even within polygamist marriages women's property rights were clawed back. This was after vigorous opposition by women members of parliament, which was heavily covered in the newspaper. The bent of public opinion among young people in Kenya was heavily against these additional restrictions being passed. The last time that a similar debate occurred in the Kenya parliament, a couple decades ago, there was almost no debate, 'cause there were no women members of parliament, and it certainly wasn't on the front page of the National, which is one of the big national newspapers on a daily basis. Kenya, like most of Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 70% of Kenya is under 30. I certainly hope that the electoral makeup will change, partly because of this and other increasingly conservative policies that the parliament has been flirting with or passing. That matters because hopefully it not only will lead to repudiation of these anachronistic, draconian laws in the next parliament, but hopefully insulate the parliament from making similar decisions and teach nearby governments that might be similarly tempted to go back in time before they trod that path. So who sits at the table in politics matters too. In the United States, as is true in most of the world, not just the OECD countries, but most of the emerging market economies, women control 2/3 of a household's purchasing power. So one would think that consumer products companies, whether you're Procter & Gamble, or Unilever, or Coca-Cola, would realize, as many have, that it matters how you're talking to your consumers, and that talking to your consumers with a certain level of dignity and respect is probably gonna be better for your bottom line than condescension. And we're increasingly seeing that, not only in the United States, but in the developing world. As advertising and marketing changes to empowering and respecting women as drivers of consumer behaviors and not just sort of passive participants in their economies, because that's the right business decision for those companies to make. So if we see how empowering women or putting women at the center of whatever challenge a corporation might be trying to solve, has had real derivative benefits, and tangible dollar benefits, it would be hard for me to imagine that we wouldn't see the same for technology.

LUCY SANDERS: And we agree. So lets close with a question for the younger members of our audience. So, given what you know now, what advice would you give a middle school or high school version of yourself?

CHELSEA CLINTON: Oh wow, well, I'm 34 so I'm deeply aware that I'm not one of the younger members of your audience probably.

LUCY SANDERS: You're younger than me, so I count you as younger.

CHELSEA CLINTON: I don't know, it's all relative. I think when I am asked this question in different ways, sometimes people will say what should I really engage in in the world, or how can I make a change or how could anything ever change and what should I do to at least try, I always think about a couple of core things. What makes you most angry, what really pisses you off? Because I have found anger to be a deeply sufficient motivating force in my life and I'm also a really stubborn person, so I just will stay at something until it no longer exists to make me angry. And then to think about what your talents and skills are that match against what makes you angry, or if you're differently constituted, what makes you most happy and inspired and kind of where that intersection is and then how to propel yourself forward. For me the things that make me angry, that there's no country in the world that has lived up to the promise of the Beijing Platform. That really makes me angry. It makes me angry that in the 21st century in no country are women and girls equal in rights and opportunities to boys and men. It makes me really angry in this country that we've largely neglected our juvenile population. We have 53 some-odd thousand kids in the juvenile justice system on any given day, the vast majority of them are young men of color, they're not included in any of the conversations about prison reform or education reform. That makes me really angry. It makes me really angry that we continue to have to have conversations like this even in America. That makes me really angry, so I think about the different ways that I can try to tackle those, through using the platform of the Clinton Foundation to galvanize the most robust data around women and girls that we've ever had and correlate the trends in the data to what has really worked, because as much as I'm angry I'm also deeply solutions focused, and I hate that we continue to feel like we need to reinvent the wheel. So focusing on what works, and then highlighting that and trying to democratize that, shame us into following that if need be, is something I'm highly committed to. The Clinton Foundation in partnership with the American Heart Association has the largest childhood obesity program in the country now that is school based, something called the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, so now, working with the Alliance, we've partnered with the juvenile justice system here in California and in Arkansas to try to start to change the food system in which juveniles exist and help to provide healthier options and help them to understand how to make healthier choices for themselves, at least in their diet, in hopes that maybe they'll make healthier choices afterward and at least they have the dignity of being fed a healthy meal instead of the four hot dogs for lunch that too often characterized what they're given. And then trying to come to forums like this to always meet new partners so that we can stop having conversations like this, but I'm 34, I'm a lot older than a middle school student, and I've been deeply blessed, through the choices that my parents have made, to have a unique set of opportunities. I also believe that every little girl everywhere can change the world, and so to think about what makes you angry or what makes you most happy and then to think about what skills you have, what opportunities you have, what opportunities you think you have and then figuring out how to get those opportunities, is where I would start.

LUCY SANDERS: Thank you very much. [audience applauding]