The Washington Post

Hillary Clinton announces ‘No Ceilings’ initiative to empower women

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton addresses the Center for American Progress policy forum in Washington on Oct. 24, 2013. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

At the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual do-good-athon back in September, the world’s most famous out-of-work secretary of state declared that women’s full participation in society remained “the unfinished business of the 21st century.”

But Hillary Clinton’s comments on that subject were overshadowed in that day’s news by her suggestion that it “wouldn’t be the worst thing for Democrats” if Republicans followed through on their threats to shut down the government.

On Friday, Clinton went before another big audience—this time, the more than 7,000 who had gathered in Philadelphia for the 10th annual Pennsylvania Conference on Women—and added clarity as to what she intends to do about empowering women across the planet.

She is launching a project through the newly renamed Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation that is modeled on the work her husband, the former president, has done through the global initiative. It seeks to harness and direct private resources toward measuring the progress, or lack of it, that women have made, and to “bring abuses out of the shadows and raise global consciousness.”

It also now has an official name: “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project.”

Of course, no move that Clinton makes can be viewed outside the speculation about her 2016 plans. And the title she has chosen for this work evokes the best line of the best speech of her 2008 presidential campaign—the one in which she dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination and threw her support to Barack Obama.

“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it,” Clinton said then. “And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”

The project will be framed around the 20th anniversary in 2015 of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, at which the then-first lady memorably said that “women’s rights are human rights.”

But in her speech on Friday, Clinton also made it clear that she plans to focus much of her attention at home. She noted, for instance, that women still hold fewer than 17 percent of corporate board seats and account for only 4 percent of corporate CEOs.

And life for average women has gotten tougher. Clinton said many are actually living shorter lives than their mothers did. While there are many explanations for that, they all come back to factors that also contribute to economic stress.

So just as important as glass ceilings, she said, is restoring “a floor that no longer exists under so many of our fellow Americans.”

And then Clinton delivered a line that you can bet you’ll be hearing a lot from her between now and 2016: “We’re going to be about the business of making sure that those ceilings crack for every girl and for every woman around the globe. So let’s get cracking.”


Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.

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