‘The Great Unfinished Business of the 21st Century’

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As part of the United Nations’ observance of International Women’s Day on March 9, 2014, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered brief remarks calling gender equality “the great unfinished business of the 21st century.” It’s a phrase she used last year in a keynote address to the 4th Annual Women in the World Summit.  In recognition of International Women’s Day, that speech bears renewed attention.

Clinton said that as Secretary of State she was determined to weave the issue of gender equality into discussions with governments and religious leaders. The U.S. made the case “that when women participate in the economy, everyone benefits. When women participate in peace-making and peace-keeping, we are all safer and more secure. And when women participate in politics of their nations they can make a difference.”

But many “otherwise thoughtful people” choose to ignore those truths, she said. “They nod, they smile and then they relegate these issues once again to the sidelines. I have seen it over and over again, I have been kidded about it, I have been ribbed, I have been challenged in boardrooms and official offices across the world,” Clinton said.

What they don’t understand is that “fighting to give women and girls a fighting chance isn’t a nice thing to-do. It isn’t some luxury that we get to when we have time on our hands to spend. This is a core imperative for every human being in every society,” she said. The world will fail to fulfill its possibilities if that fight stops, Clinton declared.

And the fight begins here. “Because if America is going to lead, we expect ourselves to lead, we need to empower women here at home to participate fully in our economy and our society, we need to make equal pay a reality, we need to extending family and medical leave benefits to more workers and make them paid, we need to encourage more women and girls to pursue careers in math and science,” she said. “We need to invest in our people so they can live up to their own God-given potential.”

Read the text of Hillary Clinton’s speech here. And then add your thoughts about this “great unfinished business.” Join the conversation at GlassCeiling.com

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