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Hillary Clinton’s Best Advice on Succeeding in a Man’s World

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The former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has been breaking into the men’s club all her career. She shared some of her hard-won wisdom about how that’s done last night at the opening of the Women in the World Conference in New York.

Clinton sat down with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Christine Lagarde in a joint interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Both women had the crowd laughing and applauding at their no-nonsense takes on everything from intimidating men, to Russia, to the world economy.

Here are some of the best quotes from Clinton.

On the double standard for women:

There is a double standard, obviously. We have all either experienced it, or have seen it. There is a deep-set of cultural, psychological views that are manifest through this double standard…Some of these attitudes persist, and if they persist in as open, and in many ways transformational society as ours is in the 21st century, you know how deep they are.

On what we should do about the double standard:

That’s why it’s important that we surface [the double standards], and why we talk about them, and help men and women recognize when they are crossing over from an individual judgement…into a stereotype. Into applying some kind of gender based characterization of the person. The double standard is alive and well, and I think in many respects the media is the principal propagator of it’s persistence.

On advice for young women on how to handle workplace sexism:

I always say that you have to play both an outside and inside game. On the outside, you have to find ways to raise these issues that are truly rooted in sexism or old-fashioned irrelevant expectations of women’s lives. Not just to score a point, but to change a mind. I’ve often been the only woman in a room, and have had the experience of talking about women’s issues and seeing eyes glaze over and the mind[s] wandering. You have to think of some way to bring it back, “oh, I know you have a daughter you must be so proud of her.” You have to think of ways to keep focus on what it is we are trying to convince the other person—predominately a man—to believe.

On the qualities women need to succeed:

The inside is equally important. One of my predecessors and personal heroines was Eleanor Roosevelt. And she famously said back in the 1920s that if a woman wants to be involved in the public….she has to grow skin as thick as the hide of a rhinoceros. So even back then, this was an obvious point of concern and contention. Too many young women are harder on themselves than circumstances warrant. They are too often selling themselves short. They too often take criticism personally instead of seriously. You should take criticism seriously because you might learn something, but you can’t let it crush you. You have to be resilient to keep moving forward despite whatever the personal setbacks and even insults that come your way might be. That takes a sense of humor about yourself and others, believe me this hard-won advice. But it is a process. You need other women, you need your friends to support you, and you need male friends as well as female ones. You need good role models all of that is true. But at the end of the day, you really have to be good if you have high aspirations. You need to be well-educated, prepared, and willing to take your chances when they come your way. Cut yourself a little bit of slack.

What young women are doing wrong:

At this point in my career, I have employed so many young people and one of the differences is that whenever I would say to a young woman, I want you to do this, I want you take on this extra responsibility, I want you to move up, almost invariably they would say, “do you think I can?” or “do you think I’m ready?” Well, I wouldn’t be asking you if I didn’t think you could and that you were ready. But I know that is often the first response from a young women. When I ask a young man if he wants to move up, he goes, “how high, how fast, when do I start?” There is just a hesitancy still of women’s worth and women’s wok that we are going to have to continue to address so more young women feel free to pursue their own ambitions and be successful.

On the state of women’s rights worldwide:

There are still some horrific situations. There are still girls who are born, who are not even registered at birth, they are so considered secondary. There is still a disparity, particularly in Asia, driven by China and India because of their large populations. Between the population numbers of girls and boys, there’s about a 3 million plus gap. Girls are still the last to be fed, still denied health care, still forced to labor, unable to go beyond primary education, marry at very young ages. We know we have those obvious discriminatory laws, regulations, practices that we still have to tackle. But then there are the more subtle obstacles. The ones Christine and I have talked about and she’s been highlighting through the work of the IMF or World Bank and UN and so many other organizations in both the private and public sector.

So I think it’s important that we really look at this broadly and say yes we’ve made progress let’s be proud of that, but we can’t rest. For many of us, the argument for women’s equality was first and foremost a moral argument. And it was a political argument. But I think where it is now as an economic argument, in many respects is a maturing of the case that women’s rights are human rights, but also a very important way of enlisting greater support…[The world] can’t really be flat if you have half the population either discouraged from or discriminated against when it comes to economic activity because you will not be as productive as you will otherwise…It’s very strategic. Where women are more equal, you have less instability, fewer conflict, greater democracy and a powerful government. These go hand in hand.

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