A who’s who of powerful women gathers in Silicon Valley

Female leaders in fashion, politics, media and technology are gathering today to discuss women’s advancement in Silicon Valley, which has emerged as a key front in the global gender debate.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton was the biggest draw for the crowd of some 5,000 women, who descended on the Santa Clara Convention Center from a wide range of tech companies. Before Clinton addresses the crowd this afternoon at the 2015 Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women, a series of speakers warmed the stage for her, discussing the progress women have made in the workplace and what remains to be done. During a panel moderated by tech journalist Kara Swisher, Jill Abramson, the former New York Times executive editor, said the pace of change has been too slow, wondering what women who won the right to vote in 1920 would think of the present state of affairs.

“I’m worried our peers from that period would be a little disappointed with where we are right now,” Abramson said. “In some ways, being less satisfied and a little angrier is where we need to be right now.”

She spoke of her daughter, a surgeon who is thinking ahead to having a family but perplexed by the problem of childcare.

“There are certain policy areas that are still undone,” Abramson said.

Jessica Herrin, CEO of jewelry company Stella & Dot, said workplace expectations must be revised to promote more flexible definitions of success for women. Happiness must be the guide, she added.

“Women feel like they have to take one for the team, and then they get there and they’re miserable,” she said.

Rosalind Hudnell, chief diversity officer of Intel, said women need more seats in the boardroom to drive change. But men can also be coached to take a stand against inequity in the workplace, she noted.

“We are educating men to say no,” she said. “There’s just a whole lot of them to educate.”

Above: Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton will deliver a keynote address at the 2015 Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley).

 

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