In SF speech, Hillary Clinton calls on women, tech employers, to fight for equality
SAN FRANCISCO — In a rare public speech since losing at the polls in November, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Tuesday pushed women to stand up for their rights and pointed a finger at local tech companies with spotty records in gender equality.
“I am here today to urge us not to grow tired. Not to be discouraged and disappointed. Not to throw up our hands because change is not happening fast enough,” Clinton said. “We need more women at any table, at any conference call or email chain where decisions are made.”
The Democrat who fought last year to become the nation’s first female president — she won the popular vote but lost the election — made her remarks as pressure for Silicon Valley tech companies to reform their male-dominated office cultures has reached a boiling point, with Uber the latest to face scandals over accusations of sexual harassment and sexism.
She called out Uber specifically, referencing engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti, who in a blog post last month accused the company of protecting a manager who sexually harassed her.
“Stereotypes and bias run rampant even at companies that pride themselves in forward thinking,” Clinton said.
Some women in the sold-out crowd of 6,000 were so excited to see Clinton that they ran into the theater to find seats when the doors opened, prompting an admonishment from a security guard who asked them to walk. Once the former secretary of state took the stage at the Professional BusinessWomen of California’s 28th annual conference at the Moscone Center, they reveled in her rallying cry for women’s rights, the personal anecdotes she shared and the shots she took at the current administration’s “bad policies that will hurt people and take our country in the wrong direction.”
She attacked the Republicans’ health care bill, which party leaders pulled just before a scheduled vote last week, and criticized what she said was the party’s failure to invite women to the table when crafting it.
“When Congress and the administration tried to jam through a bill that would have kicked 24 million people off their health insurance, defunded Planned Parenthood, jeopardized access to affordable birth control, deprived people with disabilities and the elderly and nursing homes of essential care, they were met with a wave of resistance,” she said, eliciting cheers from the crowd. “And when this disastrous bill failed, it was a victory for all Americans.”
Clinton has kept a low profile following her crushing defeat by Donald Trump in the November presidential election, mostly staying out of the spotlight. But she still took to Twitter regularly to applaud the defeat of the healthcare bill, criticize Trump’s travel ban and stand up for women’s rights.
Now it appears Clinton is ready to take a more visible role in the national conversation, while some fans wonder whether she will run for president a third time.
“I am thrilled to be out of the woods and in the company of so many inspiring women,” she said as she took the stage to the sound of deafening cheers from the audience. “And there’s no place I’d rather be than here with you — other than the White House.”
For some supporters, the speech was an emotional reminder of what could have been.
“She broke my heart all over again,” said 44-year-old Veronica Garay of Saratoga. “I was kind of flushed with emotions, just like I was (after Election Day).”
For Garay, who works as a technical product manager at Ebay, Clinton’s remarks about inequality in the corporate world, and particularly in tech, hit home. When Garay was earning her degree in electrical engineering, the male-to-female ratio was “just pathetic,” she said. Now, 20 years later, society seems to be moving backward, she said.
Clinton promised fans Tuesday she would continue fighting for them. And in another attack on the current administration, she urged her supporters to fight as well, against policies that target immigrants and refugees, deny climate change or make it harder for people to vote.
“Sure the last few months haven’t been exactly what I envisioned,” Clinton said, “although I do know what I’m still fighting for. I’m fighting for a fairer, big-hearted, inclusive America.”