Ivanka Trump, leading her father's delegation to a Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India, on Wednesday called for more women to enter engineering and the sciences.
"There has been stagnation in terms of closing the gender wage gap," Trump, the daughter of and also an adviser to President Trump, said during a panel discussion in the southern city of Hyderabad. "We need to get more women into STEM fields, where participation has been abysmal. If women continue to represent only 13 percent of engineers in the U.S., I am very concerned that the gender wage gap is going to grow rather than contract in the economy."
Also speaking on the panel were Cherie Blair, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation; Chanda Deepak Kochhar, the CEO of ICICI Bank, India's largest private bank; and Karen Hughes-Quintos, Dell's chief customer officer. The panel was moderated by K.T. Rama Rao, the Minister of IT and several other industries for the state of Telegana, where Hyderbad is located.
About 1,500 entrepreneurs are in attendance at the Summit, which is jointly hosted by the governments of India and the U.S. Rao introduced Trump by saying that in Hyderabad, "IT also stands for Ivanka Trump," and indeed, her face appears on billboards throughout the part of the city where the conference is being held.
Hughes-Quintos, of Dell, was also adamant that more women enter STEM fields. "That is where the jobs are going to be," she said. "The salaries are going to be higher, the job security is going to be greater."
The panel was devoted to boosting women's participation in the workforce, yet Trump insisted that the audience consider these issues more holistically. "These aren't women's issues," she said. "We're half the population. We have to start thinking of these as critical issues, not just women's issues."
Blair and Kochhar spoke about changes in the workforce through their own experiences and that of ICICI Bank. Rao noted that Blair was the first wife of a Prime Minister who had her own career. To this, Blair replied that the change was partly generational--her predecessors were "of a generation of girls who didn't get educated." But before her husband became Prime Minister, Blair had spent decades building up her career as an attorney. At one point she'd had three children under the age of five, and she'd always supported her husband in his political career. "Why would I change my job just because he changed his?" she asked, to applause.
Kochhar echoed some of Trump's comments about so-called women's issues affecting everyone, and said, "If people say, do you have special policies for women, we actually do not."
When asked what they would choose if they could change just one thing to advance women, Trump and Kochhar dodged a bit, speaking of their admiration for their daughters. (Trump also deflected a question about the leadership of her apparel company, where she retains an ownership interest.)
But earlier in the panel, Blair seemed to have provided her answer. She said men often do not understand the obstacles women face, and therefore, can be dubious that the obstacles exist. "If we're going to do anything in the world, we're going to do something about men," she said.
"All right," gamely replied Rao, the sole man on the panel.
Responded Blair: "That includes you."
Robots, Dancers, and Ivanka
The Global Entrepreneurship Summit had kicked off Tuesday evening, officially getting under way when Trump and India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, each pressed panels decorated with the flags of their respective countries on an Indian-designed robot that had rolled onto stage. The opening also included Indian dancing and a multimedia presentation, as well as more conventional introductions by speakers including Modi and Trump.
In her remarks, Trump described India as "a thriving economy, a beacon of democracy, and a symbol of hope for the world." She was referring both to Modi's origins as a seller of tea, and his work in government, when she said, "You have proven that transformational change is possible." She noted that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella went to school in Hyderabad: "The people of India inspire us all."
After praising her hosts, most of Trump's comments were devoted to the empowerment of women, a theme of the conference. She repeatedly stressed that economies and societies can only reach their full potential when women are "empowered to thrive." Throughout the event, speakers referred to statistics estimating that if India could close its gender wage gap by half, it would stand to gain $150 billion over three years.
While Trump's remarks were positively received, the greatest cheers were reserved for Modi, who spoke on similar themes and also pointed to India's recent accomplishments. He noted that India's bonds have recently been upgraded, for the first time in 14 years, and cited progress in cutting regulations related to foreign direct investment. He then appealed to the entrepreneurs in the audience: "You are agents of change, and instruments of India's transformation."