Today former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is staking an early claim to voters who could be key to her 2016 presidential ambition: upwardly mobile professional women who have been called by the media “Lean In” voters.
Clinton will be keynote speaker at the gathering at the Santa Clara Convention Center that has attracted a large number of very powerful women including designer Diane Von Furstenberg, tech columnist Kara Swisher and former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson
For Clinton the speech is critical because her appeal to women in the high-tech capital, where Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, author of the best-selling book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” created a movement urging women to “lean in” to opportunities and challenges at higher professional levels.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle the speech could be the most high profile address that Clinton has made thus far this year. The paper talks in detail about how this powerful women’s group needs to hear Clinton and he thoughts on a number of issues before they give her their support.
She is their high priestess,” said Jessica Levinson, a political analyst and professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, who says the former first lady’s experience shattering the glass ceiling in politics, diplomacy and law will resonate with the hundreds expected to hear her Tuesday at the sold-out Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women. “She is a trailblazer,” Levinson said. “She speaks their language — and they speak hers.”
The Chronicle article says that Clinton must lock these women in early as supporters and that is why today’s speech is so important.
“Women are talking about how her candidacy could be historic — and frankly, it’s something more feminists want to hear now than in 2008,” Levinson said. Unlike during her first run as president in 2008, Clinton today “is much more robust” in acknowledging her potential impact as the first female president, she said. “And a lot of these women are the first in female leadership in their companies. There’s a common understanding.”
Allison Howard, chairwoman of the political science department at Dominican University in San Rafael, says, “This group of women know how hard it is to break into an industry, to be in the world of business, especially to be in tech and the venture capital world … where you’ve seen how few women there are.”
She says Clinton’s address will allow “that gathering of influential people, who will talk to their circle of friends” to get out the message: “If you want to have a woman president, it’s going to take some work — even for Hillary Clinton.”
But there is push back from the GOP as they want to make sure that Clinton is challenged from day one and that for many begins today. In a statement Monday, Republican National Committee spokesman Ninio Fetalvo charged that while Clinton “touts herself as a champion for women, it turns out she only paid women on her Senate staff 72 cents for every dollar a man made, on average.”
Fetalvo also slammed “her foundation’s acceptance of donations from foreign governments who oppress women’s rights and the scarcity of women on her emerging campaign,” saying that gives Clinton “quite a credibility problem” with female voters.
But Clinton’s support from women remains strong according to Lorna Randlett — a top manager with global strategies firm McKinsey & Co. whose husband, Wade Randlett, is a prominent Democratic fundraiser in Silicon Valley. She told the paper that Clinton has already earned credibility and loyalty from professional women.
“She has a lot of life experience … and she has learned and seemed to have adapted well to the lessons she has learned,” whether in politics, at the State Department or working with her family foundation with her husband and daughter, Chelsea, Randlett says.
“Women know there have been times in all of our experiences where we have had to be patient, to understand when is the right time to make our movements toward advancement and leadership,” said Randlett, a San Francisco mother of four who was appointed by President Obama to his Asian American-Pacific Islander Advisory Commission.