POLITICS

Hillary Clinton: It's Time For Wage Equality 'Once And For All'

02/24/2015 06:05 pm ET | Updated Feb 24, 2015
Mike Pont via Getty Images

Hillary Clinton lamented the number of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math at a Silicon Valley women's conference on Tuesday, and called for more action to close the wage gap.

"Sixty percent of college graduates are now women, yet they earn only 18 percent of computer science degrees. That's actually less than half of what it was in the 1980s, when women earned 38 percent of those degrees. We're going backwards in a field that's supposed to be all about going forward," Clinton said in a keynote address at Lead On Conference for Women in Santa Clara, California, for which she was reportedly paid a whopping $300,000.

The former secretary of state addressed an overwhelmingly friendly crowd made up of many employees from Silicon Valley's biggest tech companies, including Intel, Oracle and Cisco. Introduced as a "modern day suffragette," Clinton empathized with the audience by noting the difficulties women still face in male-dominated Silicon Valley.

"You bump your heads on the glass ceilings that persist in the tech industry today," she told the attendees.

Clinton framed the need to empower women as beneficial to America's economy as a whole, and in so doing paid deference to one of Apple, Inc.'s biggest slogans.

"There are lasting consequences for them, their families, and our economy," she said of women left out of the STEM fields. "We cannot afford to leave all that talent sitting on that sidelines. To borrow a familiar phrase, it's time to think different."

In advocating for closing the pay gap, Clinton also endorsed the impassioned plea for wage equality made by Patricia Arquette in her Oscars acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress.

"Up and down the ladder many women are paid less for the same work, which is why we all cheered at Patricia Arquette's speech at the Oscars -- because she's right, it's time to have wage equality once and for all," Clinton said.

The likely 2016 contender drew heavily from her personal life -- her experience as a new grandmother and her time working at a law firm while pregnant -- to argue that women still had ways to go in the workplace.

"Even though things have changed in many places, in so many ways the economy is still operating like it's 1955," she said.

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