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‘Never give up’: Hillary Clinton shares tips for being a successful female leader at London Tech Week

·4-min read
accelerateHER is a global events series bringing together entrepreneurs, CEOs and global  leaders    (AccelerateHER)
accelerateHER is a global events series bringing together entrepreneurs, CEOs and global leaders (AccelerateHER)

Hillary Clinton has urged London's aspiring female business and tech leaders to be "determined and resilient" when they get knocked down.

Appearing in person at the capital's County Hall on an AccelerateHER panel session at London Tech Week, the former US Secretary of State and presidential candidate said: "You just have to constantly be both determined and resilient, because you will get knocked down - even if it's done with a smile instead of a sneer.

"And you will have to get back up... You just have to laugh about it a lot of times, and then figure out different strategies to go right back at it."

The former First Lady, who has faced sexism and adversity in her career, spoke about her personal journey and shared advice alongside I. Stephanie Boyce, the first black president of The Law Society, McKinsey's UK managing partner, Virginia Simmons, and the Microsoft UK CEO, Clare Barclay.

Clinton said: "Never give up - if you want something you've got to prepare for it, and you often have to prepare more than someone else to be considered - and keep going, no matter what the obstacles or the setbacks."

She added: "You have no idea what might be possible for you. I never thought I would run for political office, I certainly never thought I would run for president - and I've run twice."

The political leader said that in her experience impostor syndrome “is one of the biggest obstacles to getting yourself back up, feeling your worthy and still going on" - and that it is a "really gender-linked problem".

She urged the panel’s audience to try to overcome the feeling, saying: "Too many young women have what I call the ‘perfectionist gene’, not the ‘good enough gene’, and if you're not perfect you somehow feel you're not ready, or you're not worthy, or you're not qualified.

“You've got to get over that, as quickly as you can, because it's a real impediment."

While appearing on the panel, Clinton also urged business leaders to see that both attitudinal and institutional changes are required to help achieve gender parity in workplaces.

She said: "Part of it is the unconscious attitudes that we all bring to life.

"Start thinking about all those extraneous biases in an institutional way. Start to think about how employees are hired and retained and promoted."

In conversation with the panel the diplomat, who also worked as a law professor in Arkansas early in her career, also shared anecdotes about having faced open hostility as a woman in a position of authority in her career.

She said: "Some of my law students were a bit older and they had been in Vietnam, and they were just not interested in having a woman professor. They would say 'well you don't have anything to teach me!' and I would say 'how do you know?'"

The leader told how she faced double standards. Clinton recalled a time she read an advice column telling women not to display any pictures of family in their offices "because people will think you can't concentrate on work". The same article told men to put up similar pictures, as it would apparently instead send a positive message that he is working hard to help his family.

The former presidential candidate said she once even appeared in court to see a row of men sitting there just to watch a "lady lawyer" at work.

After sharing the memories, Clinton said wryly: "When particularly younger women get a little impatient at the pace of change, you cannot imagine what it looks like from my perspective - it is the glass half-full for sure. You still have to keep working at it."

In its eighth year, London Tech Week is an annual event of celebration and networking for the capital’s tech scene. Speakers and attendees include founders of some of the UK’s biggest technology companies, ministers and investors.

Listen to more on Tech & Science Daily:

The former First Lady, who has spent 50 years in public service careers as an advocate, lawyer and activist, was in the UK this week to accept an honorary degree from Oxford University and to be installed as Chancellor at Queen's University Belfast.

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