SAN FRANCISCO ― Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held up reporter April Ryan and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) as examples of how women face routine sexism in the workplace, arguing Tuesday afternoon that even women in the highest echelons of their fields face structural barriers to success.
Hours earlier, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told Ryan, the Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, to stop shaking her head as he answered her question during Tuesday’s press briefing. And during a segment on “Fox & Friends,” Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly mocked Waters’ hair. O’Reilly later apologized for his remarks.
Clinton said both incidents reflected how women have to deal with “everyday sexism” in ways their male colleagues do not ― even if that sexism isn’t as overt as it once was.
“Just look at all that’s happened in the last few days to women who were simply doing their job,” she said. “April Ryan, a respected journalist with unrivaled integrity, was doing her job just this afternoon in the White House press room when she was patronized and cut off trying to ask a question. One of your own California congresswomen, Maxine Waters, was taunted with a racist joke about her hair.”
“Now too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride,” Clinton said. “But why should we have to? And any woman who thinks this couldn’t be directed at her is living in a dream world.”
“It’s not like I didn’t know all the nasty things they were saying about me,” she added, in apparent reference to the 2016 presidential campaign.
Clinton’s remarks came during a speech at the Professional BusinessWomen of California conference in downtown San Francisco, an annual gathering started by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). The conference was heavily attended by women working in the tech industry, many of whom gave the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee long standing ovations at both the beginning and conclusion of her remarks.
“Let me thank Hillary Clinton for standing up for all women, in particular for black women,” she said. “Let me just say this: I’m a strong black woman and I cannot be intimidated. I cannot be undermined. I cannot be thought to be afraid of Bill O’Reilly or anybody.”
Ryan tweeted about Clinton’s comment:
Keeping her audience in mind, Clinton also called out Silicon Valley companies like Uber for allowing systemic sexism to thrive. She praised former Uber engineer Susan Fowler for blowing the whistle on the ride-hailing company and called on tech firms to do better by their female employees.
“It is a cruel irony that stereotypes and bias ran rampant, even at companies that pride themselves as being forward-thinking,” she said.
Clinton also frequently nodded to the elephant in the room ― her November defeat to now-President Donald Trump. She opened her speech by declaring she was “thrilled to be out of the woods,” a wink at her post-election hikes in Chappaqua, New York.
“There’s no other place I’d rather be today,” she said. “Other than the White House.”
She also took jabs at the lack of women in Trump’s administration as well as the president’s frequent photo-ops of him signing executive orders while surrounded by white men. Clinton also blasted House Republicans for their failed attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act, particularly taking issue with conservatives’ attempts to remove mandated benefits including maternity care.
“Take away maternity care? Really?” she said. “Who do these people talk to?”
At the end of her remarks, Clinton noted that “the last months haven’t been exactly what I envisioned.” However, she said, she plans to continue fighting for “a fairer, big-hearted America.”