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Hillary Clinton says Silicon Valley needs to take the lead on family leave policies

“After all, you are the people who figured out how to put computers in the palms of our hands,” she added.

Hillary Clinton Addresses Professional Business Women Of California Conf.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a keynote address during the 28th annual Professional Business Women of California conference on March 28, 2017. in San Francisco, Calif.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Hillary Clinton believes Silicon Valley should take more responsibility to help pave the way on policies and attitudes toward paid family leave.

“The private sector can and must be an engine of change on these issues, especially in a place like Silicon Valley,” Clinton said Tuesday at an event in San Francisco. “When you’re on the cutting edge of how people work and learn, you have both an opportunity and an obligation to institute workplace policies that help employees meet their responsibilities at home and on the job.”

“Leaders in other industries will take notice and try to match what you do,” Clinton said.

Family leave was one of the issues Clinton campaigned on, and it has also been an important issue in the tech world in recent years. A number of tech companies have adopted expansive family leave policies, including Netflix, which gives employees an entire year off for parental leave.

Clinton pressed that tech companies have an obligation to lead by example on that issue. “After all, you are the people who figured out how to put computers in the palms of our hands,” she added.

Clinton spoke more broadly on Tuesday about how gender stereotypes are still very much in play in corporate America, and mentioned her displeasure at a photo that made the rounds on social media last week showing a group of men sitting around a table in Washington, D.C., apparently making decisions about women’s health issues.

(She did like this more comical version better, though.)

Clinton still remembers how the family leave policy was created at her law firm back in 1980, when she gave birth to her daughter, Chelsea, and received a phone call from the firm’s managing partner.

“He doesn’t say, ‘Congratulations.’ He doesn’t say, ‘I hope you and the baby are fine,’” she recalled. “He said, ‘When are you coming back to work?’” Clinton said she suggested four months. “Well, he had no idea, because he’d never talked about it with anybody before ... That was the beginning of our paid-leave policy.”

Clinton says that despite the fact that this exchange happened nearly 40 years ago, she is discouraged that family leave is still not a major issue for many companies.

“What message does it send to the world that the United States is still the only advanced economy with no national paid family leave policy?” she said. “The game is often still rigged against working women in major ways.”

Clinton made the remarks at the Professional Businesswomen of California conference, her first visit back to Silicon Valley since before last November’s election. The tech industry was predominantly behind Clinton during her campaign, and Tuesday’s keynote address was sold out, with more than 3,500 attendees, according to conference organizers. Clinton received multiple standing ovations during her time onstage.

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