Remarks at The Women's Conference 2008Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Long Beach, California
October 22, 2008
Remarks With Indra K. Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, PepsiCo and Campbell Brown, News Anchor, CNN
MS. BROWN: I feel like I should say, “on a lighter note.” (Laughter.) I have to thank Maria for that because my makeup is shot; I’ve been crying for the last 20 minutes, as has everyone else in the back. I don’t know what it was like in this room, but that was incredibly, incredibly moving. And I am so fortunate to be sitting in between these two women. I sit here with probably two – certainly two of the most successful, the most accomplished women on the planet at the top of their field.
And let’s get right to it here, and let me begin by asking you – Condi, you start – is there a glass ceiling for women still?
SECRETARY RICE:Well, it’s getting much, much thinner these days. (Laughter.) Of course. I still think that in our society we have a tendency toward role definition that sees women in particular roles. But it’s changing very, very rapidly. When you have this presidential campaign in which you’ve had Hillary Clinton, who I think was terrific, and now Sarah Palin, who is a fantastic person; and when I might say we haven’t had a white male Secretary of State in 12 years – (laughter and applause) – because there was Madeleine Albright and then Colin Powell and myself, I think the glass ceiling is being shattered.
But you know, it’s going to have to continue to be shattered by girls who really believe that they can be anything that they can be. And I’m not worried about those of us now. I’m worried about girls in the future. They have to see themselves as capable of being in math and science, in engineering. I think that is really the next glass ceiling, is in the hard sciences and in technology. (Applause.)
MS. BROWN:Indra, do you agree?
MS. NOOYI: I think there is a glass ceiling. But it’s glass, and glass means you can see through it and you can break through it. But it’s not easy. And the reason it’s not easy is because the people who are going to help you break through that glass ceiling, at least in my life, have all been men. I think the glass ceiling will go away when women help other women break through that glass ceiling. That’s what is really going to make a difference. (Applause.)
MS. BROWN: That’s a – that leads me to my next question, is probably for most of you, mentors in your life. I mean, you’re both in male-dominated professions, so your mentors in most cases have had to have been men. Has that been the case?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, certainly in my case, I was in a very male-dominated profession, particularly because I didn’t start out really even in diplomacy. I started out studying the military, so I was in a very male-dominated place.
But you know, I think it’s important – you’re right, women have to help women. It’s also important to realize that it’s okay to be the first. If you constantly look for role models who look like you, then there won’t be any firsts. Sally Ride would not have been the first woman astronaut had she been looking for a woman to follow.
And so I try to tell my students – and I am still, at heart, a professor – that yes, it’s important to seek out mentors and role models who look like you and perhaps have gone through some of the same experiences, but don’t limit it to that. Realize that you can find your role models anywhere, in any color, in any shape, in any gender.
MS. BROWN: Well, let me do –
MS. NOOYI: (Inaudible) pick up on what –
MS. BROWN: Yeah.
MS. NOOYI: – Condi said, because I think it’s a great point. Let’s leave role models aside for the moment. But let me give you an example. When women present at a meeting, which is – let’s take the other way. When a man presents at a meeting with all men and if he messes up, the men sort of go to the men’s room with him and say, you know what, you could have done a better job. There’s a locker room conversation that happens automatically. It’s almost in their genes. When women do the same and they don’t do such a good job, two things happen. First, the women don’t pull them aside and say hey, you could have done a better job. Second, even if they do do that, it’s viewed as “she probably doesn't like me.” So it’s a bit of both.
So I think it’s not just role models –
MS. BROWN: Why, though? Expand on that. Why do you think that happens?
MS. NOOYI: I don’t know. I think – and I speak – I think all of us women have to learn to trust other women a lot more. I’m not sure we are there. I’m just not sure we are there. (Applause.) I think we tend to trust men more than we trust each other. And we have to figure out what is it about us that we feel that advice – constructive advice from a woman is viewed a little bit negatively than the same thing coming from a man. I’ve never been able to figure it out, but I think we’ve got to get to that root of that issue at some point.
MS. BROWN:It’s funny because this came up in a panel I was moderating earlier about women in politics, and a number of the women pointed out that they often feel like – that women, you know, as we looked at Sarah Palin and at Hillary Clinton, as women we’re much tougher on each other than we are on men or than men are, frankly, on women. Have you found that to be the case?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, maybe so, although men can be pretty tough on women, you know. (Laughter.) I think we have to recognize, too – one of the things that I find when I’m standing in a classroom and I’m standing there before the best and the brightest at a great elite university, and you’ll think, who’s scared in this room? It’s a little bit what Maria was just talking about; who’s fearful? And I’ll sometimes realize that the male students cover it better, but they’re actually pretty scared, too.
And I think if we, as women, recognize that certain situations, certain difficulties are daunting and frightening for everyone – it’s not just us, we’re not just feeling anxiety or insecurity, they feel it, too – you know, we shouldn’t really cede confidence to men. Women are, I think, as confident as their male counterparts. Men have just learned a little bit better to act that way.
MS. BROWN: Well, if I can, on that point, on the confidence issue, I read, Indra, that you wore a sari to one of your first interviews out of Yale in 1980. I think most women would have felt pressured to put on a business suit. I think that’s pretty ballsy, frankly. (Laughter.)
MS. NOOYI: When you don’t have money?
MS. BROWN: What does that say about you that you would do that?
MS. NOOYI: Well, the story is a little bit more than that because the story is what led to the sari. When I was interviewing for summer jobs at Yale, I had no money to buy a business suit. I only had 50 bucks that I had saved up. And I went to the local Kmart, which was the only store I could afford to walk into, and I decided to buy myself a pantsuit because I had never worn a skirt until then. I didn’t want to expose any part of my leg. So I didn’t want to try on clothes in the store because they had a curtain and not a door, and I was afraid somebody would look through the curtain.
So I sort of held it against myself and I went home and I put it on. The trouser was about an inch too short for me and the jacket – I remember my mom telling me, buy clothes one size bigger, you’ll grow into it. (Laughter.)
MS. BROWN: I think she told you that when you were, like, 10. (Laughter.)
MS. NOOYI: I know, but I forgot that I wasn’t 10 anymore. (Laughter.) So I put on this jacket that’s, like, two sizes too big, and the trousers an inch higher, and that’s all I had. I thought I was cool to go for an interview in a business suit. I walked into this interview and there was a collective gasp from everybody in that room – (laughter) – some sort of a sartorial seizure.
And I went through the interview with my, sort of, chin up, and after the interview, I fled into the office of the development director and said, “Hey, what’s wrong with me? Everybody’s laughing at me.” She looked at me and said, “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror? You look like a bit of a freak.” (Laughter.) I said, “True, but I don’t have any more money. I don’t have a business suit. What do I do? I need a job. Otherwise, I can’t live this summer.” She said, “What would you do were you in India?” I said, “I’d wear a sari.” She said something to me I’d never forget. She said, “Be yourself. Wear a sari. If they don’t hire you with a sari, then they don’t deserve to have you.” So I wore a sari to my next interview. So – (applause)
And let me just finish the story, because the story is what is a tremendous testimony to the United States of America, the meritocracy that this country is. I interviewed with a very blue chip company, and there were about 50 of us interviewed for that first job, which I looked like a freak-like when I went to the interview. They made one offer after that interview process, and that was to me. That just goes to show that at that point, that company didn’t look for a nice suit, a great hairdo or a great makeup. They just looked for whoever was the best, or maybe they were looking for a freak, I don’t know. (Laughter.) I’m going to say it was a sign of true meritocracy and I’ve never forgotten that experience till today, that meritocracy counts. And the only country in the world where it really counts is in this country. (Applause.)
MS. BROWN: You – great point – you also, though – somebody gave you some very good advice there, too, when they said, be yourself.
MS. NOOYI: Very true.
MS. BROWN: Talk a little bit about that, about how you, in your role –
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
MS. BROWN: – try to mentor not necessarily just women, but mentor people coming up.
SECRETARY RICE: Look, the first thing that I try to do is to explain to everyone that I try to mentor or that I’m trying to give advice – there isn’t really any particular road to success. You have to find the road that works for you. And so my conversations go something like this: A young student or maybe, now, a young Foreign Service officer will come in and then they’ll say, well, how do I get to do what you do? And what they mean is, how do I get to, one day, be Secretary of State? And I say, well, you start out as a failed piano major and you go on from there. (Laughter.)
Because the truth of the matter is that I wanted to be a great concert pianist. It was when I learned that I lacked the talent and the drive to do so and that I was going to probably end up playing piano at Nordstrom or maybe in a piano bar someplace – (laughter) – but not Carnegie Hall, that I decided, all right, I’d better try something else. And I went back to – I’ll never forget the conversation with my parents. You know, here, I’d studied piano from age three and I went to them and I said, you know, Mother and Dad, I’ve decided to change my major. They said to what are you changing your major? I said I don’t know. My father said you’re going to end up a waitress at Howard Johnson’s; you don’t know what you want to do. (Laughter.) I said well, it’s my life. They said it’s our money. (Laughter.) And so our only agreement was that I now had two years to find a major.
And I started taking classes wildly; English literature, maybe that would be it. Well, that wasn’t it. Well, now, state and local government? No, that wasn’t it. And I wandered into a class in international politics taught by a Soviet specialist who happened to be Madeleine Albright’s father, Joseph Korbel. And it was like love. I suddenly realized what I wanted to do was to understand and study Russia. Now, there was no reason that a black girl from Birmingham, Alabama ought to want to study Russia. (Laughter.)
And so the most important piece of advice that I can give is, don’t let somebody else define what you ought to be and what you want to be. When they look at you, they say, oh, you’ll want to do this because you look a certain way or you come from a certain background. I’m a perfect example of someone with no Russian blood who decided to study a culture that I had never seen, a place that I had never been, and it’s worked out for me. (Laughter.) And so my advice is: Do what you love and forget the rest of it. (Applause.)
MS. BROWN: Let me ask you both to talk a little bit about choices, because we all make them, obviously, and there are tradeoffs. To reach the level of the success that you both have, you’ve certainly had to make sacrifices in your life. What are they, if you would try to remember one tradeoff for us? And tell us whether you have any regrets about it now.
MS. NOOYI: Campbell, I want to tell you something. I think any woman who reaches the kinds of positions we do, and I’ll speak for myself here, there are so many tradeoffs, compromises, heartbreaks, regrets that we’ve had to make along the way. It has not been easy. You know, I have two daughters. I have a husband, been married for 28 years. I have a mother still alive, and my family is very close.
To get to where I am today, first if all, if you go to where I started in life and where I am today, the two points don’t connect. So the fact that I’m here means that along the way there were many choices that I had to make regarding – leaving India was a big choice, a scary choice. Maria talked about fear. Nobody in my family had ever left the country before, and I left the country. It was a big choice. Deciding to stay here was a big decision because it was leaving the cocoon of my family. But the real regret that you have is about your kids, because they grew up.
And I’ll give you one – little one that happened last week. We’ve been working awfully hard the last year because the economy wasn’t looking that good, and we wanted to do well in this economy. And driving home on Monday evening and I looked around and said, my God, the leaves are falling. It’s fall. Boy, the year has passed.
And then the next day morning, I dropped my daughter off at school, my 15-year-old. And you should know, whenever I’m in town, I drop her off and she gets out of the car and as she goes up the stairs, I’ll say, “Tara, love you, best in the whole world, have a great day.” The first 14 and all that, she’d look at me and say, “Mom, shut up” and she’ll walk away. (Laughter.) Then she got at a stage where she’d just ignore me. She wouldn’t say anything, just hoping I’d shut up. (Laughter.)
And now I knew that – you know, there’s another tradeoff I’ve made because she walked up to me at the door and she said, “Mom, I’m not almost 16, in case you didn’t remember. Don’t give me this ‘love you best in the whole world’ – you know, all that stuff has got to stop.” Now, you see, another year had passed. And deep down inside – of course, she walked to the door and I said, “Tara, I love you best in the whole wide – (laughter) – I’m not going to change. I don’t want to change. I’m too old to change.” (Laughter.)
But think about it. A year had passed. I didn’t realize it had passed. The leaves were falling. And when I pulled out of the driveway in the school, I was crying because I said, my God, where did this year go? What did she do this year? You know, I was consumed with my work and consumed with myself and the job, and the year passed. So right through my life, there’s been these tradeoffs.
MS. BROWN: But do you feel that you – your crime for what you feel may be regret of time that you didn’t spend together, but do you think she feels that way? Or is it more you putting that on yourself?
MS. NOOYI: I don’t know. I don’t know. I think kids tend to be tough and they try to support their moms. You know, I tell you, at about age 12 or 13, the roles started to reverse between mother and daughter. Because now when I look at her and say, “Tara, do you think I should quit my job and stay home?” She’ll say, “Mom, you worked so hard to get there. Dream. Dream big.” This is like mom talking, okay? (Laughter.) My daughter telling me this, so the roles started to reverse. She tucks me into bed. She sends me emails saying, “Are you stressed out? Relax. Life is not that hard.” (Laughter.) So she does all that. Because the roles have reversed somewhat. So that’s the wonderful thing about having daughters; they become the mothers very soon.
Do they regret it? I’m sure they do, Campbell. If they don’t, they’re not little girls. Because I’m sure they wished mom was there when they got home in the evenings. I’m sure they wish mom would show up for school events, like other mothers did, but not wearing a business suit; looking normal. (Laughter.) I am sure they wish mom wouldn’t pull out the Blackberry every time they’re talking to them. I’m sure they wished all that. At the same time, that’s the only mother they know. They don’t know the other good mom who stayed home and -- like my mom. (Laughter.) They don’t know that mom, you see? That’s the good news, bad news. So I think there’s regrets on both sides. I think there are, for sure.
MS. BROWN: Thank you for speaking so honestly about that. (Applause.)
Well, the choices, though – the tradeoffs go well beyond family. I mean, it’s –
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, yes.
MS. BROWN: – there for all of us.
SECRETARY RICE: But I want to say something about the tradeoffs on family. Because I’m going to take on one question that I’m always asked. I’m single, and the question that I’m always asked is: Well, do you think you were working too hard and that’s why you’re single? No.
MS. BROWN: Oh, shoot. Okay, I’ll scratch that one off. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: I actually think it’s because I’ve never met anybody that I wanted to marry and live with. (Laughter.) I think that’s why I’m single. (Applause.)
So – but I – sure, I’ve made tradeoffs. I know I’ve made choices. But you know, when I really think back, I think the choices and the tradeoffs my parents made were more important. My parents were educators. My mother was a schoolteacher. My dad was a high school guidance counselor, athletic director, and later on, went on to be a university administrator. I doubt that between them they ever made more than $60,000 a year, between them, working full time, working nighttime jobs doing the -- you know, the drama club or whatever to make a little bit of money. On that, they managed to give me piano lessons and skating lessons and send me to private school when we moved to Denver to never make me feel that I wanted for any opportunity. And I think those were tradeoffs and choices. I think they could have decided that they wanted to live a comfortable life instead.
And I remember when I was about 20 years old or so, and it finally dawned on me that they had made these sacrifices and these choices, that they had very little left, really, in terms of savings and hadn’t really prepared in that way for their own retirement. And I think they invested everything in me. And those were much tougher tradeoffs and choices than I’ve ever had to make. (Applause.)
MS. BROWN: Do you think there is something – do you think there’s anything – well, I guess more society can be doing, more government can be doing to make it easier to be a working woman or a working mother, that there should be more emphasis or focus on that?
MS. NOOYI: I think there’s a lot more that can be done. I still think childcare at work is not something that is available everywhere. (Applause.) I don’t believe we have taken flex work schedules to the ultimate, still. (Applause.) Technology hasn’t really caught up in all companies. (Applause.) I think leave policies after children are – you know, women give birth; that has not been addressed, still. I think there’s so much that can be done. And it’s got to happen at some point, because if you look at the demographics, if all companies cannot draw from the entire population pool and have to draw only from a small population pool, I don’t think we can keep up our growth. So we need women in the companies. We need the best people, whether they’re women or men. But some of the brightest candidates we interview are the women. So we have to provide an environment where we bring them in, and – I think – I don’t know if it’s government. I think corporations can do a lot, and I think we have to set the example for government to then follow. (Applause.)
MS. BROWN: Have you tried to do that?
MS. NOOYI: Yeah, we have. We actually do a lot. We do – where we don’t provide onsite childcare, we have childcare facilities near our offices which are checked out by us and we provide those facilities. We have a tremendous amount of employee assistance programs – you know, adoption services. We – if children have problems, you know, you can call the employee assistance hotline and we provide counseling services.
MS. BROWN: But as CEO, I mean, do you think – you’re a woman, you’re a working mother. Obviously, I mean, as the big boss, is that a focus for you in a way that companies run by men, it’s just not quite as much of an issue. Do you think it’s so important to have women at those highest levels in corporations in order to recognize the need?
MS. NOOYI: Campbell, I tell you, this is a tough one because, as a CEO, I mean, you’ve got to focus on the CEO first. I have many focus areas. For me to tell you that women’s issues are my primary focus, I’d be lying to you.
MS. BROWN: Right.
MS. NOOYI: However, what we do have is a very senior executive that I have appointed whose only job, his job in terms of looking at a group, is worrying about women’s issues. Just as we have a group worrying about African American issues, worrying about Hispanic issues, we have a women’s issue – a women’s group, and that person focuses on women’s issues. And we make sure that those issues are brought to the CEO’s attention and we address them.
I’ll give you one. We have a group called Luminari that comes to our offices and teaches people how to manage their budget, how to do time management and things like that. We don’t offer that to all of the other groups. We offer it just for the women’s group. So we make sure that we reach out to the women in different ways than we do to the other groups. In fact, we have a special group for women of color, because one thing we have discovered is that women of color, whether they are in the women’s group or the African American group or the Hispanic group, they do need even more special attention because they get discriminated in different ways. So we’ve isolated them and we also give them special attention. We do all of that.
MS. BROWN:You touched on this a little bit right when we started: education. And we were talking earlier about how important that is to you and something you want to focus on in your next life.
SECRETARY RICE: Right. Afterwards, yes.
MS. BROWN: But more and more women today, we know are earning advanced degrees. The downside to some of the research is – there was one report out recently that girls are dropping out of high school at rates almost as high as boys, particularly girls of color. And what struck me is when you and I were talking earlier, you described this as a national security issue.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
MS. BROWN: Education.
SECRETARY RICE: Absolutely.
MS. BROWN: What do you mean by that?
SECRETARY RICE: I think the state of education, K through 12 education in our country, and frankly for underprivileged kids, the appalling state of education is a national security issue. (Applause.) You know, I’ve long been an educator and it breaks my heart that there could be very talented kids who might be the next Nobel Prize winner in the United States in chemistry or the next great composer in America, and they’ll never get discovered because they’re trapped in some public school that is just basically warehousing them. That makes me very, very sad.
But I’ll tell you, as Secretary of State, it makes me terrified. Because I know that if we cannot do better in educating our people – and I mean all of our people – then we are not going to be competitive in an economy, a global economy that is very competitive, where the numbers of engineers and scientists in other countries are outstripping the numbers that we train in the United States several, several fold. And if we can’t compete and if our people can’t compete for the highest level jobs, we’re going to be protectionist, we’re going to turn inward; the United States is not going to lead.
But there’s something more important. You know, I – Charlotte Shultz, George Shultz’s wife, I just ran into backstage, and George Shultz is one of my great mentors. And George told me, he said, “Being Secretary of State is the greatest job in government.” He should have just said, “It’s the greatest job,” because you get to represent this extraordinary country. I really love America for what it is. And you go out and you represent the United States and you recognize that what people respect about the United States – yes, our military strength, yes, our economic power – but really the values that we espouse.
And by that I mean that people really do believe that this is a meritocracy, that you can come here from anyplace, from India or from Africa or from Latin America, whether you are the person who makes your way across the desert to make five dollars instead of fifty cents, or whether you are the founder – one of the founders of Google, Sergey Brin, who comes from Russia and founds Google here. People believe that in America, you really can succeed on merit.
It’s also a part of our national myth. And look, a myth is not something that’s not true. It’s a part of who you are. And what is our national myth? The log cabin. You can be born in a log cabin and you can still be president. But the only thing that makes that true is equal access to education for everybody. It’s the only thing that makes it true. (Applause.)
And you know, in a great multiethnic democracy where we are not bound by blood, where we’re not bound by nationality, where we’re not bound by religion, you can be Christian or Jew or Muslim and – or nothing at all, and be American. You can be of African descent or Mexican descent or Indian descent and be American. The only thing that binds us together is the belief that it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going. And if we can’t keep that true for every American, we’re going to lose who we are, and then we won’t lead. And so it is, for me, the most pressing national security issue. (Applause.)
MS. BROWN: But I can say, on the campaign trail we have not spent a lot of time talking about education this cycle.
SECRETARY RICE: No, and we need to. We need to ask everybody, “What are you going to do?” You know, it’s – some of it is best practices. We were talking about how many K-12 initiatives there are around the country and beginning to get together to share best practices. Some of it is having high standards.
Now, I grew up in segregated schools in Birmingham, Alabama. I did not have a white classmate until we moved to Denver and I was in 10th grade. But in our segregated, not-quite-equal separate schools in Birmingham, we had teachers who bought schoolbooks for their students, if necessary, who stayed after school and tutored in churches in the evenings and on Saturdays, who would go door to door and say to poor parents: You have a smart daughter or a smart son, and that kid belongs in college, and I’m going to find a way for your kid to go to college.
And our teachers told us all the time: Racism is their problem, not yours. You don’t have an excuse. And so I think somehow we’ve got to establish again not pity for children who are being undereducated, but expectations for them. And then we have to give them the tools and the space to deliver on those expectations. And we’re not getting the job done. We’re not. (Applause.)
MS. BROWN: Let me broaden it out because we are very much in, you know, operating in a global world now. And you began your career in India. Obviously, there are going to be different challenges for women who are, you know, in a country that’s rapidly modernizing and becoming more Westernized. I mean, talk about, for you in India and other countries where you do business, signs of progress and lack of progress for women.
MR. NOOYI: It’s mixed. I think the developed world is not an issue, although I’d say that the progress that has been made in the United States for women is still a lot more than I’ve seen in many parts of Western Europe – even Western Europe. I think Africa is still a long ways behind
when it comes to women, and that’s a whole different tragedy. I don’t think it’s worth talking about because it deserves a section on its own.
When you go to Latin America, I think women are slowly coming to major positions. I was in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina the last few weeks, and you are beginning to see a lot of women emerge into major positions, but not as many as you see here in the United States. It’s amazing. I’d say we still are making the most progress here in the United States. Countries like Singapore, countries like China, tremendous progress. Women are in very, very powerful positions. And I think in India, you have some outspoken women like me, but as a country, there’s still a long ways to go to bring women up. So I’d say the record is mixed.
What’s going to change that? I think women have to speak up for women again to change things, and you need to put more people in senior political positions in governments who then make the case for women. And unless that happens, I think the progress in those countries will be very, very slow.
SECRETARY RICE: I agree with Indra on the last point in particular. You know, if I could do one thing in the world, in defense or at fighting poverty and a lot of scourges, I would empower women, because you find that when women are empowered, for instance economically, they bring along not just their family, but a whole village. You find that they train their boys in different ways.
Probably one of the things that I’m most proud of that has happened in the last seven years is education for women in places like Afghanistan. This is a country in which women were not permitted to learn to read. They were not permitted to be educated. Now, why? Why would the Taliban have cared to prevent women from reading? Well, it was the same reason that slaves were not allowed to read in the United States. If you empower people to read and to educate themselves, their horizons become limitless, and you can’t have that in a society that denies that women are really first class human beings. And so as political rights are given to women, I think you will see women insist that those rights to education, to healthcare, to a way to raise their children outside poverty, that those will be extended.
I got a great t-shirt from the women of Kuwait. They got the right to vote a few years ago and they sent me a t-shirt that said, “Half a democracy is no democracy at all,” and I think it’s a great way to think about it.
MS. BROWN: And do you think that the stability, the success of those countries, the stability of democracy in parts of the world where, let’s be frank, it’s teetering, is dependent on women making progress?
SECRETARY RICE: It’s absolutely dependent on women making progress, because you find that women, when they are empowered economically, they do have, for instance, fewer children and they don’t contribute to increased poverty from there. And I mean women who are forced to have children at 12, 13 years old. Well, if you educate that girl instead, you’re going to have a different demographic in that country.
And it simply helps too in places that frankly have attitudes about women that are truly in the dark ages to have women role models in the political system. I’ve been spending, as you might imagine, a lot of time traveling. And we now have a network of women foreign ministers and women leaders who try and advocate on issues like women in warfare, the use of sexual violence against women in warfare. We advocate for women who cannot get access to the justice system for very discriminatory property or child custody laws. And I think having a group like that advocate for women has been important, but the best answer is going to be when women can advocate within those societies themselves. (Applause.)
MS. BROWN: Let me bring it back home and to a topic that we’ve been talking about a lot lately, because we’re only two weeks out from this election. I just want to ask you both – you’ve seen two women in this election from different sides of the political spectrum: Hillary Clinton, who almost won the Democratic nomination; Saran Palin as McCain’s VP. Tell me – just give me your perspective on the role you think women have played in this election cycle and what it bodes for the future in terms of women and their roles in politics more generally.
MS. NOOYI: I’ll just comment, I thought Hillary Clinton was an amazing candidate – (applause) – and she inspired all of us. And this is not a partisan statement. I’m saying that because our company is headquartered in New York; I’ve had a chance to meet Hillary Clinton. She’s been by our offices. I have yet to meet somebody more brilliant than her – (applause) – in this campaign. So she was an amazing lady, completely blew me away. So I’ll let Condi talk about Sarah Palin. (Laughter and applause.)
SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know, what? Look, I’ll talk about both of them. I’ll talk about both of them. (Laughter.) I actually – I really think that what we’re seeing is that it’s no longer going to be a novelty to see women in these positions. I think that’s what’s going to happen. (Applause.) In four years or eight years, if there’s a woman on the ticket, at the top of the ticket or second on the ticket, it’s not going to be a novelty anymore. Because what you are seeing is women moving into the positions, the pool, if you will, from which we recruit vice presidential and presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton was a senator, Senator from New York; Sarah Palin, Governor from Alaska. That’s where we recruit our candidates for political office, the highest political offices.
So while it may seem that it is sudden that you have Sarah Palin and have had Hillary Clinton, it actually isn’t. This has been building as women have moved through state houses into Congress, into Senate, into governorships. And I think you’re never going to have a case again where we say, oh, my goodness, what a novelty, we have women at the top of the political process. And that’s what this really means to me, and I think they’re both terrific. (Applause.)
MS. NOOYI: I say, Condi for President. (Applause.)
MS. BROWN: Okay. We are about to wrap it up. We’re almost out of time. But since you just said, “Condi for President,” let me ask you – (applause) – because a lot of people – (applause) – are curious about your future after these eight years, and what an eight years it’s been. We’ll leave that for a separate discussion. But what’s next for you? And are – is political office any part of your aspirations for the long term?
SECRETARY RICE: No. You know, I didn’t even run for high school council president or anything. (Laughter.) Look, I have had, as I said, the great honor of representing this country. And it really is just extraordinary because you go out and you see from outside the great strengths of America inside.
But as I said, I want to go back – I’ll go back to – I’ll come back to California; I belong west of the Mississippi. (Applause.) I plan to go to Stanford, where I’m on leave. And I will go to Stanford, the Hoover Institution. I want to write a book or two. I want to write a book about American foreign policy in this extraordinary time since 9/11. I also want to write a book about my parents. Every night I get down on my knees and I thank God that I had the parents that I had – (applause) – because they’re the reason I am who I am. (Applause.) And so I want to write about these educational evangelists.
But most of all, I want to work on these issues of educational opportunity. Because I’m really quite serious; I don’t think we will be the country that we have been, either inside or in facing the world, if we don’t find a way to address this problem. And I know that there are a lot of people who are concerned about it, and I’d like to try and help mobilize some national perspective on it that it comes from the perspective of someone who worries about our role in the world as well as who we are here. So that’s what I’m going to do, that and hopefully play the piano again more. (Applause.)
MS. CAMPBELL: Ladies and gentlemen – I know there are one or two here – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Indra Nooyi, thank you so much. (Applause.)
Released on October 23, 2008