Ensuring human rights for women and girls can have a stabilizing effect impact on countries and economies, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Kansas City audience Sunday night.
"Of course I promoted women and girls as an integrated priority within our diplomacy," says Clinton, who was in town as part of a book tour. "But I could tell people's eyes would roll in many places when I said that."
And while Clinton says she sees the rights of women in developing companies as a moral issue, she used a different sales pitch on foreign leaders.
"Economies are less effective, they don't grow as much, and their gross domestic product – the GDP, it's called – isn't as big as it could be" in countries where women are treated like second class citizens, Clinton told moderator Vivien Jennings of Rainy Day Books.
Clinton, who has been promoting her memoir "Hard Choices" about her time in the State Department, says she first became interested in women's work and its impact on the economy of developing countries while touring Africa as first lady in the 1990s. At the time, she says she suspected countries were undervaluing the contributions of women.
Today, she says economists can calculate how much money countries are leaving on the table by denying women rights. There's even a term for it now – "womenomics," coined by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during speeches about his country's stagnant economy.
"He talked about different accounting and what the Central Bank would do. But then, the catchiest part of his remarks was 'We have to encourage more of our educated women to enter the workforce,'" says Clinton.
Clinton, who stepped down as Secretary of State in 2013 after one term, spoke before the sold-out crowd at the Midland for about an hour and a half Sunday. Topics ranged from civil war in Liberia to diplomacy in Pakistan to her mother, Dorothy Rodham.
Many attendees sported buttons pledging to support her in a 2016 presidential run, though Clinton remains noncommittal. A handful of protestors questioning her track record abroad remained outside during the event.