Chelsea Clinton was thoughtful and candid during her conversation with ELLE editor-at-large Rachael Combe for this month’s cover story. Their discussion topics ranged from if she’d like Charlotte’s grandmother to be the first female president of the United States to the pressures she feels as a woman in a leadership role to how she influences her parents on topics of national importance such as gay rights to what it’s like to ride the subway and go the grocery store as, well, Chelsea Clinton. She talked passionately about motherhood and her 7-month-old daughter Charlotte—along with her other baby, the No Ceilings Full Participation Report—and the happy place in which she finds herself, finally writing her own story as a mother, wife, advocate, and, yes, the beloved daughter of two of the most powerful people on the planet.
In her May editor’s letter, ELLE Editor-in-Chief Robbie Myers writes: “There is something innately regal about Chelsea—a kind of grace that doesn’t seem practiced, or trotted out just for public consumption. She’s a person of substance for sure, a young woman who, while measured in her manner, has a fierceness of conviction, and a calling to make the world a better place.”
No Ceilings is emblematic of the work Chelsea says she felt called to do. It was an idea she and her mother dreamed up together, looking back at the United Nations’ World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, where Hillary, then first lady, made her famous declaration that “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” Chelsea says she wanted to use the 20th anniversary of that historic event to provide perspective on the status of women’s rights, and last month she was able to do just that as she officially released the No Ceilings Full Participation Report at an event in New York City, alongside her mother and Melinda Gates (The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined forces with the No Ceilings initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation to create the report).
On the importance of having a woman president…
ELLE: I was pregnant with my eldest daughter when your mother ran in 2008. I remember feeling that extra intensity you’re talking about and being really frustrated when people said that it didn’t matter if we had a female president, that it wouldn’t make any real change, that it was just symbolic. What do you think?
CC: We’ve made real progress on legal protections for women, but in no way are women at parity to men in our country in the workplace. And if we look in the political sphere, it is challenging to me that women comprising 20 percent of Congress is treated as a real success. Since when did 20 percent become the definition of equality? And so when you ask about the importance of having a woman president, absolutely it’s important, for, yes, symbolic reasons—symbols are important; it is important who and what we choose to elevate, and to celebrate. And one of our core values in this country is that we are the land of equal opportunity, but when equal hasn’t yet included gender, there is a fundamental challenge there that, I believe, having our first woman president—whenever that is—will help resolve. And do I think it would make a substantive difference? Yes, we’ve seen again and again, when women have been in positions of leadership, they have had different degrees of success versus their male counterparts, historically being able to build more consensus so that decisions have longer-term effects, whether in economic investments or in building social capital. Who sits around the table matters. And who sits at the head of the table matters, too.
All excerpts are from the May 2015 issue of ELLE. Pick up the issue on newsstands to read the full story.
Photo Credit: Paola Kudacki for ELLE