Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said he has noticed that few hedge-fund managers attend his 4-day conference aimed at linking philanthropists with groups working to spur economic development around the world.
“There should be more,” Clinton said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt.”
Clinton said he knew of only two hedge-fund firms represented at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting this year, which President Barack Obama will address today. He didn’t name the firms.
The initiative this year so far has spurred 291 commitments valued at about $6 billion. Actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher today announced a campaign called “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” that their DNA Foundation is undertaking to raise awareness of child sex slavery. Procter & Gamble Co. Chief Executive Officer Bob McDonald on Tuesday announced plans to distribute two billion packets of a water-purification product that Clinton said could save one life every hour.
The former president has focused the meeting largely on ways to improve the standing of women and girls around the world.
“It’s clear that in every culture, without regard to region of the world or religion or ethnicity, once you put all the girls in school, give all the young women access to the labor market, the economy grows and the modernization of the country takes hold,” he said in the interview.
Some progress is already being made. Women now represent more than half the students in higher education in Saudi Arabia, Clinton said, after the Saudi king set up the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Bahrain has set up an economic commission where women are fully represented, Clinton added.
‘A Big Deal’
“Everybody has figured out that if women are half your country, you can’t exactly expect to make the most of your future if they’re not a part of it,” Clinton said. “So it’s a big deal.”
Women make up about two-thirds of the illiterate people in the world and 55 percent of out-of-school children.
“It sent chills up in my spine that we were talking about actually stoning a woman to death in the 21st century.”
Clinton said supporting programs for women and girls in countries including Afghanistan may antagonize Islamic fundamentalists who spurn women’s rights. Still, the program must proceed.
“You can’t not do the right thing because somebody may take it and twist it,” he said. “You have to do what you think is right.”
Wall Street Support
Clinton said the CGI has had a “a fair amount” of support from Wall Street firms such as Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank, which are represented at this year’s meeting at Manhattan’s Sheraton Hotel New York.
Morgan Stanley said Tuesday that it will be a founding partner of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a private-public partnership that seeks to stop the use of open fires for cooking. Such fires cause respiratory diseases and mostly affect women and children. Last year, Goldman, Sachs & Co. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein was part of a panel exploring ways to empower women and girls around the world.
Clinton said U.S. business should also pay attention to the lack of women at the top. On Wall Street, where no firms are headed by women and few women are in the executive suites, “they ought to correct that,” he said. “I think part of it is there has been so much money involved in finance in the last 10 years that a lot of people were holding on for all they were worth because there was a lot of money involved.
“There were almost no women involved in the terrible (financial) meltdown we had,” Clinton said. “The reason is because there are almost no women in higher posts at this very visible sector.”