The Drum Awards for Marketing - Entry Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Hillary Clinton Barack Obama NSA

Countries must break down barriers for women to grow economies quicker says Hillary Clinton's former senior advisor for innovation


By Stephen Lepitak | -

November 6, 2013 | 5 min read

Countries must break down "barriers" for women in business and entrepreneurship to grow their economies at a faster pace, according to Hillary Clinton's former senior advisor for innovation, Alec Ross.

Speaking at the FT Innovate conference in London, Ross discussed four observations that he learned while working for US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, over a four year period. Firstly, he proclaimed data to have become the "raw material" of the Data Age, in contrast with land and iron from past ages.

"In last five to seven years we have made the pivot from land being the material of our economic base, to iron to data," he stated before quoting the late Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, when he said that "empires of the future are the empires of the mind."

This led him to reveal his views that the number of innovation hubs will grow in the coming years from a handful such as California, London and Scandinavia, to between between 12 and 20 locations as constantly connected and tech savvy Millennials mature to become professionals and entrepreneurs.

"In just about all countries on planet Earth there is shifting power from hierarchies such as governments and large media companies to citizens...information companies are facilitators of that change... what that means to me is that there isn't going to be one place where the next great innovations come from."

The former Ancient History major, then quoted another late British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, when he said: "success is the child of audacity," in terms if entrepreneurship. He finally stated that he had become "a radical feminist" from working with Clinton in Government.

"I've travelled to too many countries where women do two thirds of the work for one third of the pay and make less than three per cent of the land. In the most advanced societies and the least advanced societies, and all of those in between, the single best economic strategy, the single best business strategy is that which reduces is that which reduces barriers if full participation of women in the economy, in firms and entrepreneurship," he said.

He then cited research by Goldman Sachs that claimed if APAC countries made basic changes that reduced full barriers to full participation in entrepreneurship and the economy, it would increase household income on average by 14 per cent by 2020.

"The same study projected increase in GDPs in the Eurozone by nine per cent if same changes were made here," he added. "There is no austerity programme, no investment programme, no programme being contemplated in Brussels, London or anywhere else that would produce nine per cent growth.

"50 per cent of our work forces and entrepreneurs are women - and even in the most sophisticated environments, whether we acknowledge it or not, there are these enormous barriers, social barriers, financial barriers and others that are inhibiting investment and growth," he continued, explaining that he was in the process of writing a book about industries of the future and that he believed that by 2025, the countries that will have "done best" will be those they have figured out how to "create more space for women within their economies."

Ross also referenced the ongoing controversy over the revelations around the NSA spying,and Google's reaction earlier this week to it being linked to its activities.

"Google is very angry right now with the administration for allegations that their data centres had been hacked by the NSA. Eric Schmidt spoke out two days ago and he did not sound happy about it. The US government is a very big place and those relationships will be segregated agency to agency and Google is very pissed off with the NSA but I don't know that they are pissed off with Barack Obama, the State department and everything else. You do get into muddy ground when you conflate private industry and the goals and objectives of private industry with public goods. You have to be very elegant about such things," he stated.

"There are hundreds of years of history that show that when the State conflates its interests with private interests, going back to trade with India or the British Empire, things can get fairly complicated."

Alongside his writing, Ross also serves as an advisor to investors, corporations and Government leaders on geopolitics, markets and disruptive technology.

Hillary Clinton Barack Obama NSA

More from Hillary Clinton

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +