In the past year, we've seen several high-profile displays of feminism across pop culture: from Emma Watson's impassioned speech launching UN Women's HeForShe campaign to Beyonce shutting down the 2014 VMAs in front of a giant LED screen reading "FEMINIST," to Miley Cyrus and Cara Delevingne tirelessly supporting #FreeTheNipple to Amber Rose organizing her own Slut Walk in Downtown Los Angeles. And while the newly energized attention on this issue is definitely progress, it's important to remember that progress aside, when it comes to gender equality, we're still #NotThere yet.
That's the backbone of a new social media awareness effort that The Clinton Foundation's No Ceilings team is launching with MTV's Look Different campaign to illuminate gender bias and the gaps that keep women and girls from full participation around the world.
In advance of the project's launch, MTV News sat down with Clinton Foundation Vice Chair, Chelsea Clinton, to discuss some key issues affecting young people in particular.
School Dress Codes
Even in these early days of the 2015-2016 school year, we're already seeing stories about students being sent home from school for dress code violations. For the vast majority of these situations, those students having their education interrupted are young women and their "crimes" range from exposing their shoulders or collarbones to wearing leggings.
"Sometimes, something that might seem small like a dress code policy, is actually one of the ceilings that we know girls face even if they're not in class," Chelsea said of school dress codes that unfairly target young women and girls. "If they're continually told that what's most important about them is what they're wearing or not wearing to school, what does that do to their self-confidence? What does that do to how they define their own dreams and their own worth and value?"
Many young people feel exactly the same way and have deployed petitions, campaigns, and even taken their complaints directly to their school boards. "I hope that it's an issue that parents and policy makers take seriously," Chelsea adds, "because no girl should be judged by what she chooses to wear or not wear."
Campus Sexual Assault
Another issue affecting young women's education is sexual violence on college campuses across the nation. In fact, 1 in 5 women say they've been sexually assaulted while in college, yet on average, only 12% of student victims report the assault to law enforcement and even less see their assailants convicted for their crimes. The issue is so widespread that as of April 2015, 106 colleges and universities are under federal investigation for sexual assault cases.
But as Chelsea reminds, sexual violence against women is an issue that extends well beyond campuses. "Across the world, 1 in 3 women report being sexually violated or intimidated," she explains. "That's unconscionable. When we talk about ceilings, the real experience or even the threat of violence is a ceiling that women face across the world. It is a tragic reality that knows no color boundaries, no national boundaries, no sexual orientation boundaries. It is something that women face everywhere."
Of course these Title IX investigations are but one facet in the creation of meaningful change in the fight against gender-based violence at universities, but it's going to take a great deal of social change on campuses and some serious policy reform at all levels of the system. "I think whether it's a college campus or whether it's a city or a country," Chelsea adds, "the people in a position of power and authority have an obligation to ensure that young women and young men are protected."
One key initiative for No Ceilings is to ensure that women feel safe and secure in their environment, but that safety is often threatened – with 1 in 3 women reporting that they’ve been abused or sexually assaulted at some point.
Chelsea acknowledged that women of color and transgender people are often even bigger targets. “I think that women who are at the intersection are the most vulnerable,” she said. “We have a real responsibility for recognizing that and ensuring that additional steps are taken to protect women.”
Part of this would mean implanting strict policies to guarantee that women are safe. “[We have] to ensure that schools or work places are aware of those realities and have resources available to women if they're put in uncomfortable situations, so that someone who's just been abused doesn't also have the burden of trying to figure out how to ask and get help."
Women Missing In Leadership Roles
There’s a serious lack of female leadership in the workplace, with only 25 of companies in the Fortune 500 being run by women and less than 5% of those CEOs being women.
Chelsea Clinton told MTV News that the problem starts during girls’ early development.
“We see divergence starting in middle school in terms of ambition and I think that’s [because of a lack of] role models,” she said. “It's really hard to imagine what we can't see – so it's important that your audience can see people that look like them, and not just think innovators look only like Mark Zuckerberg.”
She noted that more emphasis is placed on women’s physical appearance versus their intelligence, and that we’ve seen a decline in the number of women in STEM fields.
“There are lots of places where we haven't made real progress, like on the gender pay gap, but there are some places where we've lost ground and STEM is one of those places,” Chelsea said. “When I graduated from Stanford in the heart of the Silicon Valley in 2001, women were just over 20 percent of computer science graduates. Last year, women were less than 15 percent of computer science graduates.”