In honor of the memory of Madeleine Albright, we unveil an archive interview given to Forbes in November 2012. We present the text in its original form.
In our opinion, Madeleine Albright is the most influential Czech. She won the first year of our ranking of the 50 most influential women in the Czech Republic. You wonder why ? No other woman has held such an important position in modern history, no one else today has such global influence as her.
A mother of three and the first woman in US history to become Secretary of State, she would like to see more women in decision-making positions. “But you have to help each other and not be afraid to raise your voice,” Albright advises in an exclusive interview with women who want to break through.
Do you think women are fairly represented in business, politics, decision-making positions?
They are not, we are not. In the population, women generally make up half or even more than half of the population. If you look at their representation in decision-making positions, it’s definitely not fair. Not even here in America. Four years ago, President Obama signed the Equal Pay, Equal Work Act to ensure that women receive the same pay as men for the same work. And that only happened in 2009!
Why are women not represented fairly?
You know what, I’m asking the same thing. And honestly, I don’t know why. At the beginning of the story, the men hunted lunch somewhere and the women stayed at home. That has changed, of course, but today men may be afraid that women will take their jobs because there aren’t enough of them. But I really don’t know why it’s so hard for women to make a name for themselves.
Many people often think that it is men’s fault that women are not in high positions. But it is also the fault of women. Some of those people upstairs act like queen mothers, are jealous, and don’t want other women. And women still slander themselves and decide why they prefer not to be at home with their children, or vice versa, why they prefer not to work…
I have a special saying: there is definitely a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women. So watch out, ladies. Women just have to help each other. That’s why your rankings are good, show them when women are successful.
What do you think we can do about it?
People often think that when a woman is at the head of the board, that is enough for the company. But we don’t save it. Both men and women need to understand that more women need help. In some countries, like Scandinavia, there are quotas. This is not the case in America, but it will not happen by itself. There must be a plan to improve it.
Do you think quotas are the right solution? Would they help?
In America, we don’t like the word quota. That’s not what we’re doing here. I know that Commissioner Redding talks about it within the European Union and that she wants all the countries of the Union to do so. In the early 1990s, I traveled all over Europe, especially in communist countries. And it turned out that the women wanted to be at home and didn’t want to work to have a normal life.
It surprised me then, not everyone sees it the same way. That’s why I don’t want quotas. But I think society is generally more stable when women are more involved in decision-making.
Would it bring more people to businesses? Why?
I think so. The women work very hard. We have all the possible qualities and skills that men lack. What is certain is that it works better when there are women and men when it is mixed. I don’t want to generalize too much, but women understand better what’s going on there, at lower levels they have a better social feeling. Greater humanity.
You were the first Secretary of State in US history and a top politician, but it’s been fifteen years. How has the place of women in decision-making positions evolved since then?
My granddaughter, when she was seven years old, always asked, what’s so miraculous about Mary’s grandmother for her to be Secretary of State? After all, only girls do this job, right? Well it’s true in his life (Madeleine Albright was replaced by Condoleezza Rice then by Hillary Clinton – editor’s note). So things are changing, we have more senators, governors, businesswomen, but we’re certainly not the farthest in America – there are countries where they have a president.
Not yet with us. In America, we always want to be number one, but we’re not into it. Women and girls come to me and tell me that becoming foreign minister was a motivation for them. Because they are struggling against the “glass ceiling”, they cannot get up.
Did you personally have any problems with that when you were the first woman to hold such a position?
Well, from the beginning, people think that a woman can’t do that at all! Foreign Ministers will not speak to him! On the contrary, foreigners simply took me for the United States. I had more problems here at home. It took me a long time to get to the top. I was a mother, driving children to school. I worked for a senator on the team, I made her coffee, and they wondered how she got so stoned. It wasn’t easy for them either.
You previously worked as US Ambassador to the UN. And this is where you configure the “G7” alternative. What it was?
It was so much fun. When I arrived there in February 1993, I told the assistants to invite all the women to lunch. There were 183 countries there and I expected a lot of people to come. But only six other women arrived, for example from Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica.
We were called G7 and we helped each other. This irritated the other ambassadors very much, and I told them that if you wanted a quick response from Jamaica, for example, send a woman here for you, we agree quickly.
You have been part of various organizations that support women in politics. Does it make sense to create special organizations to support them?
It certainly makes sense. There is a need for an organization that supports women running for office. Because they find it harder to find money. But I’m kind of a dragonfly. I teach and have taught at Georgetown University and I didn’t want to have a special program for women there. People just have to learn to work together.
What advice would you give to women who want to make a name for themselves? Is there anything he must know unconditionally?
Women have to be 100% prepared for what they want to do. The perfect education must be better prepared than men. There are plenty of places in the world for men who are average. But there is no place for the average woman. He just has to work harder. It must be the best.
How do you see it in your daughters, how have they dealt with this problem?
I have three, you know. They were ready. One is a judge, the other is vice-president of the Export-Import Bank, the third is a lawyer and runs a foundation to help abused children. All three succeed in this direction. They are all married and have two children. I’m very proud of them, they’ve made it so they can do what they want.
At one time, they had the best example in the world that it’s okay…
Yeah, we’re taking care of that. I always told them that we were in the world to help and do something good.
What if only women ruled the world?
No, no, I wouldn’t be for that! What makes the world interesting is that men and women work together. I always say to those who would like this that they probably forget what it was like for girls in high school…
I don’t know if it works in the Czech Republic, but people don’t care about it here and it’s a pretty funny and scary example. You know, women are often ashamed to say something when they’re in a meeting, they’re afraid it’s stupid and they’d rather not say anything. And suddenly a guy says the same thing and it’s really smart.
This is why I advise my students to learn to speak during meetings, to have a strong voice and the courage to interrupt the meeting. Don’t raise your hand, stand up and say what you want. Otherwise, they won’t hear you.