Hillary Clinton Urges Gender Equality at Silicon Valley Women's Conference

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General view of the atmosphere during Lead On: Watermark Silicon Valley Conference For Women at Santa Clara Convention Center on Feb. 24, 2015. (Courtesy LeadOn. Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton  knows her audience: At a women's leadership conference in Silicon Valley Tuesday, she hit hard on gender inequality and family leave policies, leaning on a long list of statistics to underscore her points.

Clinton -- a former U.S. senator, secretary of state and first lady -- is widely expected to announce a 2016 bid for president, but she wouldn't answer the question Tuesday, telling journalist Kara Swisher it would come "in good time."

Clinton told an enthusiastic audience of about 5,000 (most of them women) that she is a list-maker and still has a few items to check off that list before deciding on a run.

But she said that having a woman in the White House would make a difference, noting that in the 1970s and '80s, when there were few women in Senate, the federal government didn't conduct medical tests on female subjects.

"Big trials on breast cancer did not include female subjects -- then along came women like Barbara Mikulski and they changed that," she said.

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During a 30-minute speech before her Q&A with Swisher, Clinton ticked off data point after data point to make her point: That there's still a lot of work to be done on gender issues, particularly in Silicon Valley.

"You live it every day, you bump your heads on the glass ceiling in the tech industry," she said, noting that only 11 percent of executives in Silicon Valley and 20 percent of software developers are women. "You can literally count on one hand the number of women who have been able to come here and turn their dreams into billion-dollar businesses. ... We are going backwards in a field that's supposed to be all about moving forward."

Clinton expanded the message beyond gender, however, noting the U.S. as a country still lacks paid family leave and affordable child-care options.

She also got personal, talking about how these issues became more real to her with the birth of her first granddaughter last year. And she garnered applause and laughter while recalling her experience with maternity leave decades ago.

"When I was a young lawyer and was pregnant, I worked in a small law firm and there was no family leave policy. It had never come up before. I was the first woman to be a partner in the law firm," she said. "So nobody said anything -- I just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger ... and some men would avert their eyes when I walked down the hall."

After she gave birth, Clinton said, the firm's lead partner called and congratulated her and asked when she was coming back to work.

"I said maybe in four months," she said, adding that he appeared shocked.

"He didn't know."