A German crowd booed Ivanka Trump on Tuesday after she called her father a “a tremendous champion of supporting families.”
Trump was taking her first crack at diplomacy abroad in her new role as assistant to the president, vowing at an economic conference in Berlin to create “positive change” for women in the United States.
“He encouraged me and enabled me to thrive,” she said on a panel with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “I grew up in a house where there was no barrier to what I could accomplish beyond my own perseverance and my own tenacity.”
Miriam Meckel, editor of the German magazine Wirtschaftswoche, noted the audience’s response of groaning and hissing and asked Ivanka Trump whether her father is actually an “empowerer” of women.
“I’ve certainly heard the criticism from the media and that’s been perpetuated,” Ivanka Trump said on the panel, “but I know from personal experience, and I think the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades when he was in the private sector are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women.”
President Trump was caught on tape in 2005 talking about grabbing women’s genitals without their permission and, in a 2004 interview, called pregnancy an “inconvenience” to employers.
Ivanka Trump, who moved into her own West Wing office last month, advocated for gender equality during the campaign and is now working to overhaul the nation’s child-care system. Her Germany appearance comes a week before the release of her advice book, “Women Who Work.”
Her father has called her the mastermind behind his paid maternity leave proposal, unveiled last September, but the White House has made no moves on the family leave front since Trump took office.
The U.S. position on paid maternity leave stands in sharp contrast with Germany, where mothers are entitled to take six weeks of paid time-off before the birth of a child and eight weeks after an infant arrives. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not offer any paid leave to new parents.
Ivanka Trump had hoped to use her appearance in Berlin to talk about boosting women entrepreneurs. But some female entrepreneurs in the United States, however, say the White House is making their jobs even harder.
Businesses owned by women tend to face a disadvantage when it comes to expanding into foreign markets — and experts say Trump’s talk on trade and immigration has made it harder for them to pursue international opportunities.
The president has threatened, for example, to slap steep tariffs on goods from China and Mexico. He has asked for a review of the high-skilled worker visa, which tech companies rely on for talent. His travel ban on people from predominantly Muslim nations risked straining relations with Middle Eastern countries and America’s democratic allies.
All of this can impede an entrepreneur’s step into internationalization, or the act of growing beyond the American border, said Nathalie Molina Nino, a serial entrepreneur and founder of Brava, a holding company that bankrolls start-ups that benefit women.
“Women are at a particular disadvantage,” Molina Nino said, “because unlike large, well-funded companies, women-owned businesses are less equipped to throw money at issues like this.”
Advancing into foreign markets is expensive, she said. Entrepreneurs need cash for shipping, research, travel and hiring more employees. Consulting experts to keep up with today’s unpredictable business climate adds to the cost. And female entrepreneurs, Molina Nino noted, generally have less spending power.
Venture capitalists poured $58.2 billion into companies with male founders last year, while women received a comparatively measly $1.46 billion, according to data from the venture capital database PitchBook. (Less than 10 percent of VC-funded start-ups are run by women, according to the Harvard Business Review, and firms owned by women make up 38 percent of the business population.)
Still, female entrepreneurs in the United States are better off than those in most other countries, studies find.
This year, Mastercard’s Index of Women Entrepreneurs put the United States in third place for female entrepreneurs, behind New Zealand and Canada.
The authors, however, highlighted a persistent challenge: “In the United States where the underlying entrepreneurial conditions and women’s advancement outcomes are among the best in the world,” they wrote, “women’s entrepreneurial advancement is held back by the lack of internationalization opportunities.”
Fiona Murray, the associate dean of innovation at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, said the uncertainty clouding international relations, driven by Trump’s “America first” rhetoric, could exacerbate the problem. She pointed to Trump’s executive order last week calling for a review of the H1-B visas for highly skilled workers.
“That makes it difficult for any entrepreneur to think about an appropriate internationalization strategy,” Murray said. “Can you hire the people you need to hire? They need highly specialized talent, and that talent comes from all over the world.”