Ivanka Trump on Wednesday pushed business leaders to change their attitudes toward women at an Indian summit where she has drawn mixed reviews amid criticism over her White House role and clothes brand.
US President Donald Trump's eldest daughter stole the show at the summit in Hyderabad, where Indian officials feted the 36-year-old presidential adviser with a grand reception usually reserved for heads of state.
Trump, in her biggest foreign mission yet, urged India to seize the untapped potential in women and promoted growing ties between the US and the South Asia powerhouse in a keynote speech on Tuesday before Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
She returned to the theme Wednesday, stressing businesses needed to stop thinking about gender considerations in the workplace as ‘women's issues’.
‘We are half the population so we need to start thinking about them as critical issues. We're seeing an explosion in women entrepreneurs,’ Trump said.
Many attendees at the three-day Global Entrepreneurship Summit embraced her message, including calls for India to boost its woefully low rate of female employment in the fast growing economy.
‘She is one of the most powerful women in the world at the moment so whatever she says does have an impact,’ said Indian social entrepreneur Nishita Manne.
The tech hub of Hyderabad, home to the Indian operations of Google, Facebook and Amazon, was bowled over by Trump's star power, decking the city in festive lights, colourful murals and billboards bearing her image.
‘Ivanka Trump has a rockstar quality. She oozes glamour and class,’ 19-year-old student Raj Shekhar told AFP in the southern Indian city.
‘She has lit up our city with her presence. She has put Hyderabad on the global map.’
- Too much politics - The visit was clouded by US media reports questioning Trump's clothing line and its supply chain as well as a snub by Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, who has reportedly refused to send senior staff with Trump to India.
Trump had ‘failed to address the brutal reality (that) clothes and shoes produced by her brand's suppliers, which outsource all their production overseas, are often manufactured under abusive conditions,’ Robert Weissman, head of US-based nonprofit Public Citizen, posted on Twitter.
Others questioned Trump's credentials to lead such a summit, disapproving of some overt political messaging about her father's presidency in scripted remarks.
‘I felt she has been talking more about politics than the real issues that women entrepreneurs have to face. We are not interested in American politics or her father's policies,’ Norma Uazengisa, an entrepreneur from Namibia, told AFP.
A US businesswoman, who asked not to be named, said: ‘I feel I can't relate to her as an entrepreneur because I don't think she has faced any real obstacles in her life.’
But start-up founder Upasana Makati said it was crucial to ‘focus on the positives and leave aside the controversies for once’.
‘Her coming here means everyone is talking about women and entrepreneurship. A dialogue has been set in motion which in itself is a great start,’ she told AFP.
Trump will leave India later Wednesday after a tour of a historic fort built by medieval rulers on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
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