Opinion

JOAN VENNOCHI

What was Ivanka Trump doing on that panel anyway?

BERLIN, GERMANY - APRIL 25: Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, Ivanka Trump, daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagard and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speak on stage of the W20 conference on April 25, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. The conference, part of a series of events in connection with Germany's leadership of the G20 group of nations this year, focuses on women's empowerment, especially through entrepreneurship and the digital economy. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Ivanka Trump (second from left) spoke on a panel with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde, and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

Before answering for her father’s behavior toward women, Ivanka Trump should answer for herself — and why anyone should consider her a champion of female empowerment.

The moderator of a panel discussion in Berlin in which Trump participated got it right when she asked the president’s daughter whom she was representing – President Trump, the American people, or her own business interests. There’s good reason for confusion.

The other women on the panel — German Chancellor Angela Merkel, International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde, and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland — were there because of their status as world leaders. Except for a monarchy, you don’t inherit that. You earn it.

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Trump’s inclusion on the panel was a mere accident of birth and just as insulting to women as the photo of her sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office. She was there because her father is president, not because of anything she has done strictly on her own.

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Her fashion line —launched in 2007, when she was 25 — developed into a global enterprise because of the celebrity of the family name and the wealth behind it. Ivanka Trump dresses and shoes are produced in Asia and Africa, where workers, many of whom are women, are paid peanuts. According to The Washington Post, a recent audit revealed that workers at a factory in China used by the company that holds an exclusive license to produce Ivanka Trump clothing worked nearly 60 hours a week to earn wages of little more than $62 a week.

Like the rest of her family, she personifies the adage attributed to former football player and coach Barry Switzer: “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” As Ivanka’s brother Eric Trump recently told Forbes, “We might be here because of nepotism, but we’re not still here because of nepotism. You know, if we didn’t do a good job, if we weren’t competent, believe me, we wouldn’t be in this spot.” That’s being so blinded by privilege that you just can’t see how opportunity afforded at birth sets you up for life.

During that Berlin women’s empowerment panel, the crowd groaned and hissed when Ivanka Trump described Donald Trump as “a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive.” Of course, she offered a daughterly defense, saying, “He encouraged me and enabled me to thrive. I grew up in a house where there was no barrier to what I could accomplish beyond my own perseverance and my own tenacity.’’

There was no difference in treatment, she said, “between me and my brothers.” She also said that the “thousands” of women who have worked with and for Trump in the private sector “are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women and their ability to do the job as well as any man.”

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If true, that private sector conviction has not made its way into the Trump White House, which is dominated by white men. The women in Trump’s cabinet occupy lower-ranking positions. When Trump met last month with the House Freedom Caucus to discuss health care plans, including those that affect women’s health benefits, a photo showed no women around the table.

Ivanka Trump is one woman now at the table, with an official title — “assistant to the president.” She’s also the designated champion of child care and family leave policies. Responding to criticism that the proposal Trump discussed during the 2016 campaign would do little to help working class families, the Trump administration is reportedly working to fix that by revising the formula.

If that happens, then she could go on a panel and talk about it.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.