BERLIN — Ivanka Trump drew groans and hisses Tuesday from an audience in Berlin while defending her father’s attitude toward women, but she brushed it aside as “politics” during her first overseas trip as a White House adviser.
Appearing on a high-powered panel at a conference to push for more support for women in business, Trump also said she was still trying to define her place in her father’s administration.
“I am rather unfamiliar with this role as well, as it is quite new to me, it’s been a little under 100 days,” she said.
Trump has been a vocal advocate for policies benefiting working women and vocational training. But she also has faced criticism in the United States, particularly from those who think she has done little to temper her father’s conservative agenda.
Sharing a stage with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and others, Trump was asked by the moderator whom she was representing — President Donald Trump, the American people, or her own business interests.
“Certainly not the latter,” Trump said,
As Trump described her father as “a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive,” she drew scattered groans and hisses from the audience, prompting moderator Miriam Meckel to press her for a response.
“You hear the reaction from the audience, so I need to address one more point: Some attitudes toward women your father has publicly displayed in former times might leave someone questioning whether he is such an empowerer for women,” said Meckel, the editor of a business magazine and a professor of corporate communications at a Swiss university. “Are things changing?”
Trump replied: “I’ve certainly heard the criticism from the media, and that’s been perpetuated.”
She added that her own personal experience and the fact that “thousands” of women have worked with and for Donald Trump for decades 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.”
“He encouraged me and enabled me to thrive,” Trump said. “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, she stressed, “no difference between me and my brothers. And I think as a business leader you saw that, and as a president you will absolutely see that.”
Talking later to a small group of reporters, Trump said she was unfazed by Meckel’s direct questions in a public forum.
“I’m used to it. It’s fine,” she said, and also shrugged off the audience’s reaction.
“Politics is politics, as I’m learning, and there are many different viewpoints and people with different options and perspectives,” she said.
Trump, who promoted child care and family leave policies during her father’s campaign, also told reporters that child care “is going to be part of comprehensive tax reform.”
Before the event, the president tweeted that he is “proud of @IvankaTrump for her leadership on these important issues.”
The 35-year-old Trump stepped away from both running her fashion brand and from an executive role at the Trump Organization to become an unpaid White House adviser, but she continues to own her lifestyle brand, which allows her to profit off her rising profile and has prompted criticism from ethics experts.
She said she was “humbled to be here with so many formidable leaders” and would bring their advice and knowledge back to her father.
“This is very early for me; I’m listening, I’m learning, I’m defining the ways in which I think that I’ll be able to have an impact,” Trump said.
During Merkel’s visit to Washington in March, she organized a discussion with the German leader, her father, and U.S. and German executives about how companies can better train workers.
On Tuesday’s panel, she applauded a suggestion for a special fund to be created to help female entrepreneurs secure international funding, adding that more needs to be done to help in the U.S.
“We are not where we need to be,” she said.
Later, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser gave Trump a tour of a Berlin training centre run by the German industrial conglomerate. Germany is proud of its vocational training system, and Trump has said she hopes to learn from German successes.
Siemens said it has some 12,000 young people worldwide, including 9,000 in Germany, in programs that combine study with practical training.
Before heading to a formal dinner, Trump visited the capital’s memorial to the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis. Trump converted to Judaism herself ahead of her 2009 marriage to Jared Kushner, also a White House adviser.
During the 25-minute visit, Trump walked slowly through the field filled with concrete slabs. She was accompanied by U.S. Embassy personnel and a strong police guard to keep curious tourists and others at a distance.
She paused occasionally to look at the slabs, meant to symbolize the chaos of the Holocaust, and donned sunglasses before emerging on the other side of the monument to a crush of cameras and onlookers.