Clinton Global Initiative

Clinton Global Initiative: The unofficial agenda

Hillary Clinton speaks at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Although the official theme of this year's Clinton Global Initiative meeting was "Mobilizing for Impact," the unofficial theme was clearly more about improving the economic and political status of women around the world.

Panel after panel of the conference, which was held in New York and wrapped up Thursday evening, turned to the subject. Wednesday's session about "women as decision-makers in the global economy" quite naturally focused on females in the workplace. But, perhaps surprisingly,Thursday's panel, "Game Changers in Tech," also found its way to women. Nearly every panel was perfectly gender-balanced.

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Perhaps the biggest news coming out of the meeting was Hillary Clinton announcing plans to lead a review of what progress has been made on issues affecting women and girls since the 1995 United Nations conference on women in Beijing. Clinton led the U.S. delegation to that conference.

Clinton said the review would take two years and result in a report that would "chart a path forward to achieve full and equal participation" of females in society. The report would be timed to match the 20 year anniversary of the Beijing conference.

On the same day that Clinton announced her review, Vital Voices Global Partnership announced a pledge of $1.5 billion over five years to advance small and medium-sized women-owned businesses in the global supply chain.

Vital Voices is a nongovernmental organization backed by two dozen or so businesses. The hope is that the money will help 15,000 non-U.S.-based women-owned firms.

Wave of entrepreneurialism

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the focus on women. One cynical young woman I spoke with Thursday afternoon said that the real purpose of the conference was the promotion of the interests of one woman in particular.

"And her name is Clinton," she said.

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That's really unfair. While it's true that Clinton's report would conveniently wrap up in time for the 2016 presidential election, there's no reason to doubt her genuine passion for advancing the right of women.

And, in any case, there are at least two women named Clinton at CGI: Hillary and Chelsea.

By CNBC's John Carney. Follow him on Twitter @Carney.