Top of the agenda of the W20 summit in Berlin today was how working women can better balance family and work.
So perhaps it was inevitable that the first question for Ivanka Trump – a woman accused of mixing business and family interests in ways the White House has rarely seen – should have focused on alleged conflicts of interest.
What exactly did being the “first daughter of the United States” entail, asked the panel’s moderator, journalist Miriam Meckel.
“Who do you represent, Ivanka? Your father, the American people or your business?”
“Well certainly not the latter,” Trump answered quickly.
Then added, “Speaking as an entrepreneur…”
She was, she said, “certainly quite unfamiliar” with her new role.
“I am listening and I am learning and I am defining ways in which I think I will be able to have an impact,” Trump said.
Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that Trump would appear at the event, on a panel alongside the world’s most influential women, such as Angela Merkel, Christina Lagarde and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.
The gathering of female business leaders was intended to help set the agenda for July’s G20 of world leaders.
For the political aspect of her visit, Trump said that she would “bring advice and knowledge back to my father”.
That may well have been Merkel’s calculation when she slipped an invitation to Donald Trump’s daughter during her White House visit last month.
Back then, President Trump was accused of outright nepotism for seating his daughter next to one of the most influential politicians in the world at a panel debate on workforce development.
The German chancellor seemed determined to make the American guest feel welcome, nodding at her encouragingly every time she took the mic.
The audience was in a different mood. When Trump described her father as a “tremendous champion of supporting families”, there were boos and hisses.
Meckel, the moderator, said some of the attitudes Trump’s father had displayed in the past cast doubt on whether he really empowered women.
“I’ve certainly heard the criticism from the media,” Trump replied. “But I know from personal experience – and the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father are testimony to his enormous belief in women’s potential and the ability to do the job as well as any men.
“As a daughter I know he encouraged me and enabled me to thrive. I grew up in a house where there were no barriers.”
Finding herself on the back foot, she praised Merkel for passing “unequal pay legislation” – something that “we should all be looking at”.
Under the draft law passed in Germany in January, workers in companies with 200 employees or more will be legally entitled to information on what criteria they are paid under.
How Trump squared such a law with her desire to see “regulatory burdens lifted” in the US remained unexplored.
Asked whether the panel considered themselves a feminist, Trump put her hand up.
Trump, the second of three children from the US president’s first marriage, arrived at Berlin’s Tegel airport shortly after 8am. A limousine took her to the Adlon hotel in front of the Brandeburg Gate and then on to the US embassy, a two-minute walk.
It remains unclear what exactly Ms Trump’s role is within her father’s White House. She joined her father’s business a year after leaving university. Her own business consists largely of marketing products trading on her father’s name.
She became an “unpaid assistant” to the president in March, and the allegations of conflicts of interest became even more serious when it was revealed she had been granted trademarks in China on the day that President Xi visited the US.
She and her husband Jared Kushner are seen as increasingly influential.
Who were the other women on the panel?
Angela Merkel: The German chancellor is arguably Europe’s most powerful leader and has been active in politics since the late 1980s, when she completed her doctorate in quantum chemistry. She has been in power since 2005 and is seeking re-election later this year.
Christine Lagarde: The head of the IMF is the first woman in the role and previously served as France’s finance minister for four years. Before that she spent more than two decades working in law. She also has a number of masters degrees.
Queen Maxima of the Netherlands: The Argentinean-born royal worked as a senior executive for some of the world’s top banks before meeting and marrying King Willem-Alexander. She is also a UN Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development.
Chrystia Freeland: Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs studied Russian history and literature at Harvard and has a master’s in Slavonic studies from Oxford. The author of two books, she turned to politics after a successful career as a journalist.
Juliana Rotich: Kenyan-born Rotich used to be executive director for Ushahidi, an election mapping platform which was used to track voter intimidation in the US election. She now describes herself as a strategic advisor and entrepreneur.
Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller: President and chairwoman of technology company Trumpt, she holds a doctorate in philology.
Anne Finucane: Ms Finucane is vice-president at Bank of America, and was named as one of the 50 most powerful women in the world last year.