Melania, Ivanka Trump promote women's empowerment abroad

Ivanka Trump attended a roundtable on women and economics in Saudi Arabia while the first lady visited a school and an all-women business center.
3:00 | 05/22/17

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Transcript for Melania, Ivanka Trump promote women's empowerment abroad
Right now we'll move on to president trump's first trip overseas. First lady and Ivanka Trump taking the stage as they travel and Cecilia Vega is traveling with the first family in Jerusalem. Good morning, Cecilia. Reporter: Hey, George, good morning to you. Two days in Saudi Arabia and president trump never once publicly mentioned the issue of human rights. His aides say he pressed leaders privately behind the scenes. Speaking to that room packed with Muslim leaders, president trump made his message clear. We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be or how to worship. Reporter: It was Melania trump who sent a different kind of message stepping off air force one without a head scarf. In this religiously conservative count where it can be seen as a sign of disrespect the Saudis welcomed her with open arm, a far cry from first lady Michelle Obama whose bare head sparked controversy in 2015. Among her critics at the time, Donald Trump who tweeted, we have enough enemies. Both the first lady and first daughter met with local women during their trip. Ivanka Trump telling a group of leaders their country's progress is encouraging but there's still a lot of work to be done. At an all women business center Melania trump was asked about work/life balance. Her response, you need to balance and find the time. But outside in the capital of Riyadh we saw the harsh reality. As a woman in Saudi Arabia I wouldn't be allowed to go into this door at a McDonald's. I would have to go through this side that says family section. Completely segregated. There is a wall that keeps the women separate from the men. And night. One of the basic rights that women don't have, they're not legally allowed to drive. Most rely on a driver or even Uber. Even if president trump didn't publicly address the plight of women in Saudi Arabia, it was part of his visit anyway. Country star Toby Keith held a free concert. American flags lined the stage but in the audience men only. Women not allowed. And this photo of a sea of men at a technology event the president attended sparked controversy online. A Saudi official fired back with a photo of his own saying the center does have women here on the second floor. Yeah, women on the second floor there in that building. So, again, the president and his senior advisers tell us that the strategy for him was to press these issues very directly behind the scenes, George. They say his approach is to raise these issues quietly and to expect results. Okay, Cecilia, thanks very much. Let's talk now to Anita Mcbride who served as chief of staff to first lady Laura bush, thanks for joining us this morning. You prepared for trips like this in the past but this one really unique, a high high-profile role for the first lady and first daughter. Yes, and isn't the president lucky to have them as added surrogates and advocates for him on this trip? It is an important trip and to start in Saudi Arabia, we know, of course, it's the most gender segregated country in the world but they are making reforms and they're doing it on their own timetable and I remember king Abdullah saying that to Mrs. Bush in a private meeting that he had with her, this has to be done according to their norms and culture. And the diversification of their economy moving away from oil has allowed women to enter the workplace and to contribute to their economy and that helps to give them a seat at the table incrementally and I think that's one thing the first lady and both Ivanka Trump alluded to in their visits yesterday. Right, they did speak out about women's empowerment but some critics say they didn't go far enough. You know what, I think there was one point Cecilia said in her piece, the president was not there to lecture and Americans really shouldn't be there to lecture but to push the point on human rights and women's rights if it's done quietly. That is appropriate, George and, again, it takes time for these changes to happen and they are and you heard the president of the world bank mention yesterday too that even this women's economic empowerment fund is taking off even a lot faster than he predicted and that is something that will help and contribute to women in Saudi Arabia. We did see the president trump criticize first lady Michelle Obama for not wearing a head scarf. He shouldn't have done that he shouldn't have done that, again, he was not steeped in the issues of protocol. He is not a politician and not a diplomat and he's learning and clearly this is a great example of that and robin knows because she traveled with us in 2007 with Mrs. Bush. None of us wore head scarfs and we were talking about issues that were very edgy at the time, breast cancer, no Saudi woman or man mentioned that word in public so, again, these steps are moving slowly. I remember being at the hotel with Mrs. Bush and I went to work out and I didn't know that there was a workout for the women. I went to the big gym. Uh-oh. They came and got me and said, no, you have to go to another one and part of me wanted to speak out and part of me was I'm there with Mrs. Bush. I know what you're talking about but I did as myself go and talk to people but I could not do as much as I wanted to. Right. As a western@ women we get back up on that but, again, I think even in the time since we were there, robin, the steps are coming slowly. Women are able to vote in local elections. King Abdullah who you had met with us and Mrs. Bush really was committed to reforms but a timetable of their choosing, not ours. I remember that. Anita Mcbride, thanks very much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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