APEC Senior Officials Meeting I: The Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation, Committee of the Whole

Melanne Verveer
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues 
Washington, DC
March 9, 2011

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

I am so pleased to join all of you to talk about an important strategy for job creation and economic growth in the region.

In December 2009, I participated in the APEC Forum in Japan, where I talked about women driving economic growth. The United States then went on to work with Japan to host the first Women Entrepreneurship Summit, which took place in Gifu, Japan on October 1st.

I wanted to thank my Japanese colleagues again, especially METI and JETRO officials, for their leadership. It was the first ever APEC high-level and high-profile public private partnership to promote women’s entrepreneurship in the region. Women entrepreneurs from 21 economies came to Gifu to discuss very practical ways to improve both capacity building programs and access to capital, technology, and markets, which will assist women in starting and scaling-up businesses as well as contributing towards economic growth more easily.

What was started in Japan represents a timely and essential focus on a key aspect of economic growth – one that we must continue to focus on for the prosperity of the 21 economies of the region. Unless women’s potential and talents are fully tapped, the Asia-Pacific region will not enjoy sustainable and balanced growth.

The 21 economies of the region make up nearly 60% of the total global economic output. Yet a UN study calculates that by not tapping the potential of women, the region is being shortchanged by between $42-47 billion in lost GDP annually. The CEO of the International Finance Corporation has called the gender gap in economic participation “the biggest market failure.”

I believe that we as government officials have a responsibility to examine our Trade, economic and social policies and to work to create a more enabling environment for women’s economic participation. Smart businesses already recognize that they will be far more competitive if they remove gender barriers in their operations.

As this year’s Gender Focal Point Network chair, I am committed to galvanizing support from our most senior leaders to demonstrate the United States’ commitment, to fully utilize women’s talents for this region’s growth.

This year, we are hosting the APEC Women and the Economy Summit in San Francisco from September 14-17, 2011. This four-day summit will include APEC’s tradition of hosting hundreds of private sector women entrepreneurs and business leaders for this gathering. As one of the components of the Summit, we are creating a high-level policy meeting for senior officials – both men and women – to join us in a discussion of concrete policies and programs to promote women’s economic participation. Recommendations coming out of the Summit, which are adopted during the high-level policy meeting, will go directly to the Leaders.

We intend for this to be a high-level meeting for senior government officials in charge of trade, economic, commercial and small enterprise policies in their governments. After all, this is an issue that concerns the economies of all the Asia-Pacific region.

Yesterday, Bloomberg published an op-ed by United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton entitled, I Know the Secret to Economic Growth. The article discussed the major emerging market that hasn’t received the attention it deserves: women. Today, there are more than 200 million women entrepreneurs worldwide. Women earn more than $10 trillion every year, which is expected to grow by $5 trillion over the next several years. In many developing countries, women’s incomes are growing faster than men’s.

As she noted, investing in women is an important strategy for jobs creation and economic growth, which many have recognized. However, the pool of talented women is still underutilized, underpaid and underrepresented in business and society.

Closing the gender gap in economic participation is the best prescription for economic growth. With this year’s plan, we can lay the foundation for post-recession growth; however, we cannot tackle that challenge or be as successful, if we do not unleash women's economic potential.

We look forward to working with all of you in realizing the growth dividend afforded by women-led enterprises and in bringing sustainable economic prosperity to the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.