Remarks to the OECD Ministerial Session on Development and Gender

Melanne Verveer
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues 
Paris, France
May 26, 2011

As we mark the OECD's 50th anniversary, we are rightly focused on addressing today's challenges to ensure a future based on smart economic policies, inclusive and sustainable growth and effective development. If we are to achieve these goals, women and girls need to be at the core of our efforts.

When we boost female employment and promote women's entrepreneurship, we drive economic growth. It also helps to reverse the plummeting birthrates that some countries are experiencing. It is a simple fact that economies are severely shortchanged when we do not tap the economic potential of women--or as Secretary Clinton described the consequences, "Global progress and prosperity will have its own glass ceiling."

Further, development investments in women and girls correlate positively with poverty reduction and a country's general prosperity. According to the World Bank, the greater the representation of women in government decision-making, the lower the level of corruption.

The OECD Gender Initiative, which the United States is pleased to support, is focused on education, employment, and entrepreneurship; and it is a much-needed resource for the promotion of economic growth. One outcome of the Initiative will be the creation of a data bank of vital economic data disaggregated by gender. This will be essential to better capture women's economic status and enable the creation of indicators for evidence-based decisions, as well as identify better ways to address the barriers women confront.

In her opening remarks, Secretary Clinton called for the OECD and other partners, like UN Women and the World Bank, to work together to improve gender data. This coordination will improve data comparability and build a more comprehensive body of evidence to track progress and analyze the impact of different practices, regulations and policies.

We also join in supporting preparations on the joint plan for discussion at the upcoming High-Level Aid Effectiveness Forum in Busan by OECD, the UN and the World Bank.

In addition, we are pleased that the OECD will produce a report focused on the APEC countries and their 21 economies to be released at the APEC Women and the Economy Summit which will take place in San Francisco in September.

Lastly, unprecedented changes in North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) include serious economic challenges as well. I want to commend the OECD and Ambassador Karen Kornbluh for the important work that is being done to create an open and growing inter-regional network to support the creation and growth of women-led businesses. The MENA region has the lowest rates of women's economic participation.

Without women's empowerment, the promise of the Arab Spring will be dashed. The OECD Women's Business Forum has undertaken an ambitious program to identify the barriers that persist and to develop recommendations to MENA governments on how to create enabling environments to foster women entrepreneurs and business owners. Few initiatives will be more important in the days ahead.

In short, as we chart a future that results in "better lives for all," it is critical to promote gender quality. Otherwise we will have neither smart economics nor smart development.