Background Briefing on Women in the Global Economy

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Officials
San Francisco, CA
September 15, 2011

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Just to walk you briefly through the structure of this speech, the Secretary sets the promise of strengthening women’s roles in the global economy in the context of the challenge that we all face all around the world at this moment in how to grow our economies and how to ensure prosperity for all nations and all people. And she makes the point that we cannot do this unless we unlock a vital, undertapped resource, which is women, and that with economic models straining in every corner of the world, none of us can afford to perpetuate the barriers that are facing women in the workplace.

She also makes the point that at the beginning of the 21st century, we are entering what she calls the participation age where every individual regardless of gender or other characteristics is poised to be a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace. But in order for that to happen, we have to remove the structural and social impediments stacking the deck against them, and particularly against women. We don’t have a person to waste, and we certainly don’t have a gender to waste. So with that in mind, she is calling on the nations of the APEC region, as she has called on nations across the planet, whether in Africa or in Latin America or in other places – and briefer number two will speak to this in a minute – she’s calling on the nations of the APEC region to act together to remove roadblocks that sideline millions of women, and she’s also making this point with regard to the United States.

Specifically, she cites a statistic here that by the year 2020, we could see a 14 percent rise in per capita income in several APEC economies if we can unlock these economies to women, specifically in China, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea. And here’s another important statistic that speaks to the fact that women are also stronger savers than men, which is an important element for economic growth. For every one percentage point increase in the share of household income generated by women, overall savings increased by roughly 15 base points.

So we’ve got to liberate the economic potential of women, we’ve got to elevate the economic – and in doing so, we will elevate the economic performance of communities, of nations, of the APEC region, and of the world.

Specifically, she cites the commitments the nations have made under this APEC declaration that we have to commit to giving women access to more capital so that women entrepreneurs can turn their ideas into small- and medium-sized enterprises as a source of growth. We have to examine and reform legal and regulatory systems so women can avail themselves of the full range of financial services, and we have to make essential reforms so women don’t have to choose between having families and working fully in the economy. And we have to improve women’s access to markets. And finally, we have to support the rise of women leaders in public and private sector jobs because – for all of the reasons that you know. So this is going to require legal change, it’s going to require political will, it’s going to require cultural and behavioral changes.

And if we can get this done, not only will we grow all of our economies, there will also be a ripple effect that kicks in when women have greater access to jobs and the economic laws of their countries – greater political stability, fewer military conflicts, more food, more educational opportunities for children, financial stability for more families in the world, yielding exponential dividends across the spectrum of human activity. So in pursuing this promise of what the Secretary calls the participation age, we have to remember that harnessing the potential of women is about harnessing the full potential of all of our economies.

And with that, let me turn it over to the real expert on these issues, State Department Senior Official Number Two.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Thank you [Senior State Department Official One], and good afternoon to all of you. Let me root these remarks in where we are at the moment, and that is we are the APEC Women in the Economy Summit, which is the first ever gathering under APEC of its kind. As I said this morning in my remarks, the foundation was laid in Gifu, Japan last year when we had a meeting that brought together government officials and representatives of the private sector.

As the – those who represented the 21 economies understood that it was time to do this because the potential of women was not being tapped in the region, and the shortchanges to economic growth were statistically being recorded in terms of the costs of not tapping the potential that women represent. As a result, the leaders who gathered Yokohama for the final meeting of APEC under the Japanese baton, if you will, recognized that it was time to energize the work of the governments and the private sector in these economies to do better in tapping the potential of women.

Now, as we move to the United States this year and we are at this meeting, this is an exponential, a heightening of all of this. It marks the first ever coming together of ministers and private sector representatives. Each of the 21 economies’ delegations represent both government and the private sector. Secretary Clinton will preside over the high-level dialogue tomorrow, essentially the ministerial, at which time the San Francisco Declaration will be adopted. That declaration is significant because it takes to a different place the commitment of the participants to address some of the key barriers that are causing the lack of release of what women represent to economic growth from occurring.

Those are barriers like access to finance, which is a major hurdle; access to markets; access to training and mentoring; a look at the kinds of regulations and laws that are in place that through tax policies, through the lack of, in some places, rights to own property, rights to own land, a very serious issue because in many places women comprise an enormous part of the agriculture sector, yet the potential that they represent is diminished by at least 30 percent because they don’t have equal access to these kinds of assets, particularly land. So all of these inhibitors, the major ones, are laid out in the declaration, which has been negotiated over the last many, many weeks and is in final negotiations today and will be adopted tomorrow. And the Secretary, in her remarks, speaks to the declaration and the hopes that it conveys in terms of beginning to unleash the potential that women represent.

This declaration will go to Hawaii, to the leaders when they gather in the final leaders meeting of APEC. And we anticipate that for the first time we will have a greater effort made to take on what the declaration represents and to energize the work within the economies and by the private sector in those economies to address this in a more serious way.

Now, this has been an ongoing effort of Secretary Clinton’s. She has been engaged on these issues, recognizing that it’s time once and for all that we stopped operating, if you will, in an evidence-free zone. And much of her remarks, as you look at them you will see, are rooted in an overwhelming mountain of research and data, statistics, that exist today that show us what women represent in driving small- and medium-sized businesses, for example. They are accelerators of GDP. What they represent in terms of their workplace participation, what they represent when they are in positions in management and on board of directors and so on and so forth.

So her remarks are a case for women and economic growth, but not just as something that may be viewed as the right thing to do, which it clearly is, but certainly as the strategic, smart, economically important thing to do, particularly in these times when every economy is desirous of growing in ways that it needs to.

And lastly, in terms of her work, Briefer Number One alluded to the fact that initiatives have been adopted through the State Department and the Secretary’s leadership in other parts of the world. With respect to AGOA, the African Growth Opportunity Act, we’ve created an initiative to focus on African women entrepreneurs and building their capacity to be export-ready and take advantage of trade opportunities. Similarly in South America, the pathway to prosperity is focused on women, small and medium-sized business women, to enable them to take greater advantage of market opportunities through trade agreements.

Also the embracing of technology through programs like TechWomen, in which women from other parts of the world have been mentored by women here in the Silicon Valley, and there is a strong emphasis on technology at this meeting, and certainly a need for women to be able to access technology more significantly.

And in the area that is also mentioned in the last part of the speech, the need for greater access to data, to creating indicators, to measuring, to evaluating, so that we have a better sense of the kind of progress that is being made going forward from baselines today.

And through her leadership, joined with her colleagues in the OECD, last – several months ago when they had their ministerial, a gender initiative that was adopted there to provide a greater emphasis on data collection in women’s education, entrepreneurship, and employment that’s sex disaggregated and creates a picture for us in ways that are more significant for this kind of work to go forward.

So this is part of something that has been a significant part of her leadership and work, but it is also for the Asia-Pacific region and the 21 economies represented here a very significant move forward to really embrace what women’s economic participation represents to the kind of growth acceleration I think everybody wants to see.

Now, how all of this goes forward, as she says in her speech, this will take concerted effort on the part of many. But anyone who has walked these halls or listened to any of the conversations here over the last day and a half now can feel the kind of energy that is certainly among many of the participants that – who are here working on this.

So I’ll end there.


No questions; we covered it all? (Laughter.) Good. Well, make good use of these, and enjoy the speech tomorrow. Thank you very much and thank you, Briefer Number Two.

PRN: 2011/1514