U.S. Statement at the High Level Policy Dialogue 2014 APEC Women and the Economy Forum

Catherine M. Russell
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues 
Beijing, China
May 22, 2014

Good afternoon. As the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and on behalf of the United States, I would like to thank China for hosting such a successful forum. What we do here sets the pace for many other economic forums and economies around the world.

The United States has been able to launch a number of innovative partnerships with strong partners from the private sector so I am delighted that Susan Miller from Intel is able to join me today to share some of our successes in advancing women’s economic empowerment.

Advancing women’s economic empowerment is a priority for the United States. President Obama, who has been advocating for equal pay for women in the United States, recently told Congress that “when women succeed, America succeeds.”

And Secretary Kerry states time and again that “gender equality is critical to our shared goals of prosperity, stability, and peace.”

In that spirit, let me report on some of the progress we have made in this year’s three focus areas.

First, we remain more committed than ever to advancing women’s economic empowerment. Since 2011, we have worked with all of you to identify the barriers that limit the full participation of women in the economy. We understand the detrimental impact those barriers have on women, their families, their communities, and their economies. Now is the time to move boldly forward.

We should use the next two days to help set the course for real and tangible change. This is perhaps one of the most valuable contributions that the APEC Women and Economy Forum provides to all of the other APEC fora – we generate innovative ideas that work.

In the United States, now more than ever, women are the primary household breadwinners. In three quarters of American families, all parents work. But workplace policies haven't caught up with the changing workforce.

This issue needs to be addressed hand in hand with the private sector. President Obama has signed an act encouraging workplace flexibility in the federal government and a memorandum closing the gender wage gap for federal workers.

He is convening meetings with companies to share the results of their own efforts to empower women, which will be amplified next month during the White House Summit on Working Families.

Each APEC economy could look to support similar initiatives -- initiatives that are practical, that enable both the public and private sector to learn and work together, and that could deliver real results as we push for greater gains in women’s leadership.

Second, we must increase capacity for regional trade and economic cooperation. In the United States, our Small Business Administration (SBA) is committed to helping women obtain the capital and skills they need to start and grow their own businesses.

In the last five years, the SBA has made over $17 billion available through nearly 60,000 SBA loans to women-owned businesses.

SBA’s Women’s Business Centers represent a national network of over 100 educational centers, which have trained and counseled more than 270,000 women in the past two years.

We have seen firsthand the positive impact these networks have had in the United States. So in an effort to support greater regional trade and economic integration, the United States supports creating a similar type of network across the APEC region to enable women entrepreneurs to more easily do business across boundaries.

Third, green development is an urgent and pressing issue for the United States, and especially for Secretary Kerry.

To support women in green development, the U.S. Department of State launched an initiative called wPower, which focuses on training and connecting more than 8,000 women clean energy entrepreneurs across East Africa, Nigeria and India.

Over the next three years, these women will have the capacity to deliver clean energy technologies, like clean cookstoves and solar lamps, to more than 3.5 million people.

In addition, the United States is a member -- along with China -- of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Its’ goal is to foster the adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels in 100 million households by 2020.The goal is ambitious, but it is achievable and we should use it as a model for other big goals for women.

We need to build on what works. As we all know, what gets measured gets done. We need to collect objective and quantifiable indicators on the status of women and the economy in the region. The United States is committed to supporting data analysis and the necessary follow-on convenings to enable us to do so.

We hope that each economy will welcome this effort. We know it will not be easy, but as we say in the United States, we are willing to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Suzan, I’d like to turn the platform over to you.