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

Catherine M. Russell
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues 
Lima, Peru
June 30, 2016

As prepared

On behalf of the entire delegation of the United States, I’d like to thank Peru for so graciously hosting us in this beautiful, historic capital. And I’d like to thank every economy represented here for your enthusiastic efforts in this Forum. We have made exciting progress in advancing women’s economic participation in the five years since we signed the San Francisco Declaration.

The United States is proud to lead some of the ongoing progress for APEC, including initiatives to provide resources to women entrepreneurs and to advance women in transportation.

We are in the second phase of the Healthy Women, Healthy Economies initiative, which engages the public and private sectors to improve women’s health as a means of enhancing their economic participation. We are compiling and sharing best practices from governments and private sector companies that have already implemented recommendations from the policy toolkit, and we encourage all of your economies to participate in that process.

The United States looks forward to sharing our own experiences implementing the Affordable Care Act, which includes important new protections for ensuring women’s access to health care.

Since launching the APEC Women and the Economy dashboard last year, it has become clear that we are all falling woefully short when it comes to including, retaining, and advancing women in STEM fields. These are often good-paying jobs that would benefit from women’s experiences and perspectives. When women are left out, we all lose.

Earlier this year, I announced that the United States would lead efforts around research and planning to tackle barriers women face in STEM. Since then, we have launched a study to take stock of where the APEC region stands on policies and programs addressing these barriers. Later this year, we’ll hold a policy workshop to develop recommendations based on the study—and I respectfully ask you all to participate.

The United States believes that one of the best ways to advance women’s full participation in society—including in STEM—is to invest in the next generation by engaging adolescent girls. That’s why Secretary Kerry launched the first-ever U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls earlier this year. And that’s also why we have included a component for this age group in our STEM initiative.

Next month, 100 girls from the United States, Peru, Chile, and Mexico will come to Peru for a two-week camp to increase their exposure to careers in science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and math. We will share best practices and curriculum from the camp with the APEC economies, and hope others will consider hosting similar camps for adolescent girls back home.

These are just a few examples of our ongoing work to advance women’s economic participation through APEC. Of course many challenges remain. We need to do more to balance the burden of unpaid care work, which almost always falls on women. And we need to continue to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. To illustrate the tremendous cost of gender-based violence, preliminary data collected in the United States estimates that the total cost of rape to our economy is nearly $3.3 trillion over victims’ lifetimes. That number is astonishing—and that’s just rape. What about all forms of gender-based violence? This makes clear how critical this issue is both to women and to economies.

As we celebrate five years of groundbreaking collaboration on these issues, we also look forward to sustained commitment. In partnership, APEC governments and companies will continue to make progress for women in the economy.

Now I’d like to invite one of our U.S. delegates from the private sector, Seema Kumar, Vice President of Innovation, Global Health, and Policy Communication at Johnson & Johnson, to share some brief remarks about the U.S. private sector’s efforts to address these challenges.