Remarks With Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine at the CEO Summit on Women and the Economy
Secretary of State
I want to thank Monica Whaley and the National Center for APEC, Craig Mundie from Microsoft, Mike Ducker from FedEx, who couldn’t be here today, and everyone who helped make this event possible.
I’m delighted to be with you because I think that we really are making what I call a pivot. As the war in Iraq ends and we transition in Afghanistan, U.S. foreign policy is moving toward the Asia Pacific. We need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy to put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. And one of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will be to lock in a substantially increased investment – diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise – in the Asia Pacific region.
This meeting reflects the Obama Administration commitment to extending our diplomacy beyond traditional channels and engaging directly with non-state actors – the private sector, the civil society, the real confusion of interests that are out there that make a real difference in how a society thinks and acts. And we have a lot of partnerships that we have been working on.
And finally, I want to address an issue that we really made a highlight of our year of chairing the APEC Summit, and that is women and girls. In September, we had an APEC Summit on Women and the Economy in San Francisco. And the member economies of the region signed a declaration affirming our commitment to improving women’s access to capital and markets, to building women’s capacities and skills, and supporting the rise of women leaders in both the public and private sector. We agreed to pursue a fundamental transformation, a paradigm shift in how governments make and enforce laws and policies, how businesses invest and operate, how people make choices in the marketplace.
As business leaders from across the Asia Pacific region, you know firsthand that when women enjoy greater access to jobs and opportunities, there is a ripple effect across entire economies. Businesses have more consumers, families spend and save more, farmers produce more food, education improves, and so does political stability. A new report from the World Bank confirms that this is simply smart economics. If women participate more fully in the economy, the bank found, productivity is likely to rise, development outcomes for the next generation will improve, and institutions will be more representative.
So at a time when the global economy is still struggling, we cannot afford to ignore this potential. In short, when we liberate the economic potential of women, we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations, and indeed the world.
As you look across the economic landscape, you can see the impact that women are already having and the obstacles that still stand in our way. Economists estimate that women consumers will control $15 trillion in spending by the year 2014. And by 2028, women will be responsible for about two-thirds of consumer spending worldwide. That is the market of the future.
But participation has to go beyond buying products to making and selling them. Today, more than half a million enterprises in Indonesia and nearly 400,000 in South Korea are headed by women. Women run fully 20 percent of all of China’s small businesses. All across Asia, women continue to dominate light manufacturing sectors which have proved so crucial to the region’s development. And women-owned businesses, which now provide for 16 percent of all U.S. jobs, are projected to create nearly one-third of the new jobs anticipated over the next seven years.
Yet a new report released at the recent G-20 Summit found that small businesses owned by women are less likely than those run by men to find the resources and support they need to grow into larger enterprises. And we still see significantly less participation by women in the biggest firms, especially at the highest levels. Today, only about 3 percent of the CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies are women.
So you might ask yourself, why, in 2011, are women still seemingly so shut out of the economy? Laws, customs, and values all contribute to the economic glass ceiling that continues to hold back progress across the Pacific. Too many women in APEC countries don’t have the same inheritance rights as men, so they can’t inherit property or businesses owned by fathers and spouses. Some don’t have the right to confer citizenship on their children, so their families have less access to housing and education. And they must constantly renew residency permits, making it harder for them to work. Some are even subject to different taxes than men. And too often, they are denied access to credit, and may even be prohibited from opening bank accounts, signing contracts, purchasing property, incorporating a business, or filing a lawsuit without a male guardian. And women entrepreneurs are still more likely to face higher interest rates, be required to collateralize a higher share of any loan, and have shorter-term loans.
Now these aren’t just obstacles to prosperity for individual women; they are obstacles to prosperity for every business and every economy. So what can we do about it? How can we work together to reduce the obstacles and open the way for more women to participate more fully? Well, the San Francisco Declaration we agreed to outlines a path forward. We must commit to giving women entrepreneurs more access to capital so they can start and grow their own businesses. We must examine and reform our legal and regulatory systems so women can avail themselves of the full range of financial services. We must improve women’s access to markets, so those who start businesses can keep them open. For example, we need to correct the problem of information asymmetry, making sure women are informed about opportunities for trade, and orienting technical assistance so they serve women as well as men. And of course, I believe, as you would guess, we must support the rise of women leaders in the public and private sector so they can use their own unique experiences and perspectives.
Now, Goldman Sachs has estimated that reducing barriers to women’s participation in the economy would increase GDP in the United States by 9 percent, in the Eurozone by 13 percent, and in Japan by 16 percent. By the year 2020, it could lead to a 14 percent rise in per capita incomes in APEC economies such as China, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea. And that is why the United States is putting these issues at the top of our diplomatic and economic agenda. It’s not only, in our view, the right thing to do; it is clearly the smart thing as well.
Now, many businesses are already getting this, and I want to applaud all of you who are. For example, Walmart has committed to doubling the amount of goods it buys from women-owned businesses around the world by 2016, and to invest $100 million to help women develop their job skills, including women who work on the farms and in the factories overseas that are Walmart suppliers.
Coca-Cola’s 5 BY 20 campaign aims to support 5 million women entrepreneurs worldwide by 2020. And NGOs such as WEConnect, Vital Voices Global Partnership, the Kauffman Foundation, and Count Me In have launched new partnerships with companies from American Express to ExxonMobil to help women entrepreneurs network, learn new skills, and seize new opportunities.
So let’s work together to unlock the vast untapped promise of women’s economic participation. In San Francisco, I said we have entered an age of participation, a time when, because of technological transformation and economic and political transitions, every person, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is poised to contribute to society and to the global marketplace. Economies and political systems that are making the shift more effectively and rapidly are dramatically outperforming those that are not.
In fact, we had been following this because we have seen what a difference it could make at this particular time in the global economy, and we can’t leave anybody behind, and we can’t leave any opportunity untapped. So I look forward to hearing what some of you may do, working with you to translate the good intentions of the San Francisco Declaration and summits like this one and the ongoing agenda of APEC into concrete change on behalf of men and women.
So thank you for being part of this exciting CEO summit, and I look forward to hearing the results of the program that you’re part of. Thank you. (Applause.)
MS. EASTON: They make things complicated. (Laughter.) Interesting (inaudible) there.
Well, thank you for joining us, first of all, Secretary Clinton. (Inaudible) important subject but it was interesting listening to you. I had a flashback to 1995, when you gave a speech that had quite – got quite a lot of international attention on women’s rights. But at the time, you couched that as a human rights issue. Now you’re talking about this as an economic issue. Why is that? Do you think it’s gotten siloed in its own space and you need to integrate it more? And secondly, do you also see it as a national security issue?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Nina, first, I think it’s been an evolution. It was important, and in fact necessary, to state the obvious, back in 1995, that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights, once and for all, and in large measure, because in so many places in the world, there were active forms of discrimination – in law, in culture, in custom. And there had to be a very clear statement that women have the same rights to participate in their societies as men do.
Now, once you establish what should be a very obvious statement like that as the ground truth, then you can begin to say, “And what does that mean? How do you translate that?” And certainly, women have a right to go to school, women have a right to healthcare. But also, women have a right to credit, women have a right to fulfill their own economic potential. And one of the points that I wanted to make is that you can’t – you think of men as political beings, as economic beings, as members of family, and all the roles that men play. Well, women, too. And I think the speech that I gave in San Francisco – which was really rooted in the facts, because it wasn’t just an appeal to recognize women’s economic rights because they were women – it was a recognition that our failure to do so is holding back economies. And that seems to me to be a sufficient impetus for people to do more.
I also see it as a national security issue. The more women are empowered, the more women can participate, you see a growth in democratic forms, you see greater participation in all elements of society. And that, over the long run, is in our security interests but also in other countries’ as well.
MS. EASTON: Do you get any – as an American official pushing this issue, is there any – do you have any concern – because not everybody approaches this like an American woman, for example; there are different cultures. How do you avoid that sort of stepping into what might be perceived as cultural imperialism and imposing our values on other societies?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the thing about the Asia Pacific region, unlike some other regions of the world, is that women are very active in the economy, oftentimes in the informal economy. Women are the vast majority of small-hold farmers around the world; 60 to 70 percent of the hard work of farming is done by women, whether it’s in rice fields or tending to livestock. So women have historically been seen as supporting the family, as contributing to the family in the informal economy. And certainly, there’s a great tradition of economic activities in markets, local markets, by women in the economies of the Asia Pacific.
So it’s the next step. I mean, some of the richest women in the world are women who started businesses in Asia Pacific economies. So we see that happening. We know it is part of the fabric of societies in the Asia Pacific. And the challenge now is to make sure that it is an expansive economic platform for women. And if we don’t do anything that prevents women who have good ideas, who have a good work ethic, who are willing to put their back to it or their head to it to be able to make a contribution – in other parts of the world, the stigma and the obstacles are much greater. But in the Asia Pacific, we have a very strong base on which to build.
MS. EASTON: Speaking of other parts of the world, I do have to ask you about the Arab Spring and what’s going on there. There’s a lot of concern by women who were involved in revolutionary efforts over there, I think of particular women that I know in Egypt who are concerned about where things are heading. And even today, a minister – excuse me, a leader of the ruling party in Tunisia declared that single mothers are an insult to our society. Where do you see things heading in that part of the world for women?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that it is not clear yet where things are heading for anybody, but I am particularly focused on where they’re heading for women. And I spoke about this a few days ago in Washington. We support the aspirations of people, men and women, in the Middle East and North Africa for fundamental human freedoms, human rights, including economic rights. And so we think that is the right side of history. But the particulars, how this is going to play out, is not yet known. And it could be that there’ll be some very rocky times over the next years. But speaking as the Secretary of State of the United States, certainly we’re going to continue to strongly advocate that you cannot be a democracy if you don’t fully enfranchise all of your people, and that means half the population of women. And we’re going to hold up, both publicly and privately, any actions that we think are undermining the rights of women.
So we’ve had quite a few discussions and expressions of concern on a number of fronts, but it’s too soon to tell. And all of what’s happening in the Middle East and North Africa is still so new. A lot of the people who helped to spark and lead the revolutions – and it did include women in Tahrir Square or in Tuinis or in Libya or wherever else – they’ve never participated in a political process. They’ve never been really acquainted with political parties or a lot of the freedoms that we think are necessary to support a democracy. So I think this is going to, again, take some time, and we are going to watch it closely.
MS. EASTON: Again, how worried are you, in terms of women in particular?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m suspending judgment right now because I think we don't have enough evidence to really draw a conclusion, because for every statement that’s made, there’s a woman elected, which happened in Tunisia – a number of women. So I don’t think we ought to be jumping to conclusions. I think we ought to understand that sorting this out after years of repression, after autocratic rule that really undermined and destroyed institutions, is a very challenging task. And we want to be supportive of those who are pursuing democratic reform, who have eschewed violence, that they are going to, in a sense, play by the rules of what it means to run for office. And if you win, you win; if you don’t win, you go into the opposition or back to being a citizen. That takes time for people to really understand and adjust to.
MS. EASTON: Let me go back on the Asia Pacific. Obviously, a big portion of women’s role – increased role in society has to do with education. How do you think those countries do on that score?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think education remains a challenge for tens of millions of young people, over a hundred million that are not even in school, the majority of whom are women, young girls. So yes, education is a problem. And even where educational systems exist, it’s woefully inadequate. I admire the efforts by a number of countries to try to expand education, but having 80 or 90 or a hundred children in one classroom with one new or poorly trained teacher is not exactly what we hope for. So we have to continue to support universal education. And we have problems with that across the world. There is nothing unique about it.
But some places are particularly at risk, and we have to try to work with governments, work with private entities, NGOs and others because it is of particular concern where the absence of education is filled by radicalism. I mean, you look at countries where there isn’t universal education and you see children who are being indoctrinated by very determined zealots, and that can’t possibly be good for them, their families, or their countries. But in the absence of a commitment to education, you can see what the alternative is.
MS. EASTON: I’m going to pause in a second and take a couple questions, but I just wanted to ask you – it’s curious if you’ve had any pushback or disinterest in trying to go forward on this issue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, yes.
MS. EASTON: And given – and I think given the fact that there’s plenty of economic self interest there, I should also cite the McKinsey study that says one out of three companies that invest in empowering women in developing countries actually say they end up having (inaudible) profits.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
MS. EASTON: Given all that – but still, it doesn’t seem like it’s something at the top of anybody’s plate.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that a number of countries – I mentioned a few in my remarks – have really gotten it in the last few years, but – I mean, I wouldn’t be here talking about it if everybody had signed on to it. It is still an issue that needs to be elevated.
And that’s why I’m trying to make the argument on the basis of dollars and cents, not human rights, because although I think it is a fundamental human right to be able to make a living and support your family, it is also an economic good, and we’re just going to keep talking about it till more and more people are receptive to it. Today at the ministerial, the foreign ministers from the APEC economies, we were talking about it, and a lot of them have been looking at the same data – the World Bank data, the Goldman Sachs data, the McKinsey data. There’s a lot of data now that makes the case. So we just have to hope that people will act in their own self-interest. Don't do it because you think it’s a charitable action to take, do it because it’ll strengthen the economic base of a community and a country.
MS. EASTON: We can take one question. Are mikes out there?
QUESTION: Hi, Secretary Clinton.
MS. EASTON: Go ahead and introduce yourself too. Thank you.
QUESTION: My name is Sri Mulyani Indrawati. I am Managing Director of World Bank, which is something you mentioned earlier, and I come from Indonesia. And the question is actually: Despite the very obvious, that gender equality is a smart (inaudible). And so (inaudible) should be (inaudible) work, (inaudible) especially private sector. What is actually the (inaudible) partnership of public-private partnership that really can realize this potential? Are you any more on a (inaudible) or approach to this (inaudible)? Or (inaudible) creating the right incentive for the private sector to eliminate the discrimination?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s a great question. I think there are a lot of different tactics that can be employed by the private sector. I mean, obviously, a private sector company can do more on its own for its own employees. That’s always an important part of the solution. But also, private sector companies can be advocates for changes within society, change those laws that discriminate against women because they are economically inefficient, be willing to talk to decision-makers about how, in the 21st century global economy, we really don’t have a person to waste, and we need to unleash the economic potential of the entire population of any country.
Many years ago, I served on the Walmart board at Sam Walton’s request. And he was someone who had grown up where women did not play economic roles except the hard work that women did in the home or to support the family. But he began to realize how important it was to pay more attention to the roles of women. And there are many examples of that. Nina mentioned how a lot of companies are surprised at the impact on their bottom lines.
So I think both on an individual basis, companies can do more for their own employees, and on a collective basis to try to eliminate these vestiges of discrimination. Why should it cost a hardworking woman more to access credit when we know from all the experience of microcredit loans, now going back 30 years all over the world, that women are a much better credit risk than most men on average. So why is it so difficult to look at the facts about what really fuels the economy and begin to work with your governments to change some of these outmoded laws and regulations to unleash the economic potential of women? And we know also from microcredit practice and research that women will invest that money in their children’s schooling, in better housing, in building up the family savings to a greater degree on average than the father in the home.
So there’s so much evidence now that if people would just really look at it and then begin to think about what could be done – and the World Bank has done the pioneering work with your recent study that came out last month – pay attention and see what can be done to try to unleash this economic potential.
There was one fact, and I may have it slightly wrong, but something along the lines that in the last 10 years, the combined growth in women’s economic activity was actually higher that China’s, if you look globally. So there’s so much evidence. And don’t do it because somebody like me is saying, “Go do it.” Do it because the evidence supports it being done. And I think, then, you’ll see the results.
MS. EASTON: Why do you think such a tiny portion of Fortune Global CEOs are women?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don't know. I think it’s in part because there’s a lot of sacrifices you make in those kinds of really high-pressure jobs, especially going up the ladder. And it’s difficult for women, more so than men, to balance family and work. That’s just a reality. And so it’s – each case is individual, but certainly, with some of the high-profile appointments – women leading Xerox, a woman in line to lead IBM – there are women who have certainly demonstrated their own capacity. And I think sometimes, it does take paying some extra attention to women who are coming up the ranks and making sure that they’re given the support and the mentoring that may be required.
MS. EASTON: Another question?
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, my name is Scott Price. I’m the president and CEO of Walmart Asia. Back when you sat on our board we in fact, didn’t have an Asian business.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right.
QUESTION: So the world has changed dramatically. As a company, we made a number of commitments – to leverage our supply chain, to drive a much higher participation with (inaudible) global economy. Part of my job is to make sure that happens. What would be your advice for women entrepreneurs and women business leaders to prepare for that so that businesses who are going to create the demand can actually find the supply?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that’s a really important question, and I’ll tell you a story. When I was a senator from New York, it became clear to me that a lot of small businesses, both male and female owned and operated, just didn’t know how to get into the supply chains of either the government or of big businesses. They didn’t have contacts, nobody had taught them, and so there was a lot of confusion and belief that they just couldn’t do it.
So in conjunction with some of the businesses in New York, we ran procurement seminars where hundreds of businesses would get information. And now with it being online, you could do a whole lot more to help people. And there’s some great NGOs – I mentioned a few of them in my remarks – who could be great partners with you who know how to reach out. A lot of people who have never done it – and that includes a lot of women – won’t think they’re qualified, won’t think they could do it, aren’t sure that they would be wanted or feel comfortable.
So there is a period of having to reach out and try to create the conditions that are conducive to people feeling that they could compete to be part of a Walmart supply chain, for example. So I know that there are people in this audience and elsewhere who could be great advisors to you about how to envision that and then implement it.
MS. EASTON: I understand you’re going to release a national action plan for women in peace and security next month?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
MS. EASTON: Can you give us a quick preview?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, one of – you asked in the beginning about security. And one of the things that we have also learned over the last 30-plus years is that women in today’s conflicts are usually the primary victims – women and children. And so we need to get women more involved in the security and peacemaking tasks that have to be done to end conflicts and to try to prevent them.
And there have been some great examples. I worked for many years back in the ‘90s with women in Northern Ireland who, for the first time, were asked to come together and support a peace process. And we think that there are other examples around the world out of Central America, out of some African countries – if you’ve ever seen the documentary Pray The Devil Back To Hell, you saw what women in Liberia did to try to end that conflict.
So we are trying to put together a lot of lessons learned about what role women can play and should be encouraged to play in order to contribute to peace and security. And we have a lot of continuing conflicts in many places around the world, and we need all the help we can get to try to resolve them.
MS. EASTON: A personal question: You said you want to serve your term and that’s it. You said you aren’t really that interested in Mr. Biden’s job.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right.
MS. EASTON: What’s your dream job next?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I don’t have a dream job. I have a dream vacation. (Laughter.) The idea of --
MS. EASTON: What’s your dream vacation place?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well --
MS. EASTON: I heard you like (inaudible). (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Nearly anywhere. (Laughter.) You come to a beautiful place like Hawaii and I spent – I don't know – from about eight o’clock until about three o’clock inside windowless rooms. And after a while, you just think, “There’s got to be another way to spend time in Hawaii.” (Laughter.)
So when I tell people that I am really looking forward to whatever my next chapter is, they always ask me, “So what are you going to do,” and I’m really thinking about what I won’t do and how little I can get away with doing for some period of time. Because those of you who are in business and who have worked around the clock for many years, you probably don’t even know how tired you are. And so I’m very much anticipating ending one phase of my life and doing something different in the future.
MS. EASTON: You didn’t answer your favorite vacation spot for us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I mean, Nina, there’s so many, I’d have to do a survey, a personal survey, to try to figure that out. That, I think, will take at least a decade.
MS. EASTON: Okay. We have time for one more question.
QUESTION: My comment is a little less of a question and more of a thank you. I just wanted to thank you for all you’re doing to advance (inaudible). (Applause.) I wanted to thank you for coming here today and for sharing your very candid thoughts with us, but most importantly, I wanted to thank you for your initiative and your support in establishing the Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy in San Francisco about a couple months ago.
I think this is going to be important and have a really lasting impact on helping to unleash the potential of women around the world, so thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you, and – (applause) – the final thing I would say, and it may be an additional answer to a few of the questions, is maybe download the proceedings from that San Francisco summit, the APEC women’s summit, and not just my speech, but a lot of the things that were said there and the presentations that were made. And I think you’ll get a lot of good ideas about what others are doing and what’s practical and what’s working and the challenges that we face. So I very much appreciate your saying that and your commitment to this effort as well.
MS. EASTON: Secretary, I guess we have to send you back to another windowless room.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, indeed.
MS. EASTON: I apologize, but thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Nina. (Applause.)