Women’s economic participation is essential to creating livelihoods and women’s economic independence, but it is also essential for growing economies. A mountain of empirical evidence in recent years, including studies by the World Bank, the World Economic Forum and many companies, shows that investing in women is indeed “smart economics.” There is so much concrete data to illustrate how women’s economic participation promotes enterprise development at the small and medium enterprise levels and leads to better business management and greater returns on investment.
More needs to be done, however, to break down the barriers and improve women’s access to markets, financing, technology, mentors, and training. And more needs to be done to address discriminatory laws, regulations and entrenched cultural practices that keep women from contributing to their countries’ economic life. Scientific research shows that when women are economically independent, they are more empowered to succeed in advocacy and business efforts, provide better education and nutrition to their children, and so much more.
As Ambassador, I have met with women entrepreneurs and emerging leaders around the world who are making a true difference in their lives and who are leading by example, inspiring younger women and girls to study and work harder so that they too can realize their God-given potential. To all the women in Pakistan who are doing so much and rising to challenges and surmounting them, they are working to build a better future for themselves and their country.
Recently, the Department of State organized the South Asian Women Entrepreneurs Symposium in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We brought together women from 11 South and Central Asian countries together to work on concrete actions to expand women’s economic participation in the region and their respective countries, including Pakistan.
As co-chair of the U.S. Pakistan Women’s Council—which Secretary Clinton launched last fall at the UN General Assembly in New York—I look forward to working with women such as all of you and seeing you turn challenges into opportunities. I want to personally encourage you to continue the efforts you have been putting into place that have helped you succeed as well as share that gained experience with your peers and your communities.
No country can prosper or make real progress if half of its population is left behind. Through this Summit, you have an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that the women of Pakistan will not be left behind. It will provide a space to enable you to exchange your experiences, pool your talents and ideas, strengthen your network, and build new partnerships for a better future.
I wish all of you, including the organizers of the International Women Leaders Summit, a successful and enriching day! Thank you.