THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Hello and welcome to the Foreign Press Center’s briefing on the U.S. Strategy on Global Women’s Economic Security. My name is Zina Wolfington and I am the moderator for today’s briefing. Joining us today are Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Gender Policy Council Jennifer Klein and Acting Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Kat Fotovat.
And now for the ground rules. This briefing is on the record. We will post the transcript and video of this briefing later today on our website at fpc.state.gov. Please make sure that your Zoom profile has your full name and the media outlet you represent.
Each of our briefers will now give brief opening remarks and then we will open it up for questions. We will start with Jennifer Klein followed by Kat Fotovat.
Over to you, Director Klein.
MS KLEIN: Thank you very much. Thank you all for being here today. It’s my pleasure to discuss with you the U.S. Strategy on Global Women’s Economic Security that Secretary Blinken, Administrator Power, Acting Ambassador Fotovat, and I launched at the State Department earlier today.
This first-ever strategy is grounded in the wealth of evidence that advancing women’s participation promotes economic prosperity and stability and it addresses the significant persisting gender gaps in economic security that remain. Studies show that closing gender gaps in the workforce could add between 12 and 28 trillion dollars in global GDP over a decade, and expanding access for women to markets and finance fosters entrepreneurship and innovation, with estimates suggesting that gender parity in entrepreneurship could add between 5 to 6 trillion dollars in net value to the global economy.
Yet despite the clear benefits of women’s economic participation, too often social, legal, and financial barriers remain. We know that on average, women spend more than twice the amount of time than men do performing unpaid care work, and that the annual value of this work is approximately $11 trillion globally. We also recognize that 2.4 billion working-age women still face legal obstacles to their full economic participation, and that dismantling these systemic barriers is necessary to unlock economic gains. And we also know that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women’s employment, with devastating effects on families, communities, and economies.
The Strategy on Global Women’s Economic Security that we issued today will advance women’s economic participation as a key strategic objective of our domestic and foreign policy. The strategy lays out an ambitious agenda to advance women’s economic security globally, with four areas of focus.
First, promoting economic competitiveness and reducing wage gaps through well-paying, quality jobs. Second, advancing care infrastructure and valuing domestic work. Third, promoting entrepreneurship and financial and digital inclusion, including through trade and investment. And fourth, dismantling systemic barriers to women’s equitable participation in the economy.
A critical example of our commitment to advancing women’s economic security globally is our investment in the Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund, which we announced at the UN Generation Equality Forum in Paris. Today, at the launch event back at the State Department, we released a fact sheet on the fund’s work to date.
This fund is specifically dedicated to promoting economic security for women and girls by increasing their access to resources, services, and leadership opportunities, and by addressing the barriers that limit their ability to participate fully in the economy. The fund invests in local and civil society partners around the world, prioritizing programs that address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19, climate change, conflict, and crisis on women and girls.
Through this fund, the U.S. Government has supported vital projects across the globe that advance women’s economic security – to give just a few examples, including investments in childcare infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries; support for women’s economic resilience in Afghanistan; promoting access to green jobs in Kenya and South Africa; strengthening regional networks for businesswomen in Eastern Europe; and supporting women’s access to sustainable value chains in Latin America, to just name a few examples.
The strategy we launched today is the product of close collaboration among 12 U.S. departments and agencies and was informed by consultations with over 200 civil society actors and external stakeholders from more than 30 countries.
As we turn to the next important part, which is the implementation of this new strategy, we will continue to rely on collaboration both within and outside of the U.S. Government to achieve our shared vision of women’s full and equitable participation in the global economy. We look forward to working with partners around the world, with departments and agencies as they develop their action plans over the next six months to implement this strategy.
Thank you and I’m now going to turn to Acting Ambassador Fotovat.
MS FOTOVAT: Thank you so much, and my sincere thanks to Director Klein just for her incredible leadership at the White House Gender Policy Council. I want to also thank all the journalists today for being here, for helping to amplify this important strategy launch and make sure that women’s economic security is something that is prioritized throughout the world.
As Secretary Blinken said this morning, we’re putting forward – this has been a heart – simple vision: to create a world in which all women and girls can contribute to and benefit from economic growth and global prosperity. Advancing this agenda is not just the morally upstanding thing to do; it’s the rising tide that lifts all of our boats.
The strategy was assiduously developed and will be just as diligently implemented by no less than 12 U.S. Government agencies and departments. It’s a truly whole-of-government approach. The Department of State for our part will focus on our diplomatic engagement with the G20, G7, OECD, APEC, as well as in other multilateral and bilateral engagements, advancing our policies and programmatic priorities.
As host to APEC this year, we intend on placing a heavy emphasis on women’s economic security as a catalyst and ensure that for economic growth and strength and prosperity worldwide that women and girls will be included.
We are looking forward to engaging with Japan as they chair the G7, and India as they host the G20, ensuring that elements of this strategy are integrated throughout 2023 all of our policy and planning priorities.
Bilaterally, we continue to work with counterparts from other governments, encouraging them to adopt our recommendations as they develop their own domestic and global strategies for women’s economic empowerment and security.
Finally and most importantly, we will continue to engage the private sector, civil society, academia, and women on the ground to work hand in hand with us, inform us of our activities, and help us as we develop our State Department action plan, and to implement this historic strategy.
As I always say, nothing about them without them. Thank you. We look forward to your questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you for the remarks. We will now open for Q&A. For journalists in the briefing room, please raise your hand if you have a question. If called upon, please wait for the microphone so that everyone online can hear your question, and kindly identify yourself with your name and outlet. For journalists joining us online, please raise your hand using the raise hand button, and turn on your camera so our briefer can see you.
I see we have a question from Ibtisa Aden. Please unmute yourself.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Ibtisa Aden. I’m from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper. So my question is to Ms. Klein, and it’s about trade, and which role do you see that trade should play in women economic empowerment? And the second part of the question is also about – you talked about the importance of and the advantage of benefits for women, participation in the economy. And if you could give us or say more to the challenges you believe that the U.S. is facing in this issue, especially when it comes to working women and women of color. Thank you.
MS KLEIN: Thanks. In answer to your first question about trade, trade – the United States Trade Representative was one of the 12 agencies that I think we both actually referenced were part of the development of this strategy, which also included in addition to the State Department USAID, the Development Finance Corporation, really the Peace Corps, the Inter-American Foundation – a very broad range of agencies. And the reason that USTR was at the table, and the Department of Commerce as well, was because trade is at the center of this as well.
We see, as we’ve also just referenced, not only is women’s economic empowerment important to women and their families, but it’s important to the global economy. So everything that we do in this strategy as we begin to implement it will have both of those pieces in mind. What’s important for a person who – and I’ll get to your second part of your question – a person who wants to work to support her family or herself, but also the implications in the global economy for the U.S., but really for every country around the world. So, yes, trade is extremely important and integral to this strategy.
On your second question, I think one of the things that I’ve noticed – I didn’t speak about it – but the Gender Policy Council is both domestic and global. And as we have collectively lived through the last several years with COVID, major economic turmoil around the world, what has become obvious to me is that there are many challenges that we are facing, which while the context is very different, the challenges are the same. So as you think about access to good jobs, which is core to this strategy, when you think about the care economy, and the pieces that people need to be able to both take care of their – themselves and their families, whether that’s child care for a young child or home- and community-based care for an elderly or disabled relative, all of these pieces need to be in place for people to be able to fully participate in their economy and in turn for economic development and prosperity and stability to exist in the world.
And then to the last part of your question about particularly for women of color, again, what is true in the United States is really true around the world, which is that we have not succeeded unless the most marginalized, the most historically excluded have an equitable opportunity to participate. And again, so core to this strategy and really all of the work that we do throughout the United States Government on women’s economic participation will include a focus on how we make sure that everybody is at the table both in making the decisions – our policy decisions – but also core to the policies that we make; so as I said, that everybody has a chance to participate fully and fairly.
MODERATOR: Thank you. The next question goes to Sandra Muller.
QUESTION: Can you hear me? Hello. I’m —
QUESTION: (Inaudible). I have two questions for you. I would like to have some detail about what you said about Europe. You speak about that you help in Africa about green – Europe of East – can you detail – Europe in particular, because I’m French. And the second fact, the second question I wanted to ask you: Do you plan to, like – to organize a communication campaign? Because for me I think maybe sometimes there is a lot of good initiative in the United States, but sometimes we don’t see them enough. So we are here to write an article, obviously, but do you plan to, like, organize a campaign to make your action public? Thank you.
MS FOTOVAT: So I will attempt to answer the first question regarding some of the work that we are doing globally. Then specifically in Europe – actually we just launched a program called WE-Champs. What we’re seeking to do in a program such as WE-Champs is really connect women globally in terms of women’s chambers of commerce, women’s networks, making sure to look at the global digital divide, finding ways to increase markets for women. So certainly in Europe and in Eastern Europe, specifically where we’re starting the pilot work that we’re doing there, we’re looking at opportunities to make sure that the women entrepreneurs in specific countries have the ability to connect not only within their own countries but regionally and globally.
So we’re looking for mentorship opportunities, training opportunities, and creating platforms for them to be able to have those markets, which we know that the global internet structure really is a way to help market some of their products and be able to sell services. So finding ways to connect those various integrated networks is really what that program is about. And so we’re looking at that, including in Africa and including in Asia, so really having that regional approach and then expanding that globally as well.
MS KLEIN: And I’m not sure I heard your second question. I think it was about what we’re doing to make the strategy more publicly known and available.
MS KLEIN: Is that essentially what you were —
QUESTION: Something I talk about communication campaign. Do you all – like because how people in the world can know what you do? How can they do? So do you or either of you organize a campaign, a communication campaign, advertising or something for connecting people to your initiative, to what you will do?
MS KLEIN: Yes. And so in addition to – obviously you should get your hands on the strategy itself which has a lot of information in it – in preparation of the strategy, as I mentioned earlier, we worked with a vast number of external stakeholders, and we will be doing so as we implement the strategy. So making sure that everybody’s ideas are included as we implement the strategy, and also importantly, as you said, to make sure that people are aware of what’s in it and what the United States Government is aiming to do in collaboration with other countries, with partners, with civil society.
And we really want to make sure that people know, first of all, how to access the resources that we are making available, whether those are the women on the ground, as Kat has said, or other governments or multilateral organizations. So yes, there will be an effort to make sure that people know that these words on paper are meant to be more than words on paper, but in fact an entire plan and whole-of-government approach to advance women’s economic security.
MODERATOR: I’ll – I don’t see any hands raised, just – all right. Please.
QUESTION: Hi. I’m Ryohei Takagi from Kyoto News, Japan’s news agency. Thanks for briefing today. I have questions for both of you. As you mentioned Europe, this strategy – brand-new strategy have – has a bunch of information and a bunch of principles. And I think that each one of them would be either very important and significant. But if you choose one, what is a big – what is the most significant principle or commitment? That is my first question.
And the second one is the – what is the biggest challenge in the United States right now on gender equality and gender equity issues? Thank you.
MS KLEIN: I’ll actually start with your second question first, which is I think the – it’s a hard question. I think that the greatest challenge is that we have made a lot of progress. And one of the things that I have focused my career on is looking at where there has been progress and where there needs to be additional progress. And while I think we have made progress in some areas, the economy is actually one area where I think there has been less progress than there needs to be, that more things in the United States – issues of health and education, historically, we’ve seen greater participation greater progress; less participation and less progress when it comes to economic participation and political participation. I think that’s true in the United States and around the world.
And – but what I think we’ve seen in the United States this year is, for example, we can’t necessarily count on the progress that we’ve made, that it’s sort of a constant effort to move forward. So to take the obvious example, last year, in 2022, the Supreme Court overturned a historic precedent that guaranteed the right to reproductive freedom in this country that had existed for nearly 50 years. So I think while we have seen tremendous progress, we are sort of always needing to remain vigilant to steps that might be taken to go backward, which is why I think, first of all, the existence of a strategy like this – and one thing that we didn’t mention earlier is that when the President created the Gender Policy Council, which I’m privileged to lead, he also asked us to create a National Gender Equity and Equality Strategy, which is broader. It actually includes ten strategic priorities. I think that speaks to sort of the challenges that remain ahead, but also the opportunities.
So I think – it’s a broad answer to your question, but I think that one of the challenges that we are facing in this country but also around the world is, post the pandemic – and as I said, some – the real economic challenges that the world is facing – we still have challenges in the things that we’ve already made progress on. So that’s the more challenging – the downside.
I saved the first question because I think the priorities that are identified in this strategy – Secretary Blinken said it; Kat repeated it just now – is the reason this strategy makes sense and the reason this strategy I think will really have a tremendous impact is because it is addressing things that are not only the right thing to do – this is about women’s rights to participate, people of all genders to participate in their economy and their society – but it’s really – it makes good economic sense as well. And so I think that sort of the four priorities that have been identified that are in this strategy really speak to all of the pieces that are needed to make sure that somebody can fully participate. And that will have benefits for not only those individuals, their families, their communities, but for the economy as a whole, both the domestic economy and the global economy.
MODERATOR: Thank you. This concludes our Q&A session. I want to give a special thanks to our briefers for sharing their time with us today and to those of you who participated. Thank you and good day.