Remarks on Women's Economic Empowerment
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Thank you for the kind introduction, Marc and to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation for co-hosting this important event with the Department of State. I am honored to be introduced by someone with such a distinguished record of community service.
Honored Guests, Ladies, and Gentlemen,
As we approach International Women’s Day and we begin Women’s History Month, I am delighted to join you in this effort to Partner with Purpose. The private sector plays an important role in promoting gender equality.
The thoughts I share with you today aren’t just about what I do, they are about who I am-- the opportunities I received in my life have allowed me to become the person I am today. And I want every young girl to have the same opportunities I did. It’s not just about a role in the workplace or running our own companies, but also about women taking control of their economic circumstances and their own fate.
As Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, I lead a team of over 200 talented women and men with the support of over 1500 economic officers all over the world. The Department is a gateway for American business to reach global markets.
One of my key goals is to better connect the State Department with the private sector, particularly women entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises. We work to promote opportunities for U.S. businesses overseas and secure economic prosperity at home.
And things are going well. In 2017, U.S. exports in goods and services increased by 5.5 percent. The American economy is getting stronger every day. For women to thrive, we need to create opportunities overseas as well as here at home and the State Department wants to be a partner with purpose on this goal.
As you begin a day of great discussions, I want to share a few recent undertakings that support U.S. business and women’s economic advancement.
Last year, we launched the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, championed by both President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau. Its goals include increasing the number of women in STEM fields, encouraging women to start their own businesses and then supporting and growing those businesses. We certainly need more mentorship from women who have been successful in STEM fields to encourage girls to major in math and science. If she can’t see it, then how can she be it?
The Administration has also emphasized that advancing women’s economic participation globally is critical to achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives. During the G20 Leaders Summit last year, President Trump announced the United States as a founding member of the World Bank’s Women Entrepreneurship Finance Initiative, also known as We-Fi.
This innovative new facility aims to advance our entrepreneurship and help women gain increased access to the finance, the markets, and the networks necessary to fund and develop a business. We-Fi has galvanized more than $340 million to advance women’s entrepreneurship in economies around the world.
Secretary Tillerson has talked about how important the State Department’s promotion of economic prosperity is for the American people and for our national security and he’s spoken about the importance of equal opportunities for women.
Through the State Department’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund, we are partnering with the crowdfunding microfinance platform Kiva to improve women’s access to capital by matching dollar-for-dollar loans granted through Kiva.org. We have provided over a million dollars in loans to women entrepreneurs through this fund.
We also want to recognize supporters of women’s economic empowerment. One way we are doing so is through a prestigious annual award given by the Secretary of State. The Award for Corporate Excellence highlights U.S. companies doing outstanding work overseas. This year we created a category on women’s economic empowerment – the first time we’ve ever had such a category in the award’s 19-year history. I look forward to sharing the results with you.
I hope you agree that there is a great deal of momentum right now, we’re at a pivotal moment and we need to make sure women have every chance to be in economic leadership roles.
Women make up more than half of the world’s population, but only 40 percent of the global labor force. Closing the global gender gap in labor markets could increase worldwide GDP by as much as $28 trillion by 2025. $28 trillion dollars – think about that for a moment. We can’t afford not to have women participate fully in the global economy!
The U.S. government is committed to continuing our efforts to expand entrepreneurship, unleash access to capital and technology and enhance women’s labor force participation. Investing in women and girls isn’t just the right thing to do, its smart policy, it smart economics.
I congratulate the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for over 100 years of partnership in advancing free enterprise. I also want to congratulate the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation for their innovative Women’s Economic Empowerment Program and the great work they do.
You’ve got such a great program today filled with leaders from business, technology and the public sector. It’s so important that girls and young women hear from you so that they know they can one day be you.
Tomorrow you will hear from Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan about the important role of the private sector in economic empowerment and gender equality. He’s a good friend and mentor of mine. I think you’ll enjoy hearing from him.
I thank you for your time. It’s an honor to start Women’s History Month in your company.