The United States hosted the 13th annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women and the Economy Forum (WEF), the premier APEC event elevating gender equality during the U.S. 2023 APEC host year, from August 15-20 in Seattle, WA. The U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta joined the U.S. Chair, Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Gender Policy Council Jennifer Klein, to lead the first U.S.-hosted WEF since former Secretary Clinton launched the forum in 2011. Through cross-cutting discussions and workshops, the WEF supported the United States’ host year theme of “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All”, and advanced the host year priorities of “Inclusive, Innovative and Interconnected” to accelerate women’s economic empowerment, participation, and leadership through four core themes: (1) Advancing Women’s Leadership in the Gender-Climate Nexus; (2) Increasing Equity and Equality in Global Value Chains; (3) Expanding Digital and STEM Inclusion and Innovation; and (4) Strengthening Care Infrastructure.
The United States welcomed officials and stakeholders from the 21 APEC economies for public-private discussions and stakeholder engagements; the APEC Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE) working group; the High-Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy (HLPDWE); and a joint ministerial between HLPDWE and ministers responsible for small and medium enterprises. On the margins of the WEF, the United States also hosted the Republic of Korea and Japan for a Trilateral Meeting on Women’s Economic Empowerment on the same day as the Trilateral Leaders’ Summit at Camp David. As outlined in the Chair’s Statement, the WEF delivered tangible outcomes on the Administration’s gender equality and economic policy priorities, deepening public-private partnerships and civil society collaboration to ensure all segments of our societies contribute to and benefit from an increasingly connected, digitized, and globalized economy.
Theme 1 – Advancing Women’s Leadership in the Gender-Climate Nexus: The United States worked with APEC economies to explore the nexus between gender equality and climate change. The first workshop on this theme, held in February 2023 in Palm Springs, California, provided context on climate-related threats, including the millions of women experiencing food insecurity, and it also emphasized how women and girls, including those from Indigenous communities, continue to lead as agents of change. The United States intends to capture the recommendations and outcomes of the second workshop on food security, transportation, healthcare, energy, and the blue and green economies in a forthcoming framework on gender equality and climate change to ensure women can apply their knowledge and expertise to advance climate change mitigation, disaster reduction, and adaptation strategies.
Theme 2 – Increasing Equity and Equality in Global Value Chains: The collaborative work between the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Commerce focused on empowering women-owned small businesses in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States supported a Joint Ministerial Meeting focused on expanding the access of women-owned, -led and -managed micro, small, medium enterprises (MSMEs) to global value chains, promoting women’s entrepreneurship through cross-border e-commerce. The United States co-sponsored and participated in side events focused on local women-owned, led and managed small businesses, including Native-owned businesses, in Seattle. The United States also organized discussions around how trade policy and tools can support inclusive outcomes for women, recognizing that global trade is increasing economic opportunities for women, especially in services, global value chains, and the digital economy.
Theme 3 – Expanding Digital and STEM Inclusion and Innovation: During the Women in the Digital World and Women in E-commerce events, the United States focused on closing the gender-digital divide, which is critical to promoting economic opportunity, inclusion, and leadership in a dynamic digital economy transformed by emerging technology. We supported an APEC Digital Month event focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and occupational segregation; and discussed with partners how to elevate the role of women and girls with disabilities as innovators and creators; address the growing global phenomenon of technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV); and promote women and girls in STEM.
Theme 4 – Strengthening Care Infrastructure: During care policy discussions, the United States engaged with members of the private sector, civil society, and international partners to discuss strategies toward building a robust, equitable care economy. These sessions addressed the need to close gender care gaps, invest in innovative tools and approaches to increase care access and affordability, and expand partnerships for care infrastructure. The United States proudly supports the development of a policy toolkit to close the unpaid care gap and share best practices on these issues.
Participants – Private Sector and Civil Society Partnerships
Public-Private Partnerships: More than 100 private sector leaders and nearly 300 officials from the APEC economies deepened collaboration and forged connections that will carry forward the WEF’s outcomes. Amazon, Blue Origin, Boeing, Crowell & Moring International, EMD Serono, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, LinkedIn, Mastercard, Microsoft, Organon, Pivotal Ventures, the Asia Foundation, UPS and Visa Foundation partnered with the U.S. Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues to co-lead 17 policy discussions and events with eight U.S. federal agencies and the White House Gender Policy Council. Private sector partners shared tools to address priority challenges, from advancing women as climate innovators, managing the effects of climate change on women’s health, and accelerating women’s renewable and clean energy careers; to increasing their access to digital — including AI — and STEM education, training, and technical and policy careers. They amplified support available to help women-owned MSMEs access finance and global value chain opportunities, including in clean energy and other sustainable sectors; offered data and analysis to help focus action in multiple sectors, including on business procurement and job market trends; and announced commitments that include care economy investment and policy frameworks, among other initiatives.
Civil Society: The United States remains focused on supporting civil society by actively supporting their voices and participation in policy dialogues at the WEF. We welcomed the opportunity to work with our environmental defenders, Indigenous networks, advocates with disabilities in transportation, alliances that protect and support domestic and migrant workers, and others. The WEF is uniquely positioned to engage civil society in events with APEC economies to encourage broader coordination on women’s economic empowerment.