Thank you for the kind introduction and thank you to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation for co-hosting this important event with the Department of State. I also want to thank my great team in the Economic Bureau and our partners in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.
As we gather to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, I am honored to be here with so many business leaders and champions of women’s economic empowerment.
In line with this year’s theme, “The Equality Opportunity” I want to set our sights on some bold endeavors:
- What if we could increase labor productivity by 25 percent?
- What if we could recover 19 percent of income lost to low labor force participation in South Asia?
- How about increasing global GDP by $28 trillion by 2025?
And how can do these things? By investing in women! Looking at those numbers, we can’t afford not to do so!
The Equality Opportunity is literally a $28 trillion question, and what a perfect moment in time it is to seize that opportunity!
Empowering women to participate and lead in the private sector – and in government as well — allows us to tap into an enormous pool of talent that benefits our enterprises and societies as a whole.
Businesses around the world face obstacles when expanding to global markets and into key sectors– this is especially true for female-led businesses. This is where challenge meets opportunity meet.
U.S. GOVERNMENT EMPOWERING WOMEN TO LEAD
It is with that challenge in mind that the Trump Administration has included women’s economic empowerment as a priority in America’s National Security Strategy. The National Security Strategy explicitly states:
“Societies that empower women to participate fully in civic and economic life,” are “more prosperous and peaceful.” The United States will “support efforts to advance women’s equality, protect the rights of women and girls, and promote women and youth empowerment programs.”
We are committed to expanding entrepreneurship, unleashing access to capital and technology, enhancing women’s labor force participation, and addressing the underlying barriers that prevent women’s equal participation in the economy.
We recognize that advancing women’s economic participation is fundamental to deepening U.S. partnerships all over the world and achieving our foreign policy goals. The private sector is critical in order for us to make meaningful progress. We want to work in partnership with you to promote women’s economic empowerment.
I am personally committed to ensuring that more women have opportunities to lead in government and in business.
My team here in Washington and our economic officers all over the world are hard at work for you. We are paving the way for businesses to access overseas markets, by negotiating beneficial agreements, supporting innovation and most importantly, by advocating for you. We are working toward a better, more welcoming international business environment. The role of women is a critical part of this.
This is an issue that is very personal for me– the opportunities I received as a young girl have allowed me to become the person I am today. I want every young girl to have the same opportunities I did. And we can’t take it for granted that every one does. Let’s be proactive in our strategy to give women the access to the tools, the resources, the networks they need to bring their ideas to life!
The good news is that momentum is on our side. This momentum builds on decades of U.S. efforts to support women’s economic leadership around the globe. In regional networks of women entrepreneurs all over the world, we know that women are much more than beneficiaries of growth and stability — they drive it!
Since January 2017, the Trump Administration has launched several new efforts to empower women globally. Let me tell you about a few of them.
The United States was a founding member of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi): Announced at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Hamburg, Germany with the World Bank and 13 other donor countries. Championed by the United States and the first of its kind, the initiative is on track to mobilize more than $1.6 billion in capital for women entrepreneurs in developing countries.
The WomenConnect Challenge: Launched by this Administration on International Women’s Day 2018, seeks to increase women’s access to digital technology and bridge the digital gender divide. The initiative seeks to ensure women have access to life-enhancing information, networks, and services, thus reducing poverty and driving inclusive economic growth.
2X WOMEN’S INITIATIVE
The 2X Women’s Initiative: In early 2018, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), announced a new initiative to mobilize $1 billion in capital to support women in the developing world. Subsequently, during the 2018 G7, each G7 country’s development finance institution joined OPIC in collectively committing to mobilize $3 billion. These funds will provide women in developing markets with improved access to leadership opportunities, quality employment, finance, and products and services that enhance their economic participation.
WOMEN’S GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT AND PROSPERITY INITIATIVE
Building on the momentum of these successful initiatives, on February 7, the President signed a National Security Presidential Memorandum officially launching the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP). Under the leadership of Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, the W-GDP is the first-ever integrated approach to women’s economic empowerment across federal agencies. The initiative aims to reach 50 million women by 2025 and will focus on three key pillars. And GDP says it all – we know that when women participate fully in economies, the GDP of a nation rises.
Pillar One – Women Prospering in the Workforce: Workforce development and skills training for women help pave the way for economic empowerment. Improving women’s access to quality vocational education, including training opportunities closely linked with employer needs, can lead to higher-paying, middle-skill jobs. These jobs include high growth, in-demand occupations, such as those in the STEM fields.
Pillar Two – Women Succeeding as Entrepreneurs: Women entrepreneurs are an emerging market force, serving as an important source of innovation and job creation. We will continue to support women who want to start and scale their businesses, creating prosperity and stability for their families and communities. We will also focus our efforts on businesses that enhance women’s economic participation and access through their policies and practices, as well as their products and services.
Pillar Three – Women Enabled in the Economy: Women’s economic empowerment also relies on changes to laws, policies, practices, and norms that have historically limited women’s potential. Our work will continue to identify and reduce the policy, legal, and regulatory barriers to women’s participation in the economy. We will promote improved practices that increase women’s economic empowerment.
STATE DEPARTMENT AND WOMEN’S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT
The three pillars of the W-GDP serve as the foundation for the State Department’s engagement and strong partnership with foreign governments and the private sector. We are aligning our programming and initiatives to reflect W-GDP priorities.
As an example, the State Department supports the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which brings together thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, and business representatives from all corners of the world. This year’s ninth Global Entrepreneurship Summit will be in the Netherlands in June. Empowering women entrepreneurs will be a critical component of this event. We are working with our co-hosts in the Netherlands to ensure women entrepreneurs and investors from the United States meet and partner with their peers from all over the world. American women entrepreneurs will also hear from, and interact with, industry-leading women innovators in the focus sectors of agriculture, connectivity, health, energy and water. Investment-ready entrepreneurs, especially women, should apply online right now at www.ges2019.org. The application system is open until March 22.
EMPOWERING WOMEN AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR
In my travels, I have enjoyed meeting many inspiring women leaders, and they voice a common need to me: women need strong professional networks and business environments to advance their careers and to grow their businesses.
I believe that we can – and we must — work together to establish strong professional networks and business environments that promote women’s economic empowerment in a global context. We have to make sure that the plans we put in place now are sustainable and work in the economy of the future.
Turning to State’s efforts, this week our team launched POWER – or the “Providing Opportunities for Women’s Economic Rise” Initiative. This multi-tiered program connects the U.S. private sector with U.S. government initiatives overseas to promote women’s economic empowerment. I think many of the participants in our conversation are here today and I want to thank them again for partnering with us!
Through POWER, we are convening the U.S. private sector, including women business owners, industry experts, and investors, to identify and link U.S. private sector priorities to opportunities abroad in support of women in business. We will then deploy the full breadth of U.S. diplomatic networks to support women’s economic empowerment and advance economic priorities.
POWER’s ability to connect U.S. women business leaders with those abroad enables women to develop strong professional networks and key partnerships in emerging markets. This initiative contributes to the overall advancement of U.S. economic interests, aligns with the National Security Strategy, and supports the goals of the W-GDP.
STATE’S IMPACT ON WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
I want to emphasize that women’s economic empowerment is a cross-cutting issue and we must integrate this goal into everything that we do. We must cultivate female talent and make every effort to pull each other up.
One way the State Department is empowering women to lead is by recognizing women business leaders, and businesses leading the charge in empowering women. A perfect example is The Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence.
Last fall the State Department recognized winners for corporate excellence in women’s economic empowerment. This was the first time in the award’s 19-year history that we had an award category specifically dedicated to empowering women.
The Award for Corporate Excellence in Women’s Economic Empowerment went to a company called Alaffia, which is a health and beauty products company based in Washington State with several hundred employees there and sourcing products Togo. So Alaffia employs thousands of women, both here and abroad contributing to economic well-being and security. This company has a unique history.
Founded as a social enterprise, Alaffia alleviates poverty and advances women’s equality through the fair trade of indigenous resources to produce health and beauty products for the global market. Proving that individual economic prosperity equally affects the community, Alaffia dedicates 15 percent of its sales to community projects that improve maternal and child health, promote education, and protect the environment in rural Togo. The company directly employs more than 700 women in rural Togo, paying salaries that are four times the average family income. It also contracts with more than 14,000 women as suppliers.
Alaffia is a terrific example of the impact women can have when they are economically empowered. One of the co-founders credits the success of the company to the support he received from women in his community, business, and family, both in Togo and the United States.
We are excited to highlight the great work of U.S. companies like Alaffia, so for the second year we are including women’s economic empowerment as one of the category’s for this year’s Award for Corporate Excellence.
In fact, we encourage you all to share your success stories and best practices on women’s economic empowerment with us through this process. ACE award nominations are sent forward by our ambassadors, so, if interested, please reach out to the U.S. Embassy in the country where your company is making an impact by April 12th. I am looking forward to telling your stories and supporting the great examples of U.S. firms advancing women’s economic empowerment once again.
The State Department’s efforts to advance women’s economic empowerment are not only outward focused. We are committed to seeing how we can do better at the State Department, and that includes women’s economic empowerment.
For instance, when our officers at one of our embassies in South America noticed that very few of the bidders on embassy contracts were women, they dived deeper to see how they could better engage women-owned businesses.
They developed an outreach program focused on women-owned businesses and their ability to access information on business opportunities with the embassy. Within one year, this prompted an increase from $74,000 in embassy contracts with women-owned businesses in 2016 to over $440,000 in contracts in 2017.
It turns out that the embassy not only empowered women-owned businesses, but they also drove down costs.
This is one of many examples demonstrating that economic empowerment of women is not just the right thing to do, it is smart business. By engaging women-owned businesses, the embassy increased competition in the market, which in turn lowered costs for U.S. taxpayers.
OUTSTANDING CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN
We have taken advantage of many opportunities, however women also continue to face many challenges. We need to ensure that women have access to professional training and development, success networks and enforced legal protections against harassment and discrimination.
Through the WGDP, the Trump Administration wants to face these challenges. We will drive a whole-of-government effort with diverse and innovative approaches including educational programs, financial and technical assistance, capacity building, and mentorship. We will work with partners in the private sector, civil society, and the diplomatic community to ensure women have the opportunity to reach their full economic potential in the United States and around the world.
In order to turn challenges into the Equality Opportunity, we need focus and determination. We invite you to join us in our results oriented efforts to support initiatives that advance women’s economic empowerment and lead to greater prosperity, security, and stability for all.
I congratulate the U.S. Chambers of Commerce for over 100 years of partnership in advancing free enterprise and for having excellent women as members of your team—we’ve had the chance to work with several of them. I also want to congratulate the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation for their innovative Women’s Economic Empowerment Program. Your work is invaluable.
Through government, the private sector, civil society and driven individuals, let’s create a women’s economic empowerment ecosystem that will create a better future for everyone.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing about the outstanding work you are doing throughout the world.