SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I can feel the incredible power in this room, and it’s great to be with you this morning. Penny, my friend, my colleague, thank you for the warm introduction, but thank you especially for being such an extraordinary colleague. In times that are, I think remarkably challenging, it’s especially, especially important to have strong partnerships, strong friendships with likeminded countries, likeminded people. There’s no better example of that than Australia and Penny Wong. And let me say as well it is wonderful to be joined by my friend, longstanding colleague, Ambassador Kennedy, and Ambassador Rudd. Thank you both for being here today.
There’s a lot to be said about the work that we’re doing together on gender equality, but let me just share a few thoughts with you this morning. Over the last week, we’ve watched 700 of the best athletes on this planet compete in the Women’s World Cup. This tournament spotlights the exceptional talent and teamwork of these remarkable athletes. It illustrates their dedication, their grit, both on but also off the field. And it’s a reminder that many of these players – and many other women athletes – still face persistent obstacles: unequal pay, unequal resources, unequal treatment.
And of course, women and girls confront these very same barriers around our planet every single day.
Take this as an example: The World Economic Forum recently reported that, at the current rate of progress, it will take more than 160 years before men and women are represented equal at the highest levels of government. It’ll take almost 170 years before we see parity in the workforce, in wages earned, in opportunities for career advancement. And we know those gaps are wider and progress even slower for women of color, for indigenous women, for women with disabilities.
That is simply unacceptable. We have so much work to do to ensure that women have equitable access to medical care, to education, to political participation; that they enjoy the same fundamental freedoms as men; that they can live without fear of gender-based violence; that their paid based on the work they do, not who they are, and can participate fully in the labor force.
Think about this for just a minute. If we were actually able to close the gender gap in the workforce by 2025, we would add $28 trillion to the global economy. Imagine – imagine – the problems we could solve if we had those resources available to us. This is why promoting gender equity is a key priority for the United States and for President Biden, something that we’re focused on at home, something that we’re focused on around the world.
Just weeks after taking office, President Biden created the White House Gender Policy Council to advance equality and equity at home and abroad. He released our first-ever national strategy dedicated to supporting women and girls around the world. And he requested an historic doubling of our foreign assistance to promote gender equity abroad – a record $2.6 billion over one year. That funding is focused on a series of priorities like preventing and responding to gender-based violence, promoting women’s economic empowerment, increasing women’s engagement and peace and security, developing women’s political leadership.
Through these initiatives and many others, we are working closely with partners around the world like Australia.
We’re joining forces with other governments. Our two countries are helping to fund a World Bank initiative to expand access to quality childcare in low- and middle-income countries. We know how much doing that can free up women’s participation in every other aspect of life.
The United States is also teaming up with civil society and the private sector, including here in the broader Indo-Pacific region – like in Timor-Leste, where we’ve led 70 workshops for young people about preventing gender-based violence; or in the Marshall Islands, in Nauru, in Palau, Tuvalu, where we’re providing more than $2 million to support women entrepreneurs with small grants. These small grants have a large impact, as I know so many of you know you’re your experience with microenterprise.
To help advance equity in every corner of our communities, we’re also channeling the power of sports. This is, as we all know, a universal language that can bridge the divides of geography and unite us around our love of the game. Sports teaches us how to play together, how to work together, and sports can inspire us to push past what we thought was possible for ourselves and for our societies.
So our State Department has a sports diplomacy program, and we’re investing in the next generation of female athletes, working to level the playing field for women girls around the world. And as we do that, we are following the example of so many, including our own U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, who fought bravely – and successfully – for equal pay. I had a chance to meet with our team when we were just in New Zealand. And honestly, for me, it was just there being as – being a fan, because so many of them I’ve watched for so many years, one of the most exciting sports teams in all of sport anywhere, any sport, any gender.
In June, we brought 50 young women from nine nations, including Pacific Island countries, to the United States, where they sharpened their soccer and their leadership skills. We sent 39 members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team abroad to lead workshops, to speak about the importance of girls playing sports.
These sports envoys – some of our greatest athletes – have a remarkable impact around the world. And I’ve seen these programs in action. I met with some of the young women in New Zealand who have participated in these programs, and I can see the impact it’s having on their lives in expanding their own horizons. We’ve connected over 200 female sports leaders from 90 countries with mentors in the United States. Many of them returned home; they started organizations; they advocated for policy change; they created new opportunities for girls in sports.
One of our sports envoys, Lesley Visser, became one of the very first female sports journalists in the United States. This is back in the 1970s. Back then, the press box in a sports stadium had a pretty simple rule: no women and no children. Well, Lesley changed that. She blazed a trail forward.
Last November, Lesley shared her experience with young female athletes in Uzbekistan, which recently passed laws ensuring equal rights for men and women and criminalizing domestic violence. In those conversations, Leslie described the difference that America’s Title IX law made by banning sex-based discrimination in school sports. Title IX just recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. And over the course of my lifetime, I’ve seen the incredible dramatic impact it’s had in our society in advancing change.
As Lesley put it, back then, the question that girls had was: Who’s going to tell me – to let me – excuse me. Now, girls ask, “Who is going to stop me?”
That’s the change that we’ve seen over the last 50 years. (Applause.)
And what’s so powerful is we know that that’s the kind of change that is possible. We’ve seen it; we’ve lived it; we’ve experienced it; we’ve helped advance it. And alongside our partners around the world, starting with Australia, that is the future that we will continue to work toward together.
Thank you for all that each and every one of you is doing to make real that future for all of us in all of our societies. Thank you very much.