Thank you so much to Citi and the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council for co-hosting this event and your support of the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council.

Thank you Dr. Sania Nishtar and the Government of Pakistan for being with us this morning and your commitment to women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Welcome distinguished guests and the Pakistani exchange students here with us this morning! I am looking forward to hearing from some of you soon!

The U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council, which I am thrilled to co-chair with Michael Young, President of Texas A&M University, is a unique public-private partnership that catalyzes initiatives, policies and dialogue, to foster women’s employment, entrepreneurship and access to educational opportunity in Pakistan.

President Young was not able to be with us today but he sent his regards and a letter which he asked to be distributed to all of the guests.

Addressing the barriers women and girls face to achieving gender equality and empowerment requires the resources, talent and commitment of governments, civil society and the private sector.  No one can do it alone.

That is why the State Department is launching the second phase of the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council with Texas A&M, demonstrating a renewed focus on working with business leaders, civil society and the Government of Pakistan to increase investment, resources and attention to bolster women’s workforce participation and entrepreneurship in Pakistan.

Data shows that women’s economic empowerment is critical to economic growth.  In the United States, women’s labor force participation has nearly doubled since 1950.  Because of this, the economy grew by 2 trillion dollars.  When women joined the workforce wages went up for everyone.  And women’s income accounts for the majority of the increase in family income.

Yet much more needs to be done to support women’s participation in the public and private sectors.

Pakistan’s rankings on gender parity in workforce participation, education and health outcomes are among the lowest in the world.  Only 12 percent of firms in Pakistan are owned by women and female labor force participation rates remain low.

Leaders across the Government of Pakistan, civil society, academia and Diaspora in the United States, many of whom are here today, are working to address the challenges facing women and girls in Pakistan.

That includes women like Dr. Sumera Haque, who as Executive Director of the Women’s Health Center at Johns Hopkins launched a partnership between Lahore’s Shalimar Hospital and Johns Hopkins Hospital to increase the quality of medical care for women in Pakistan.  The first partnership between Hopkins and a hospital in Pakistan in Hopkins’ 100 year history, her efforts will support professional exchanges that will improve medical treatment in primary care, oncology and beyond.  Thank you Dr. Haque for your work and for serving as an Honorary Friend of the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council.

Or Shaista Mahmood, a founding member of the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council, who has contributed immensely to strong U.S.-Pakistan understanding for the greater part of thirty years and supported, through her own philanthropic efforts, the education of hundreds if not thousands of girls in Pakistan, working in collaboration with an array of Pakistani non-profit organizations.  Shaista, thank you so much for everything you do.

The Council, for its part, works with its corporate members – the Hashoo Group, Coca Cola, Pepsico, Engro, The Resource Group, Citi, Procter & Gamble, S&P Global, STEMconnector, and General Electric –  who are stepping up in their own workplaces to turn these statistics around.

It has also joined forces with its non-profit members including Quantum Leaps, the American Pakistan Foundation, The Indus Entrepreneurs, the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council, among other organizations, to address barriers to women’s economic participation.

Collectively, our members know that accelerating women’s economic empowerment is good for business and good for Pakistan.  It is linked to global competitiveness and productivity, job creation and economic growth.

The Council launched a monthly Speaker Series to help promote inclusive work culture and connect women to networks and experts they need to succeed.  As part of this series, the Pakistan Business Council, U.S. Consulate Karachi, International Finance Corporation, and U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council convened corporate executives from across Pakistan just a few hours ago in Karachi to discuss strategies to promote men in caregiving roles and promote family friendly work environments.

We joined forces with Vital Voices Global Partnership and WEConnect International to launch Pakistan’s Women’s Business Opportunity Initiative.  This effort aims to build inclusive supply chains and increase corporate spending on goods and services provided by women entrepreneurs in Pakistan.

Most importantly, today we are here together to launch and celebrate the Pakistan Million Women Mentors Initiative.

This bold, ambitious initiative organized by STEMconnector aims to connect one million women and girls in Pakistan to mentors over the next three years – to build networks and provide support so that young girls understand the world of possibilities open to them, women entrepreneurs have a sounding board to incubate, launch and scale companies, and women in the workforce have access to resources to help them thrive.

Many companies and organizations are enthusiastically signing up.  S&P Global, Citi, the Resource Group, Zafa Pharmaceuticals, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Pepsico have already pledged to mentor more than 24,000 women and girls and are the first in Pakistan to join the movement.  Citi, our host today, committed to more than 3,000 mentoring relationships and S&P Global, 20,000!

Many men and women have served as mentors to me as I forged my own career path, providing invaluable counsel.  I am sure I speak for many in this room who would share that whether an aspiring scientist, politician, or entrepreneur, mentors are wonderful assets.

Today, we will dive in and begin those mentoring relationships with a round of what we call “speed mentoring.”  Thanks to Kristen, Citi, and the representatives of the companies and organizations who are lending their time to participate in today’s mentoring session and to all of you.

This morning reflects one part of a much broader vision.  It represents an investment in the world we wish to achieve – where women and girls are afforded equal opportunity to participate and thrive.  I hope that the commitment towards mentoring women and girls that is reflected here today continues to grow.  Thanks to all of your support, we believe it will.

Thank you!

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future