To achieve economic success, the world needs to promote women – in both the public and private sectors.
That was the message of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s keynote Friday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Women and the Economy Summit in San Francisco, where she addressed a capacity crowd at the Westin St. Francis Hotel.
She told APEC members – business people, dignitaries, foreign delegates and economic leaders from around the world – that it is time “to unlock a vital source of growth that can power our economies in the decades to come. That vital source of growth is women.”
And she urged them to open the “roadblocks to full inclusion” by stopping discriminatory practices that keep women out of positions of leadership.
“In the United States and in every economy in APEC, millions of women are still sidelined, unable to find a meaningful place for themselves in the formal workforce,” she said. “And some of those who get jobs are confined to the lowest rungs on the job ladder by a web of legal and social restrictions that limit their potential. Or they are confronted with a glass ceiling that keeps them from the most senior positions. Only 11 of the CEOs of the Fortune Global 500 companies are women. That’s less than 3 percent.”
In response, the 21 members of APEC plan to adopt a declaration that will commit to improving women’s access to better jobs, education and leadership roles.
“There is no doubt that the increasing numbers of women in the economy – and the rising productivity gains from improving the distribution of their talents and skills – has helped fuel significant growth,” she told the crowd.
Clinton pointed to a Goldman Sachs Group report that showed that increasing women’s participation in the labor force could lead to a 14 percent rise in per capita incomes by 2020 in APEC countries such as China, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Korea. She said multiple studies have shown that women reinvest more than men by spending higher percentages of their income on food, health care, home improvement and schooling. She also addressed a McKinsey & Co. survey that showed that a third of executives reported increased profits when women were empowered in emerging markets.
And she quoted the World Bank, which found that eliminating discrimination against female workers and managers could increase productivity by 25 to 40 percent.
Ann O’Leary, a lecturer at UC Berkeley’s law school who attended Clinton’s speech, was particularly impressed by how Clinton used data and research to make her point.
“It was incredibly pulled together,” O’Leary said. “And her goals are realistic.”
Ann Lee-Karlon, a vice president at biotech firm Genentech in South San Francisco, was also impressed.
“She laid out a powerful, data-driven presentation,” Lee-Karlon said. “She made a good case that promoting women is an economic necessity and is integral to having a competitive edge in both governments and business.”
We are extremely fortunate to have Hillary Clinton serving our nation as Secretary of State. It is extremely unfortunate that she is not our president.