Madame Secretary

Hillary Clinton argues for end to sexism in workplace

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.

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15 Responses to Madame Secretary

  1. Kind of fun that she’s talking about that at the same time it’s coming out how sexist and horrible a workplace the Obama WH is for women.

  2. Jadzia says:

    And on a shallow note… did she get extensions or something? She really, really looks like 1992 Hillary in that pic.

    Also, to Bull J. Moose — HONK!

  3. Good for Hillary. Having worked in a few different spots in Asia, her message is sorely needed. Here’s a rundown of the percentage of women on corporate boards in western nations. Norway wins with 34% (typically high across Scandinavia), US 12%, UK and Germany 8%, Italy 3%.

    • And here’s another reference for asian nations. Israel 15%, China 8%, Singapore 6%, India 5%, Japan and South Korea 2%, Saudi Arabia 0.1%.

    • Pips says:

      … but in order to meet with the law in Norway – that requires public companies to have at least 40% of either gender on their boards – many have had to “import” women from all over the EU, to fill those positions. Doesn’t really solve the problem … if there is a problem.

      Maybe there simply aren’t women enough able or eager to fill those positions?

      • Jadzia says:

        Oh, absolutely. We’re too pretty to bother our little heads with bid-ness.

      • Capable women can sit on multiple boards, Carl Icahn sits on something like two dozen, and what he’s really good at is breaking up companies not building them. The biggest hurdle for women is the board nominating process with both existing board members and shareholders…the process heavily favors the status quo. It would help to have more women in the higher executive ranks to draw from, but promotions to these higher ranks depend very much on board level decisions. So it’s a catch 22. I think quotas for board membership could help, but such a law would not get far in a Congress with 17% women.

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