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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Women and the Economy


Hillary Rodham Clinton photo
Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke on women and the economy on Sept. 16, 2011, in San Francisco. Hillary Clinton spoke about the importance of growing the economy and the role women play in helping a country become more competitive and prosperous.

Following are excepts from Hillary Clinton's remarks at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Women and the Economy Summit.

The big challenge we face in these early years of 21st century is how to grow our economies and ensure shared prosperity for all nations and all people. We want to give every one of our citizens, men and women alike, young and old alike, greater opportunity to find work, to save and spend money, to pursue happiness ultimately to live up to their own God-given potentials. That is a clear and simple vision to state.

But to make it real, to achieve the economic expansion we all seek, we need to unlock a vital source of growth that can power our economies in the decades to come. And that vital source of growth is women. With economic models straining in every corner of the world, none of us can afford to perpetuate the barriers facing women in the workforce. Because by increasing women's participation in the economy and enhancing their efficiency and productivity, we can bring about a dramatic impact on the competitiveness and growth of our economies.

But that great, global dream cannot be realized by tinkering around the edges of reform. Nor, candidly, can it be secured though any singular commitment on the part of us here. It requires, rather, a fundamental transformation, a paradigm shift in how governments make and enforce laws and policies, how businesses invest and operate, how people make choices in the marketplace.

As information transcends borders and creates opportunities for farmers to bank on mobile phones and children in distant villages to learn remotely, I believe that here, at the beginning of the 21st century, we are entering the participation age, where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is poised to be a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace.

A rising tide of women in an economy raises the fortunes of families and nations. ... The case for unlocking the potential of women and including them more fully in the economic life of our nations begins with the accounting of how women already are driving growth. The 21 economies of APEC are among the most dynamic in the world. Together, we represent more than half of total economic global output, and more than 60 percent of women in the APEC economies are part of our formal workforces. They're opening stores, they're running businesses, they're harvesting crops, they're assembling electronics, and designing software.

The Economist points out that the increase in employment of women in developed countries during the past decade has added more to global growth than China has, and that's a lot. And in the United States, a McKinsey study found that women went from holding 37 percent of all jobs to nearly 48 percent over the past 40 years, and that in sheer value terms, these women have punched well above their weight.

The productivity gains attributable to this modest increase in women's overall share of the labor market accounts for approximately one-quarter of the current U.S. GDP. That works out to more than three and a half trillion dollars, more than the GDP of Germany and more than half the GDPs of both China and Japan.

So the promise is clear. What then is the problem? If women are already making such contributions to economic growth, why do we need a major realignment in our thinking, our markets, and our policies? Why do we need to issue a declaration from this summit? Well, because evidence of progress is not evidence of success, and to be sure, the rate of progress for women in the economies of our region varies widely. Laws, customs, and the values that fuel them provide roadblocks to full inclusion.

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. And some of those who get to enter the workforce are really confined by very clear signals to a lower rung on the job ladder, and there's 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. Some women in the APEC region don't have the same inheritance rights as men. So they can't inherit property or businesses owned by their fathers. Some don't have the power to confer citizenship on their children, so their families have less access to housing and education, and they must constantly renew residency permits making it harder for them to work.

Some are even subject to different taxes than men. Too often they are denied access to credit and may even be prohibited from opening bank accounts, signing contracts, purchasing property, incorporating a business, or filing lawsuits without a male guardian. Some women earn almost as much as men before they have children but less afterwards and even less if they are single mothers.

A Goldman Sachs report shows how a reduction in barriers to female labor force participation would increase America's GDP by 9 percent. We admit we still have such barriers. It would increase the Eurozone's by 13 percent - and they need it - and Japan's by 16 percent. Unlocking the potential of women by narrowing the gender gap could lead to a 14 percent rise in per capita incomes by the year 2020 in several APEC economies, including China, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea.

Source: the U.S. State Department

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