Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton: No Person to Waste in the Participation Age

This post is part of a series of excerpts from the remarks made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Women and the Economy Summit at Westin Saint Francis, San Francisco, CA on September 16, 2011. The video footage can be viewed below. We recommend viewing from 3:37-30:40.

No Person to Waste in the Participation Age
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.

In some APEC economies, this transformation has been underway for quite awhile now. In others, it has begun more recently. But in all, progress has been too slow and too uneven. But 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 everywhere. And economies that are making the shift more effectively and rapidly are dramatically outperforming those that have not.

So if we are serious about this undertaking, if we really want to achieve parity for women in the workforce, both that they participate and how they participate, then we must remove structural and social impediments that stack the deck against them. Now, I don’t urge this because it is the right thing to do, though I believe that it is, but for the sake of our children and our nations, it is necessary to do. Because a rising tide of women in an economy raises the fortunes of families and nations.

Now, my husband often says, in making the argument that everyone should be involved, that we don’t have a person to waste. I think that’s true. When it comes to the enormous challenge of our time, to systematically and relentlessly pursue more economic opportunity in all of our lands, we don’t have a person to waste, and we certainly don’t have a gender to waste either.

So let’s look at the evidence. 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.

Women are the Key to Growth and Productivity
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.

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