Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton: Economic Gains by Elevating Women

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.

Economic Gains by Elevating Women
Integrating women more effectively into the way businesses invest, market, and recruit also yields benefits in terms of profitability and corporate governance. In a McKinsey survey, a third of executives reported increased profits as a result of investments in empowering women in emerging markets. Research also demonstrates a strong correlation between higher degrees of gender diversity in the leadership ranks of business and organizational performance. The World Bank finds that by eliminating discrimination against female workers and managers, managers could significantly increase productivity per worker by 25 to 40 percent. Reducing barriers preventing women from working in certain sectors would lower the productivity gap between male and female workers by a third to one half across a range of countries.

Now, these gains are achieved because removing barriers means that the talent and skills of women can be deployed more efficiently. And in our globalized world today, this is a competitive edge that is more important than ever. All of this underscores my primary point: When we liberate the economic potential of women, we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations, and the world.

Take just one sector of our economy – agriculture – to illustrate what I mean. We know women play an important role in driving agriculture-led growth worldwide. Agriculture is a powerful engine for development, as we have seen in the remarkable rise of China and India. And in several APEC economies, women comprise nearly half of the agriculture labor force. They sustain every link in the agricultural chain: They plant the seeds; they care for the livestock; they harvest the crops; they sell them at markets; they store the food, and then they prepare it for consumption.

But as for the role of women in agriculture nowadays, despite their presence in all of these kinds of jobs, they have less to show for all of their work. Women farmers are up to 30 percent less productive than male farmers, and that’s not because they are working less or are less committed. It’s because women farmers have access to fewer resources. They have less fertilizer, fewer tools, poorer quality seeds, and less access to training or to land. And they have much less time to farm because they also have to do most of the household work. When that resource gap is closed and resources are allocated equally – and better yet, efficiently – women and men are equally productive in agriculture. And that has positive benefits. In Nepal, for example, where mothers have greater ownership of land because of their inheritance rights, there are fewer severely underweight children.

So what we have here is an opportunity to accelerate growth in developing economies while, at the same time, producing more and cheaper food for our planet. Close the resource gap holding women back in developing economies, and we could feed 150 million more people worldwide every year, and that’s according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, and that’s in addition to the higher incomes for families and the more efficient markets and the more agricultural trade that would result.

The same kind of impact can be seen in other sectors in our economies, because we know that the entrepreneurial spirit of women is strong. More than half a million enterprises in Indonesia and nearly 400,000 in Korea are headed by women. They run fully 20 percent of all of China’s small businesses. All across Asia, women have and continue to dominate light manufacturing sectors that have proved crucial to the region’s economic takeoff. And economists predict that women-owned businesses, which now provide for 16 percent of all U.S. jobs, will create nearly a third of the new jobs anticipated over the next seven years.

So with that kind of evidence at hand, it is little wonder that the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report finds a direct correlation between the gender gap and economic productivity – the lower the former, the higher the latter. As Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum concludes, “Women and girls must be treated equally if a country is to grow and prosper.” The declaration we will adopt here today can begin to close that gender gap, by making it possible for more women to unleash their potential as workers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders.

And the goals in this declaration are very specific. We commit to giving women access to capital so women entrepreneurs can turn their ideas into the small and medium enterprises that are the source of so much growth and job creation. We urge examining and reforming our legal and regulatory systems so women can avail themselves of the full range of financial services. And such reforms can also help ensure that women are not forced to compromise on the well-being of their children to pursue a business career.

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