Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton: Access to Capital is Crucial

This is the final post in 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.

Access to Capital is Crucial
We must improve women’s access to markets so those who start businesses can keep them open. For example, we need to correct the problem of what’s called information asymmetric problems, meaning that woman are not informed about the trade and technical assistance programs that are available, as we just discussed in agriculture.

There are two State Department programs that we are using to try to model a lot of these approaches. A program called Pathways to Prosperity connects policymakers and private sector leaders in 15 countries across the Americas. It’s aimed at helping small business owners, small farmers, craftspeople do more business, both locally and through regional trade. And the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program reaches out to women that are part of the African Growth and Opportunity Act countries to provide them with information and tools to take advantage of what AGOA has to offer.

And then finally, we must support the rise of women leaders in the public and private sectors because they bring firsthand knowledge and understanding of these challenges, and their perspectives will add great value as we shape policies and programs that will eliminate barriers to bring women into all economic sectors.

Several businesses already are taking significant steps to meet such goals. Goldman Sachs is training the next generation of women business leaders in developing economies with its Ten Thousand Women campaign. Coca Cola’s “Five by Twenty” campaign aims to support five million women entrepreneurs worldwide by 2020. And just this week, Wal-Mart announced that it will use its purchasing power to support women entrepreneurs by doubling the amount of goods it will buy from women-owned businesses globally to $20 billion by 2016. (Applause.) In addition, Wal-Mart will invest $100 million to help women develop their job skills, including women who work on the farms and factories overseas that are Wal-Mart suppliers.

Now, these programs are just the start of the type of permanent shift we need to see in how businesses worldwide invest in women.

 Now, I do not underestimate the difficulty of ushering in what I call the participation age. Legal changes require political will. Cultural and behavioral changes require social will. All of this requires leadership by governments, civil society, and by the private sector. And even when countries pursue aggressive structural reforms to get more women into their economy and enhance their productivity, they don’t always produce the results that we would like to see. So we have to stay with this. Persistence is part of our long-term plan.

And while economic orders may be hard to change, and policy strategies—no matter how good—can only get us so far, we all have to make a choice, not simply to remove the barriers but to really fill this field with active investment and involvement from all of us. Those of you who are here today are leaders from across the APEC region, and it is your choice to come here, it is your choice to focus on women and the economy that will send a message rippling across APEC. And the countless decisions that will be taken by leaders and citizens to encourage young girls to stay in school, to acquire skills, to talk to that banker, to understand what it means to give a loan to a woman who will work her heart out to produce a result for herself and her children. And when we do that, we are going to really make a big difference in helping elevate the age of participation for women.

And there are many other areas we have to be attentive to. Our medical research dollars need to be sure that we are equally investing in women as men. Our tax systems have to ensure that we don’t either deliberately or inadvertently discriminate against women. And women should be given the same opportunities to be productive and contributing members of society.

Measure and Track the Change
But big and bold ideas, I think are called for in our world today, because a lot of what we’re doing is not achieving the outcomes that we are seeking. There is a stimulative and ripple effect that kicks in when women have greater access to jobs and the economic fortunes of their families, their communities, and their countries. Many people say that there are all kinds of benefits that will flow from this, but I want to be somewhat modest in our goals. Yes, I do think it will produce more food and more educational opportunity and more financial stability for more families around the world, and that will have dividends across the full spectrum of society.

But our declaration will be meaningless if we don’t put our will and effort behind it. I think this summit just might make the history books if people look back in years to come and say, that meeting in San Francisco with all of those important people from across the Asia Pacific said something that had never been said before. They didn’t just assert that involving women was the good thing to do or the right thing to do. They put their heads together and came up with a declaration committing themselves to really tackle the obstacles, because it will benefit the people we all represent.

And then we need to measure our progress to be sure that we are tracking what we care about. We obviously do that in our own lives, but it’s important we do it across our countries and our regions. And I am sure that if we leave this summit and go back to our governments and our businesses and focus on how we’re going to improve employment, bring down national debts, create greater trade between us, tackling all of that, and always in the back of our mind keep in focus what more can we do to make sure women contribute to those results, we will see progress and we will be in the lead at not only asserting what we think should be done, but in measuring and tracking how well we are doing.

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