The best way to jump-start a sluggish economy is to empower women. “There is a growing body of evidence that proves bringing more women into the workforce spurs innovation, increases productivity, and grows economies,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in late June.
“Families have more money to spend. Businesses expand their consumer base and increase their profits. In short, when women participate more fully in their economies, everyone benefits.”
Conversely, limiting women's ability to join the workforce limits a country’s potential to grow its economy. Accordingly, the Asia-Pacific region is losing some $42 to $47 billion annually for excluding women’s economic participation, and another $16 to $30 billion due to a gender gap in education.
“Limiting women’s economic potential is for every country like leaving money on the table. It doesn't make sense, especially when we are still struggling to grow our way out of the economic crisis,” said Secretary of State Clinton.
Two new APEC initiatives will help expand women’s access to capital and markets, she said. “First, we want to help governments use their purchasing power to support women entrepreneurs and grow their economies. So we are working with the United Nations International Trade Center to improve the ability of APEC governments to source from women-owned businesses.
“Second, we are joining with expert partners to train central and commercial banks throughout the Asia Pacific in inclusive lending practices so that women can access finance and capital,” said Secretary Clinton:
“So we’re looking for both the big ideas that will inspire people and the very small steps that will help individuals succeed. ... What we have to do is open our minds, think creatively, look for new and better ways of doing business, and be sure that we keep women at the table.”
“Progress is possible,” said Secretary Clinton. “It needs to be accelerated. We need the economic engine that women can provide in every one of our countries, and I pledge that the United States will continue to work with you as a partner as we make progress together.”