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Kerry on Women and the Economy


Vietnamese women gather to sell vegetables at a street market.

A large and growing body of evidence leaves little doubt that when women participate in the formal marketplace, the economic strength and competitiveness of the entire country rise.

A large and growing body of evidence leaves little doubt that when women participate in the formal marketplace, the economic strength and competitiveness of the entire country rise.

Women are an enormous untapped resource for struggling economies, yet all too frequently, women cannot access banking services or business and entrepreneurial education; they cannot access markets. Some countries do not allow women to inherit, and even restrict women from working in certain industries or getting a job without the permission of a male relative.

Such barriers are very costly, said Secretary of State John Kerry. “The Asia Pacific region loses some $89 billion a year from the restrictions on women’s participation in the economy. And that is very striking when you consider that narrowing the gender gap in some emerging economies could boost Gross Domestic Product in those economies by at least 10 percent.”

Speaking on the margins of the 2014 APEC CEO Summit in Beijing, Secretary Kerry announced two new initiatives that will help advance women’s economic participation throughout the region. First, the APEC Women and the Economy Dashboard, will measure APEC’s progress in improving women’s economic participation by tracking 75 critical indicators on women’s ability to participate in society, their economic success, such as participation in the labor force, financial literacy and educational attainment.

The Dashboard “will set a clear benchmark for women’s participation in the economy, monitoring progress, and supporting economies in their efforts to get women into positions in business where they’re leading and able to inspire and be role models for future generations,” said Secretary Kerry.

And second, the Secretary announced a Women’s Entrepreneurship in APEC or WE-APEC Network. This cross-cutting regional initiative will aim to identify and connect women’s entrepreneurship networks in each economy with public and private sector support services and global supply chains to ultimately expand economic opportunities and regional trade.

“As we all know,” Secretary Kerry stated, “capital chases confidence and opportunity together, and [these] will help provide both.

“There are too many countries where women are sidelined, literally, and grotesquely in some places,” he said. “The simple reality is no team can win with half its players on the bench.”

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