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Women Key To Economic Growth

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gestures while addressing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women and the Economy Summit meeting in San Francisco, Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

The key to fueling economic expansion and ensuring shared prosperity is women’s participation.

The key to fueling economic expansion and ensuring shared prosperity is women’s participation, said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, Women and the Economy Summit:

"By increasing women’s participation in the economy and enhancing their efficiency and productivity, we can bring about a dramatic impact on the competitiveness and growth of our economies."

But that will require a fundamental transformation in how governments make and enforce laws and policies, how businesses invest and operate, how people make choices in the marketplace. In every economy in APEC, millions of women are still unable to join the formal workforce, said Secretary Clinton. Some women can’t inherit property or businesses owned by their fathers. Some don’t have the power to confer citizenship to their children, making it difficult to find housing and work, and schools for their children. Some are even subject to different taxes from men, and are denied access to banking services such as credit and bank accounts, signing contracts, purchasing property, incorporating a business, or filing lawsuits without a male guardian. Some women earn almost as much as men before they have children but less afterwards and even less if they are single mothers, said Secretary Clinton:

"These barriers and restrictions, some formal, some informal, erode women’s abilities to participate fully in their economies and to support their families whether as employees or entrepreneurs."

According to a recent report by the global investment bank Goldman Sachs, if we reduce the barriers to women so they can fully participate in the labor force, America’s Gross Domestic Product would increase by 9 percent, the Eurozone’s by 13 percent and Japan’s by 16 percent. Narrowing the gender gap in China, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Korea could mean a 14 percent rise in per capita incomes by the year 2020.

"When everyone has a chance to participate in the economic life of a nation, we can all be richer. More of us can contribute to the global GDP. And the gap between the developed and the developing countries would narrow significantly as productivity rises in economies from Haiti to Papua New Guinea," said Secretary Clinton.

"A rising tide of women in an economy raises the fortunes of families and nations."