In fact, the APEC Summit, which brings you all here is a celebration of that important occasion and a recognition that history is made right here in San Francisco. Because San Francisco is an appropriate venue for this economic discussion. Because this is a community that is renowned for its spirit of inclusion and opportunity for all.
But at the risk of being somewhat provocative at the outset, I believe our goal is even bolder, one that extends beyond women to all humankind.
We want to give every one of our citizens, men and women alike, young and old alike, greater opportunity to find work, to save and spend money, to pursue happiness ultimately to live up to their own God-given potentials.
With economic models straining in every corner of the world, none of us can afford to perpetuate the barriers facing women in the workforce.
Because 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.
It requires, rather, a fundamental transformation, a paradigm shift in how governments make and enforce laws and policies, how businesses invest and operate, how people make choices in the marketplace.
The transformational nature of this undertaking that lies ahead is, in my view, not unlike other momentous shifts in the economic history of our world.
As information transcends borders and creates opportunities for farmers to bank on mobile phones and children in distant villages to learn remotely, I believe that here, at the beginning of the 21st century, we are entering the participation age, where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is poised to be a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace.
So if we are serious about this undertaking, if we really want to achieve parity for women in the workforce, both that they participate and how they participate, then we must remove structural and social impediments that stack the deck against them.
When it comes to the enormous challenge of our time, to systematically and relentlessly pursue more economic opportunity in all of our lands, we don’t have a person to waste, and we certainly don’t have a gender to waste either.
The 21 economies of APEC are among the most dynamic in the world. Together, we represent more than half of total economic global output, and more than 60 percent of women in the APEC economies are part of our formal workforces.
The productivity gains attributable to this modest increase in women’s overall share of the labor market accounts for approximately one-quarter of the current U.S. GDP.
And some of those who get to enter the workforce are really confined by very clear signals to a lower rung on the job ladder, and there’s a web of legal and social restrictions that limit their potential.
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.
And what is unhealthy is for women to be denied the chance to contribute fully to that growth, because that denies everyone, first and foremost their families, a chance at greater prosperity.
In short, they reinvest, and that kind of spending has a multiplier effect leading to more job growth and diversified local economies.
Data from 20 semi-industrialized countries suggest that for every one percentage point increase in the share of household income generated by women, aggregate domestic savings increased by roughly 15 basis points.
Integrating women more effectively into the way businesses invest, market, and recruit also yields benefits in terms of profitability and corporate governance.
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.
Now, these gains are achieved because removing barriers means that the talent and skills of women can be deployed more efficiently.
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.
And in several APEC economies, women comprise nearly half of the agriculture labor force.
When that resource gap is closed and resources are allocated equally–and better yet, efficiently–women and men are equally productive in agriculture.
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.
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.
Persistence is part of our long-term plan.
Our tax systems have to ensure that we don’t either deliberately or inadvertently discriminate against women.
But I am convinced that if we commit to pursuing the promise of this participation age and unleashing and harnessing the economic potential of women, we will see a new and better future.