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Remarks & Releases

Remarks: Dr. Jeri Guthrie-Corn at Gender Forum

December 17, 2012

Two months ago, on October 10, Taliban assassins gunned down a 15-year-old girl in Pakistan. They shot her in the head as she rode home on a school van. Her name - Malala Yousafzai. Her crime - wanting to go to school.

Her story has inspired millions around the world to dedicate themselves anew to the goal of women's and girls' empowerment. The attack on this young woman came about when intolerance, hugely outdated traditions and violence coalesced.

Gender equality is not a new battle of the sexes. Nor is it a zero sum game. When men and women have the same opportunities, economies flourish, democracies become more stable, societies as a whole are better off. No country can progress if half of its population is excluded from knowledge, opportunity and decision-making.

The OECD Gender Initiative has focused a new lens on the advancement of women by providing much-needed information. The data already provide strong evidence linking gender equality and increased prosperity and security. This data helps us to know what needs to be done and provides insight on how to do it.

We have a saying in the United States: "What gets measured gets done." Once you start measuring problems, people are more inclined to fix them. No one wants to be at the bottom of a list of rankings (especially an OECD list!). That is why Secretary Clinton called in July for the continued collaboration of OECD with other organizations to fill priority gaps in gender-sensitive data. In addition to providing gender data on education, entrepreneurship, and employment, the Gender Initiative provides a toolbox of policy ideas.

This Forum has unleashed a wealth of new ideas and examples. We must put the data and your insights to use.

Let's encourage more girls to don lab coats, program computers, launch high-tech start-ups, and waltz into Wall Street. (We'd like to see more boys in arts and humanities too!)

Let's campaign, speak out, and have courage to raise awareness of issues that often impact women much more than men - critical issues such as healthcare, parental leave, childcare, flexible work arrangements, and caring for elderly parents.

Let's provide affordable and quality early child education; and let's improve women's financial know-how. I think the U.S. has made progress on the latter, but on the former we are very low on the list.

Let me be clear - improving gender equality is not simply a matter of human dignity. It is essential to our shared prosperity and security. Inequality creates strife, instability, and insecurity - the type of insecurity that nearly killed Malala.

The OECD has taken significant steps in the right direction. Let's make sure we continue on this path, and I hope that in the days and months ahead we can take a look at gender issues in the informal sector.