U.S. Ambassador to the OECD Karen Kornbluh
on Making the Business Case for Women’s Economic Empowerment
Joint BIAC/AmCham France/OECD Workshop on the Business Case for Women’s Economic Empowerment
at the OECD Conference Center
February 2, 2012
- BIAC (Chairman Charles Heeter), USCIB (Ronnie Goldberg), OECD (SG Gurría, DSG Yves Leterme, Monika Quessar), and the American Chamber of Commerce in France (Director Marina Niforos) for seizing the opportunity to work with the OECD on its Gender Initiative. It is another example of both of your leadership, that your organizations would embrace this as a new challenge and run with it.
- Speakers and participants.
- USOECD: Andrea Lewis, Will Wade
We’re here today to discuss an important issue. As President Obama has said “Don’t we just want our daughters to have the same opportunities as our sons?” When we put it this way we realize there is broad agreement.
Secretary Clinton has been making the argument in addition to her commitment to womens’ rights as human rights that giving women economic opportunity equals economic growth.
Businesses are seeing this as well. And so we meet at a time where there is a window of opportunity. We are not in conflict. We just want to learn what works in different countries, different industries, and different businesses to both increase opportunity and growth.
OECD does the best work in this area. But no one wants another academic study – we all want this work to lead to recommendations that will work for real employers, real families, real women in the real world.
Last week (on January 24), Secretary Clinton hosted the inaugural meeting of the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership.
- The Council serves USG in advisory capacity on major issues in international business and economic policy, including:
- The integration of business interests and women’s economic empowerment into our overall foreign policy;
- The Department of State’s role in advancing and promoting the role of women in a competitive global economy.
- In her remarks, Secretary Clinton highlighted OECD’s Gender Initiative, calling it an “important driver of change.”
- Secretary Clinton noted that the Gender Initiative’s harmonized data on gender equality in education, employment and entrepreneurship will give us “the information necessary for employing strategies and tactics to move toward our goal” of empowering women.
- The key message of the Council meeting was that “including more women at the top of organizations, businesses, and the public sector is not just the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do. It’s good for business. It’s good for results.”
Today we will discuss why that’s good for business. And we will identify specific policies and best practices that can help unleash the potential of women in the workplace.
The evidence-based case for the inclusion of women as a vital source of economic growth is water-tight.
- Women own nearly 8 million businesses in the United States, accounting for $1.2 trillion of our GDP.
- In the United States, women went from holding 37 percent of all jobs to nearly 48 percent over the past forty years.
- As the Economist has reported, the productivity gains attributable to this modest increase in women’s overall share of the labor market accounts for approximately one-quarter of our current GDP, which is more than $3.5 trillion—more than the GDP of Germany, and more than half the GDPs of China and Japan.
Research shows a correlation between the number of women on boards and higher corporate profits.
- One analysis found that companies with more women board directors outperform those with the least by 66 percent in terms of return on invested capital, by 53 percent in terms of return on equity, and 42 percent in terms of return on sales.
- Another study indicates that one-third of executives reported increased profits as a result of investments in employing women in emerging markets.
When we talk about women we have so many slogans:
- Wage Gap
- Glass Ceiling
- Sticky Floor
- Mommy track
- Leaky Pipeline
- Work Life Balance
We resort to these to help us explain why women still aren’t fully integrated.
Maybe we can put these aside today and focus on business case Studies – roll up our sleeves. What can be done in the real world to produce more efficiency, better products, reach more consumers.
I hope that this will just be the beginning of a conversation and we can continue to work together as the Gender Initiative moves forward.
Thank you for being here. I look forward to hearing and participating in the discussion.
About the U.S. Mission to the OECD
The United States is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is an international organization, composed of 34 democratic countries with market-based economies. Shared goals include achieving sustainable economic growth and employment and a rising standard of living in member countries as well as engaging with non-members to contribute to the development of the world economy. Through its cross-country economic research, “soft law,” and effective peer reviews, the OECD is a dynamic international incubator for new ideas, providing the United States an opportunity for engaging with other countries on economic policy.
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