Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the honorary co-founder of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, spoke about the progress that has been made in women’s participation in business across the globe and the work that still needs to be done to close the gender gap in economic participation in Gaston Hall on Thursday afternoon.
The event, entitled “The Power of Women’s Economic Participation,” was sponsored by GIWPS and marked the re-launch of the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership. Founded within the U.S. Department of State by Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State, the council will reconvene permanently under GIWPS and will focus on women’s issues in international business and in international economic policy.
University President John J. DeGioia offered opening remarks on the goals of the council and their compatibility with the university’s values.
“The issues that the council will focus on deeply are deeply resonant with the mission of this university,” DeGioia said. “The economic empowerment of women, the promotion of gender equality, equal access to capital and markets and the building of capacity and skills all reflect our tradition of social justice, our commitment to equal opportunity and our dedication to the common good.”
Clinton began her speech by expressing remorse about the death of School of Foreign Service Dean Emerita Carol Lancaster, who died on Oct. 22.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Carol’s family and friends and the entire university community,” Clinton said. “She would have really loved to have been here for this. … She was instrumental in the creation of the first ever, anywhere in the world, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.”
Clinton went on to speak about the importance of encouraging the equal participation of women in the workforce.
According to Clinton, much of the work that women are doing around the world takes place in informal economies and is not taken into account in formal measures of nations’ economies. When she was travelling around West Africa as First Lady during the 1990s, Clinton observed women working in fields and marketplaces.
However, Clinton said that economists told her that they were not evaluating the contributions that women were making to the economies because they were not participating in the formal economy that can be measured by classic economic analysis.
Clinton stressed the importance of creating opportunities for women to participate in formal economies.
“It is true that if more women have the opportunity to participate fully in the formal economy, they, their families and their communities will prosper,” Clinton said.
In order to encourage equal participation in the workplace between women and men, Clinton said, certain barriers must be removed. She stated the importance of accessible child care and paid sick leave. Additionally, she said that in developing countries, many women do not even have access to basic sanitation, including toilets, in the workplace.
“We in this council are looking at everything from truly the most basic barriers that enable girls and women to go on to higher education, enable them to be in the workforce, away from their homes for some period during the day, all the way to how to get more women onto program boards and into executive positions,” Clinton said.
Clinton stressed that the economic benefits of incorporating more women into the workplace and ensuring that they earn equal pay extend to nations as a whole.
“If you look at the data, and I invited you all to do that, and we are going to be producing more data through the Clinton Foundation No Ceilings initiative, it is very clear that the more women that we can get to participate fully and get paid equal pay for equal work, the faster our economy will recover,” Clinton said.
According to Clinton, if women begin to participate in the workforce at the same levels that men do, developed countries’ GDPs could rise by as much as 10 percent and developing countries’ GDPs could rise by as much as thirty to forty percent.
Clinton closed by saying that she will work to ensure opportunities for her granddaughter, Charlotte, who was born last month, but that these opportunities must be extended to all people, regardless of their background.
“You should not have to be someone who goes to Georgetown, or in our case, the granddaughter of a former president who also happened to go to Georgetown, to be given the tools and to have the support of your community, as well as your family,” Clinton said.
Following Clinton’s lecture, GIWPS Executive Director Melanne Verveer (FLL ’66, GRD ’69), the former U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women’s Issues, moderated a panel discussion about women’s economic participation. Panelists included Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Founder Cherie Blair, Bank of America Global Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Anne Finucane, former Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy and Minister of Trade of Indonesia Mari Pangestu and Chair of the Strauss Group’s Management Board Ofra Strauss.
Pangestu shared an anecdote about her experience in a village in Africa where, when asked how to delegate funds, the men wanted to purchase an antenna so that they could watch soccer, and the women wanted to use the money to install a pipe system so that they did not have to spend three hours a day getting water.
“It’s not just about women’s participation in the economy. It’s actually more basic than that,” Pangestu said. “It’s also about the decision-making from the beginning as to what the money should be delegated for.”
Finucane spoke about the different perspectives that women bring to corporate leadership.
“The women’s voices at the table have made a real difference. One-third of our board of directors is women, half the management of the company who are vice presidents and above are women,” Finucane said. “I do think that has made a huge difference in terms of just the conversation, let alone the progress we’ve made.”
Gaston Hall was filled to capacity, with several rows reserved for council members and for female ambassadors.
Halle Hagan (SFS ’18), who attended from the event, said that she enjoyed hearing from accomplished women about what needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workforce.
“I’m glad that measures are being taken in both developed and developing countries to expand opportunities for women in the economy,” Hagan said. “And we’re still on our way to ensuring that everyone’s labor is valued equally.”
Veronica Yam (NHS ’18) said that she appreciated the statistical evidence that Clinton presented about the economic benefits of including women in the economy.
“One point I liked that both Hillary and the panelists made was that not only is including women in the formal economy a morally right thing to do but that it would help the world economy as a whole,” Yam said.“I’ve never taken an Economics class, so I’ve always thought that encouraging women in the business world was only the right thing to do. It was nice to learn how it would actually improve the economy.”
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