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Women: Remarks at National Center for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Women's Event

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Well, again, thank you all. You just heard from the (inaudible). Peggy, I appreciate your leadership enormously. I know you’ve been involved in STEM and – for a lifetime, almost, and I know that you’re – whether it’s in Microsoft or elsewhere, you’ve been always pushing the engagement with women. I’m told when first (inaudible), you always asked this: “How can I advance the closing of the gender barrier?” And so I appreciate that very much.

Just so you all know that I practice what I preach, I have two deputy secretaries at the State Department. Right now, one is an acting secretary because Bill Burns just left – she is a woman. And the permanent deputy secretary for management is a woman. Four of my six under secretaries of State are women. And five of my six regional assistant secretaries of State, the bureaus regionally, are women. And if you look at – (applause) – my two daughters and my wife – (laughter) – I am allowed to go home at night.

But seriously, all my political life, I’ve had – been blessed with a tremendous balance in my office without regard. And it’s never been done arbitrarily. It’s really interesting that just – if you’re open to it and you’re looking for talent and you find it. And so I’ve been very lucky and I’ve always had a pretty strong split. And some things, we’ve obviously tried to reach and create a balance, because sometimes it’s been harder, and I’m talking particularly about – if you’re also concerned about having your company look like the face of the country you’re in, you may have to reach more proactively to try to make sure you do. But it’s really important to do so, in my judgment.

What’s interesting is – and I’ve seen this all over the world in conflict and conflict resolution – if women are playing a significant role in the politics of the country, there really is a difference in conflict resolution, and particularly in war and avoidance of war. And women are very important to peacemaking. So whatever it is in the either genes or hormones or whatever – (laughter) – we need to make sure there is that appropriate balance. I was privileged to be in the Philippines when Cory Aquino rose to power. I was very involved in that election early on. And interestingly, a lot of countries surprisingly had women help where you wouldn’t necessarily expect it – in Pakistan and India and various places.

So there are people telling me that in the United States, we’re overdue. I don’t know if we’ll do anything about that or not in the near term, but that’s not for this discussion. (Laughter.) I am told, however, that the Asia Pacific region loses apparently some $89 billion a year from the restrictions on women’s participation in the economy. And that is very striking when you consider that narrowing the gender gap in some emerging economies could boost GDP in those economies by at least 10 percent. And a rise in female income in Latin America already was judged to have reduced poverty by 30 percent over the last decade. So it makes an enormous difference, and that’s what we’re after.

So to cut to the chase here, let me say very quickly that is why we are launching the Women and the Economy Dashboard. And what we all know is that what gets measured gets done and has an impact. So we’re establishing the first regional baseline on women’s economic participation. And this initiative is really very simple: The Dashboard is going to help us track the critical indicators of women’s economic success – female labor force participation, financial literacy, educational attainment – all of these kinds of things will be measured. And that will set a clear benchmark for women’s participation in the economy, monitoring progress, and supporting countries in their efforts to get women into positions in business where they’re leading and able to inspire and be role models, obviously, for future generations. This is going to support our G20 and our post-2015 development goals in addition. It’s going to be a very important part of what we’re going to put out on the table next year.

We’re also launching a regional network called WE-APEC, and a lot of people ask me – this is true in Afghanistan, for instance – I met some extraordinary women entrepreneurs and they’ve been models. They came over to Washington and we did an event with Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton together in order to celebrate what women are doing and try to highlight what’s possible. And a lot of people asked me frequently, said, “What can we do to help, how do you get at this, where do you find women who are qualified,” and so forth.

So WE-APEC is going to answer those questions by helping companies be able to identify future private sector leaders, link them to training programs and loan guarantees, and then connect their networks to global supply chains. And as we all know, capital chases confidence and opportunity together, and this will help provide both. So this will be an important step. We are confident in women’s empowerment and I think could even become a model for what could take hold in other places elsewhere in the world.

So governments obviously have a critical role to play, but the private sector can do, frankly, a lot more a lot faster if you want to know the truth. We can exhort, we could leverage to some degree. But Walmart is promoting women throughout its supply chain. It’s equipping them with the tools they need to be successful in raising food, in manufacturing products, in manufacturing retail outlets. Chevron’s International REACH program – scholarship program has already helped more than 470 women from 51 countries get a college education. Microsoft has enabled 38 million students – half of them girls – to learn how to code. And all of these are steps that are going to empower people and guarantee that progress continues.

So it’s very, very clear that global markets will go like this and there’ll be a lot of different ups and downs and changes, but I can’t think of anything that will have a greater impact on fighting back against some of the ignorance, some of the resistance to modernity, and some of the false assumptions and theories which people use to keep people down in a lot of parts of the world than empowering women more and more. And there are too many countries where women are sidelined, literally, and grotesquely in some places. I’m a guy who has played sports and I don’t mind an occasional sports analogy. The simple reality is no team can win with half its players on the bench. It’s that simple. And we therefore have to do everything possible.

So I’m delighted to be here to be part of this initiative. I hope these efforts by the State Department will encourage and contribute. But I can guarantee you that the State Department, this Secretary is going to prove you don’t have to be a woman to be able to keep the Department focused on these issues. (Laughter, applause.)