SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody, and good morning, Cathy, and thank you so much for your brilliant stewardship of this initiative. I really appreciate what you are doing. Everywhere I go around the world, Cathy is there with an army of women – (laughter) – that she has helped to organize somewhere in the world, and it’s wonderful to see what she is doing.
And I am blessed to work with a President and Vice President, both of whom are married to remarkable women – as am I, I might add – (laughter) – and I have two fabulous daughters, both of whom are out in the world doing great things. So I literally cannot go home if I am not a champion of this – just joking. (Laughter.)
And here I see the Vice President’s sister Valerie is here, who has been a great influence in his life and is a champion of this effort, as is Jill. So we are blessed to have a tremendous team, I want you to know, that is genuinely focused on this. And the Vice President and I worked on these issues in the Senate for years. As you know, he was the champion of the Violence Against Women Act – wrote it and led the efforts on it – and I was privileged to do many things as a prosecutor and otherwise in working for victim-witness and rape counseling and other things going back 30, 35, 40 years – scary.
So I am really happy to be here with all of you and I am so grateful to Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the president of Croatia, and also a Fulbright (inaudible). (Applause.) And we are really, really pleased that she is offering her leadership to make sure that women have access to opportunities and to rights, and she is going to take on this fight. And we’re so grateful to her for that.
Also want to welcome our four newest partners in this effort: the Republic of Korea, Canada, Colombia, and Montenegro. Your contributions to this will help us to build on the momentum that was surged, really, five years ago when President Obama challenged the heads of state everywhere to break down gender barriers in health, education, political, and economic inclusion. At our first gathering, 11 nations answered that call, and as Cathy just mentioned, we now are up to 32 members. Most importantly, a host of allies in academia, civil society, the private sector.
So we’re here because we know in our gut and in our heart as well as our head that ensuring equal access for women to economic and political power is not just a positive thing to do; it’s essential and it has profoundly important impacts to building civil society, to building community, to strengthening whole nation-states. And just as no team in sports – I mean, we all love our sports analogies – no team can win playing at half strength. Well, no country, no community can grow and prosper or ignore if it pushes to one side the energy and the talents of one half of its population.
So the bottom line is simple: When more girls go to school, human capital increases. When more women join the labor force, economies become more sustainable and more diverse. When more women are engaged in public service, governments become literally more accountable and much more likely to meet urgent social needs.
And despite all of this, obviously, we still know that unacceptable barriers to women’s participation in politics and in the workforce still exist, even here in my own country. Too many women still lack the access to capital, to credit, and to the training that they need in order to be able to compete fairly. And in some places, women are denied the right to even own land. In others, discriminatory traditions stack the odds against them going to college, against their getting a job, against their starting a business, against their full participation in society. As a result, women remain underrepresented in every aspect of political and public life. Only one in five of the world’s parliamentarians is a woman. Women control just one-fifth of global wealth and only 22 Fortune 500 firms are headed by women. That is less than 5 percent. In 2016, that is not a great record.
And the good news is that pledges made through Equal Futures Partnership are, in fact, closing the gap – enacting laws that help women get on the ballot, launching action plans against gender-based violence, boosting women’s representation in male-dominated industries, creating mentorship programs for ethnic minority women, and, frankly, much, much more. So step by step, we are moving forward and I’m convinced that we’re going to continue to do so.
Empowering women and girls is a strategic priority for the United States of America. And no matter which party – (applause) – no matter which party leads our government, we are committed to making sure that women have an equal chance on the boards of corporations, in parliaments, in congresses, and at leadership across the table.
We know also that gaining full equality for women still is a challenge, but it’s an easy choice. I mean, it’s really not something you have to wrestle with that hard to figure out, particularly as the planet gets closer and closer and communications have opened up opportunities for everybody everywhere to know what other people are thinking and able to do everywhere else in the world, which also illuminates what people are not able to do in the places that they live.
So accomplishing this goal of full equality, if you read all of the studies, look at all of the analysis – and there’s a lot more of it nowadays than ever before – it all documents the benefits that flow to countries, to corporations, to entities, to local governments, to anybody who does this actually winds up benefiting significantly from it.
And so I can tell you unequivocally that we will not rest until we can say with confidence that all the barriers to justice have been removed, that all the examples of discrimination have been exposed, that all glass ceilings have been shattered, and all perpetrators of abuse and bigotry are held to account. And in that effort, we invite people everywhere in the world to join us and we caution all: nobody’s going to stop this from happening. Thank you. (Applause.)
Source: U.S. State Department.