Op-Ed: "Women's Work-More, Earn-Less Plan Hurts"

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
March 8, 2011
Women Laborers Mix Clay and Water at Brick Kiln in India

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton marked the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day with an op-ed published by the Bloomberg News Wire. The full text of the Secretary's op-ed follows:

Women's Work-More, Earn-Less Plan Hurts
By Hillary Rodham Clinton

One of the biggest growth markets in the world may surprise you. You've heard about the opportunities opening up in countries like China, regions like Asia and industries like green technology. But one major emerging market hasn't received the attention it deserves: women.

Today, there are more than 200 million women entrepreneurs worldwide. Women earn more than $10 trillion every year, which is expected to grow by $5 trillion over the next several years. In many developing countries, women's incomes are growing faster than men's.

Facts such as these should persuade governments and business leaders worldwide to see investing in women as a strategy for job creation and economic growth. Many are doing so. Yet the pool of talented women is underutilized, underpaid and underrepresented in business and society.

Throughout the world, women do two-thirds of the work, yet they earn just one-third of the income and own less than 2 percent of the land. Three billion people don't have access to basic financial services we take for granted, like bank accounts and lines of credit; the majority of them are women.

Certainly we are seeing the impact of excluding women in the Middle East, where the lack of their access to education and business has hampered economic development and helped lead to social unrest.

If we invest in women's education and give them the opportunity to access credit or start a small business, we add fuel to a powerful engine for progress for women, their families, their communities and their countries. Women invest up to 90 percent of their incomes on their families and in their communities.

Ripple Effect

When women have equal access to education and health care and the freedom to start businesses, the economic, political and social benefits ripple out far beyond their own home.

At the State Department, we are supporting women worldwide as a critical element of U.S. foreign policy. We are incorporating women's entrepreneurship into our international economic agenda and promoting women's access to markets through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the Pathways to Prosperity Initiative and women's entrepreneurship conferences.

The U.S. is hosting a special Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation event on women and the economy to help foster growth and increase opportunities for women throughout the region. We are working with the private sector to provide grants to local non-governmental organizations around the world that are dedicated to women and girls.

Closing the Gap

We are encouraging governments and the private sector to use the tools at their disposal to provide credit, banking and insurance services to more women. Through our mWomen initiative, we will begin to close the gender gap in access to mobile technology, which will improve health care, literacy, education and economic potential.

This is a central focus of my diplomatic outreach. Wherever I go around the world, I meet with governments, international organizations and civic groups to talk about economic policies that will help their countries grow by expanding women's access to jobs and finance.

Many powerful U.S. businesses have embraced this mission as their own. ExxonMobil Corp. is training women entrepreneurs to help them advocate for policies to create more opportunities. Coca-Cola Co. has issued an ambitious challenge in its “5 by 20” program to empower and train 5 million new women entrepreneurs across the globe by 2020.

Improving Access

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. started the "10,000 Women" initiative to open the door for women who would not otherwise have access to a business education. Ernst & Young is tapping into the productive potential of women with its “Winning Women” program to help female entrepreneurs learn growth strategies from some of the most successful leaders in the U.S. Companies all over the world are committed to increasing productivity, driving economic growth and harnessing the power of emerging markets through greater diversity.

As Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank said, "gender equality is smart economics."

Governments are passing laws that support women's economic empowerment and building awareness of women's rights. Botswana lifted restrictions on the industries in which women can work, for example. Morocco now allows women to start businesses and get jobs without their husbands' approval. Bolivia began a land titling effort to recognize that women and men have equal rights to own property.

This week, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. It's an occasion for honoring the achievements of women. Without question, the past century has brought astonishing progress, by just about every measure, in women's health, their economic opportunities, their political power and more. Today, women are leaders in every field.

Acting on Ideas

Never in history have there been so many forces working together for gender equity.

But International Women's Day is also an occasion for recognizing how much more needs to be done to support women and girls worldwide. I encourage everyone reading this to reflect on what you and your friends can do to support women -- to put words and ideas into action.

If we decide -- as societies, governments and businesses -- to invest in women and girls, we will strengthen our efforts to fight poverty, drive development and spread stability. When women thrive, families, communities and countries thrive -- and the world becomes more peaceful and prosperous.



Ed W.
United States
March 8, 2011

Ed W. in the U.S.A. writes:

Madam Secretary -

It is of course pleasing that major corporations agree to support women's advancement. But they are inconsistent. Collectively, they continue to penalize women for undertaking the socially and economically essential work of childbearing and to undervalue the work of both women and men in raising children. For example, in addition to the continuing scandal of the gender gap in pay, the United States also sets an extremely poor example in how little time is afforded to new parents before they are expected to be back at work or face financial or promotion penalties.

The agenda set out above seems at once commendably ambitious and yet very limited in its vision, which appears to be circumscribed by what is acceptable to big business (not, necessarily, what is most useful to entrepreneurs and small businesses). Encourage women's entrepreneurship, by all means. But it is not sufficient in a world where resources are allocated so inefficiently and unjustly under the guise of free markets. The Washington Consensus has done much worldwide to dismantle public financial support for some of the very things you advocate above - women's access to healthcare and education, for example. Small businesses and entrepreneurs starting out often rely on public provision of some essential services. Genuine empowerment of women globally includes some things major corporations do not like, such as rights to collective bargaining, worker and environmental protection, and public health and education properly funded by sensible tax rates, including on big business. Mobile tech, exciting and powerful though it undoubtedly is, won't close gaps in the provision of essential public services on its own.

Perhaps if the US was doing a better job of lifting its own women out of poverty - which is the reality for too many - of providing decent healthcare and education, of ending pay inequality and reducing the radical maldistribution of wealth and resources at home, then your diplomacy abroad on these issues would be even better received.

I hope to hear of more successes by next year's International Women's Day.

California, USA
March 8, 2011

Nancy in California writes:

Thank you for your tremendous work on this issue and for bringing the inequality of women's financial compensation to the forefront. My comment is simply that when we here in the U.S. (Europe, Canada, and so on) have also failed to recognize the vital role women play in the work force and we do not compensate women equally to men either. Why then would we believe or expect other countries to do so?

Two wrongs don't make a right, however, we need to ensure that our own countries start compensating women fairly for the same work they do as their male counterparts and so far that hasn't happened.

March 8, 2011

Anonymous in Germany writes:

As a wife of a diplomat I find this article to be slightly ironic. Fighting for women's rights and advocating for equal pay and utilization is a noble cause. The State Department however still doesn't effectively utilize the hundreds of motivated, highly educated, intelligent family members, mostly women, at posts across the globe who would love to find opportunities within the department beyond menial secretarial work, going out to lunch, joining various women's groups and the ubiquitously suggested "volunteering".

There is certainly room for improvement among the very ranks making this call to corporations, "other" governments, and organizations alike.

I am not suggesting that we are in any way as bad off as a vast majority of women out there, however still seriously underutilized.

Christine H.
District Of Columbia, USA
March 8, 2011

Christine H. in Washington, DC writes:

Thank you so much for speaking out about the value of investing in women and girls! We agree and think education is at the heart of the matter. For more on girls' education, check out the World Bank Education Director's blog today about how "Educating 1+ Billion Girls Can Make the Difference for Gender Equality" -- "http://blogs.worldbank.org/education/educating-1-billion-girls-will-make..."

And happy International Women's Day to all.


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