GUEST POST BY JOAN LIBBY-HAWK, Libby Hawk Associates& Advisor to UN Women:
What a privilege to be in the room listening to Secretary of State Clinton assuredly deliver the case for women’s economic empowerment to leaders of the 21 APEC nations and to move from the research and findings to change. The outcome document called the San Francisco Declaration confidently states that, “In 2011 and beyond, APEC economies will take concrete actions to realize the full potential of women, integrate them more fully into APEC economics, harness their talents, remove barriers that restrict women’s full economic participation, and maximize their contributions toward economic growth.” For so many of us who have been advocating for women’s inclusion and rights and documenting the cost of women’s exclusion and discrimination, September 16th in San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel ballroom was indeed a good day.
The facts marshaled are now well accepted; they add up to improved innovation, leadership and profits. Many companies acknowledge that a business strategy that ignores women is, as one leader told me a couple of years ago, a “going out of business” strategy. That understanding is behind the growing popularity of an initiative I work on called The Women’s Empowerment Principles — Equality Means Business, a partnership between UN Women and the UN Global Compact. More than 250 CEOs from around the world, and the list grows rapidly, have publicly committed to work to implement the seven principles designed to advance women in the workplace, marketplace and community.
But what the prominent position of women’s economic rights and empowerment at this years APEC really signaled in the room and beyond, is the adoption by these dynamic economies to address longstanding barriers to women’s economic engagement such as access to capital, inheritance and property rights, lending practices by both the government and the private sector. The drafters paid attention to the wide range of care giving responsibilities that women shoulder to a far greater extent than men and directed that opportunities extend to rural and indigenous women. And they highlighted the need to change the lack of representation of women in leadership roles both in the private and public sector.
The San Francisco Declaration got it right and smartly calls on APEC officials to report back on progress. Are the laws discriminating against women revised? Are financial services inclusive? Are government lending and procurement policies tailored for women entrepreneurs and business owners? Is the data collected and analyzed based on gender-disaggregated statistics?
Another friend in business once told me, “If we can’t count it, it doesn’t count.” On Friday last, the resounding applause for Secretary Clinton’s speech made it clear that governments are counting on women to break through the economic doldrums and provide the innovation for growth and increased prosperity.