Women's_Room_Round.gifInformation about the 21 member Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, running all this week in SF, reads like a singles ad. The media alert for the summit, which includes for the first time since is inception in 1989, a Women and the Economy Summit (WES), is full of acronyms in action:

“The Third Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Senior Officials Meeting and Related Meetings (SOM 3) will take place in San Francisco, California, September 11-26, 2011. SOM 3 will help lay the groundwork for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Honolulu in November. Meetings at SOM 3 will focus on further promoting regional economic integration, developing green growth throughout the member economies, and encouraging regional cooperation and convergence.

In addition to the Senior Officials Meeting, Energy and Transportation Ministers will be meeting jointly, followed by a Transportation Ministerial meeting. The Women and the Economy Summit (WES) – a new APEC forum to foster women’s economic empowerment – will feature a keynote by Secretary Clinton, in addition to a multitude of other high-profile speakers from government and the private sector.

The Secure Trade in the APEC Region (STAR) Conference will gather representatives from government, the private sector and academia to discuss initiatives for securing trade and travel throughout the region.”

You get the drift. But weeding through it all you’ll find some surprisingly important and interesting information, especially about women right here in San Francisco.

The Summit’s first event kicked off last night with a panel discussion in front of a mix of 100 local women and delegates to discuss the current situation for women here in the Bay Area. It finished with a screening of locally-produced film Miss Representation. Hosted by the Friends of the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women, only one man attended the event, (my husband Phil Bronstein).

One of the most interesting points that came up in the discussion was around San Francisco’s local implementation of a form of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) over 10 years ago. On a national level 186 out of 193 countries have ratified CEDAW. The United States, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Nauru, Palau and Tonga have yet to ratify this international agreement that affirms the fundamental human rights of women. But in 1998, San Francisco became the first municipality to enact it on a local basis.

I have to admit, upon first hearing about San Francisco’s adoption of CEDAW I was dubious about what a local ordinance could actually do for women. But, according to the panel, Bay Area women have benefitted from it in both the public and private sectors, through gender analysis of city departments and citywide initiatives, “opening the eyes of both local government and community members to the fact that discrimination against women still exists, while providing proactive concrete tools, and processes with which to address gender equality issues,” according to the comprehensive brochure, Human Rights in Action: San Francisco’s Local Implementation of the United Nations Women’s Treaty (CEDAW).

One example of these concrete tools is The San Francisco Gender Equality Principles (GEP) Initiative, which has been adopted by at least 18 of the Bay Area’s largest companies.

Cecily Joseph, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Symantec, gave a humorous and informative presentation about how GEP has changed the way Symantec does business. At her first presentation to the company’s corporate heads, she said she was asked by current CEO Enrique Salem, “did you bring us papers to sign?” She says they have come a long way since then, using GEP to become a company that has an online tool that assess targets and goals around gender.

The APEC/WES conference is closed to the public, but several local organizations say they are are working hard to ensure public engagement. Emily Murase, the Executive Director of the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women and Marily Mondejar, President of the Friends of the Commission on the Status of Women, are hosting a second event on September 16th that includes a simulcast of Hilary Clinton’s keynote address. You can learn more about that event here.

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