The schedule for the first ever Women’s Economic Summit reads,”research indicates that increasing female employment rates would have positive implications for the global economy.”
Well, duh, with women controlling a whopping 12 trillion dollars of global spending it seems obvious that we should be included in all levels of leadership postions. How to implement this on a global scale is the goal of the first ever Women’s Economic Forum (WES) conference going on now at the Westin St. Francis.
This conference marks not only the first time ministers and private sector power players have come together to address the economic importance of unlocking the full potential of women around the world, but also includes the San Francisco Declaration, a clear policy framework for to advance the economic inclusion of women. After weeks of negotiations the Declaration is slated to be signed Friday after Hilary Clinton’s keynote address.
According to Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, adding the first ever WES into the APEC conference was a bit of an afterthought, and only happened because Clinton pushed it forward. But there are many reasons for specifically adding women into the APEC economic discussion: the lack of women in power positions is a major problem not just for women, but for everyone.
For example, in 1993 there were no female APEC leaders. Today there are two. Women are 80 percent of world’s farmers and but only own three percent of the land. We are 50 percent of the workforce here in the US but only three percent of CEOs.
The stunning dearth of women in leadership positions around the world was also adressed in a dynamic panel Thursday morning, with MSNBC’s Chris Jansing moderating and featuring Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, the first female minister of trade in Indonesia Mari Pangestu, and Danielle Gray, the deputy director of the National Economic Council. Each woman had very clear, divergent and sometimes surprising reasons for the lack of female power players.
According to Sandberg, a major problem is the “ambition gap.” “Women are not ambitious enough… and they start leaning back as early as college because they are thinking about having a family….you never hear a male CEO feeling guilty about their family, but I feel guilty. until we have equal levels of feeling guilty, we cannot get ahead,” she said.
Sandberg clearly and honestly spoke about how we need to want to be in leadership roles to get there, and said that lifting these mental and cultural roadblocks is imperative for the conversation around women to change.
Pangestu spoke mostly about networking, role modeling and courage as the game changers for women to advance.
“We need to face our fears, have courage, and more importantly, girls need good role models for girls to learn these things. We need to start at the basic levels like teaching boys how to cook and girls math and science.”
“We cannot have it all perfectly and we cannot do it alone,” she said, arguing that networking and supporting one another also plays a major role in the advancement of women and girls.
Gray was, not surprisingly, focused on structure.
“In upper in middle management there needs to be opportunity, but we also need to remove obstacles,” she said. She discussed things like flex time and the Obama administration’s efforts to improve the number of women in technology by having targeted investments to get women into these fields.
She spoke about the good economic reasons behind the need to implement institutional structure and better incentives for women to overcome the barriers to success.
The negative impact of the gender gap, Melanne Verveer, US Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues, US Department of State told a small group of journalists post-panel, is “no longer an evidence free zone.”
According to Clinton’s speech, “unlocking the potential of women by narrowing the gender gap could lead to a 14 percent rise in per capita incomes by 2020 in several APEC economies.”
Clinton’s keynote remarks are, Verveer said, “a case for the smart, economically important thing to do, and not just the right thing to do.”