Good Morning, and thank you for inviting me to address the conference today. Equity and inclusion are topics that energize me.
I commend AMCham TT for taking a leadership role in “embracing equality” for women. In fact, one of my first observations about AmChamTT was the representation of women on the Board of Directors, in its committees, and its membership.
Similarly, it is notable that Trinidad and Tobago has a woman President, a woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, a woman leader of the Opposition and we recently saw the appointment of the first female Commissioner of Police.
In my previous business and civic leadership roles, I have worked to foster inclusion.
Those experiences have taught me that everyone has a role to play in fostering inclusion. For the inclusion of women, men must be allies. And ultimately, integrating marginalized or excluded voices is not about restricting access. Including women is not at the expense of men. Rather, the goal of inclusion is ensuring balanced opportunity and access.
It is also proven that equity and inclusion are economic issues. Societies that exclude entire demographics, restrict access to opportunity, and stifle inclusion pay an economic cost. For example, it is estimated that closing gender gaps in the workforce around the world would add between $12 and $28 trillion in global GDP.
The economic security of women and girls in all of their diversity is essential to the realization of their human rights and fundamental freedoms and strengthening communities, promoting peace and security, and building resilient, growing economies both for the United States and our allies and partners.
On March 8, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 14020, Establishing the White House Gender Policy Council. This order charged the Gender Policy Council with developing and implementing a government-wide strategy to advance gender equity and equality in both domestic and foreign policy.
The National Gender Equity and Equality Strategy is the first-ever national gender strategy in the United States. Only a handful of countries have issued gender strategies, and this strategy’s release in January sends a strong signal about the commitment of the Biden-Harris Administration to advance gender equity and equality both at home and abroad.
As emphasized by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, this strategy underscores that progress will require an intersectional approach that addresses the discrimination, systemic barriers, and human rights abuses and violations that have for too long inhibited the full empowerment of women and girls around the world.
Gender equity and equality are not only a matter of human rights and fairness, but when present together they promote inclusive economic growth; advance peace, security, and the prevention and resolution of conflicts; protect against gender-based violence. Gender equity and equality also enable us to address global challenges more effectively, such as the climate crisis, forced displacement, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic and social disruptions.
Promoting gender equity and equality and the social, economic, and political empowerment of women and girls, in all of their diversity, is a longstanding cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. Ensuring that all people, regardless of their gender identity, can achieve their full potential is both a moral and a strategic imperative.
So that is my government’s domestic and foreign policy on gender equity and equality, but given the impressive leadership in the audience, I’d also like to discuss other perspectives.
McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report finds that women are still dramatically underrepresented in leadership. It notes that “the broken rung is still holding women back.” What does this mean? Well, for every 100 men promoted from entry-level to manager, only 87 women are promoted, so the biggest obstacle women face on the path to senior leadership is at the first step up to manager. This is the broken rung.
Women leaders are also leaving their companies at higher rates and remain deeply underrepresented in technical roles.
McKinsey also finds that women leaders are switching jobs because though they want to advance, they face stronger headwinds. Women leaders are overworked and underrepresented compared to men and they can face more bias and receive less support at work.
McKinsey’s report also found that correcting for some of these realities is not impossible. Flexible and remote work, for example, has the possibility to overcome some of the challenges women leaders face. The report notes that a majority of women prefer remote and hybrid work and that employees who can choose their work arrangements are less likely to leave. One reason for that preference is that women experience fewer microaggressions when they work remotely.
I mentioned earlier that it is proven that gender equity and equality are intrinsically linked to sustainable socioeconomic development. While governments create and implement various policies, regulations, and institutions to promote gender parity, millions of women and girls continue to face discrimination on all fronts. Discrimination is deeply rooted in many societies and cultures, so much so, that it has become systemic and acceptable.
Gender equity and equality are at the very heart of human rights; therefore, it is paramount that we continue to forge ahead to find solutions and create opportunities for all affected. At the U.S. Embassy, we monitor and advocate for gender equity and equality through various programs, including capacity-building grants to the public and private sectors in Trinidad and Tobago.
The U.S. Embassy funds and supports the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, also known as AWE. This program builds the capacity of women entrepreneurs by providing them with the skills, resources, and networks needed to start and scale successful businesses. We have implemented the AWE in Trinidad and Tobago since 2021 and have empowered more than 60 female entrepreneurs with the ability to fulfill their economic potential.
In doing so, we, and they, are creating conditions for increased stability, security, and prosperity for all.
Thank you for inviting me here today. Thank you for the work that all of you do every day to advance equity and equality for all members of society, to lift up our families, our communities, and indeed even our countries. I am inspired by all of you gathered here today, and grateful for the opportunity to work with all of you.