March 8, 2016
Women make immeasurable contributions to our world, and not just because they are half the planet’s population. Women are entrepreneurs, judges, farmers, educators, scientists, artists, soldiers, mothers, heads of state – all the things that men do (except, of course, for the mothering part!) Without women’s contributions, economies would collapse, political systems would deteriorate, and families and communities would fall apart.
This is why women’s rights are a fundamental element in U.S. Foreign policy.
This isn’t only about some sort of ideological commitment to feminism. We know that societies are more stable if women are politically and economically empowered.
Yet in too many places, women are treated as second-class citizens and progress toward gender equity has been painfully slow. They are often publicly subjected to violent attacks and crude, disparaging comments even as many suffer abuse in private. Both situations are intolerable, and we must oppose each equally.
In fact, the World Economic Forum predicted two years ago that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender equity. Only one year later, in 2015, they estimated a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress, and now suggest that the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133.
This gap is one of the great injustices of our time. My own country suffers from just as this one does. Women represent less than 1/5 of our Congress. Women on average earn only 80% of what their male counterparts earn. Women make up only 27% of all the jobs in the science and engineering sectors. And I could go on.
I’m convinced that a world in which women and girls are treated as equal to men and boys is safer, more stable, and more prosperous. Beyond those tangible benefits, this is simply a matter of right and wrong. Women and girls are full and equal in rights and dignity. They deserve to be treated that way. Everywhere. Every day.
The United Nations first observed International Women’s Day in 1977 when the General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. In different regions the focus of the celebration ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation, and love towards women to a celebration for women’s economic, political, and social achievements.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is, “Pledge for Parity”, challenging all of us to commit to closing the gender gap. Everyone – men and women – should take this day to think about how we can take a concrete step to help achieve gender equity more quickly – whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures, or root out workplace bias.
Tonight’s panelists will kick start a conversation about how they are leading their organizations and embedding gender equity into their lives, work, and their spheres of influence. But each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take practical action to accelerate gender equity.
On this International Women’s Day, I am commit to increasing the number of women in leadership positions in the U.S. Embassy, and so happy that one of our leaders, Cherrie Daniels, is participating as a the moderator tonight. The Embassy I lead, and the U.S. Government as a whole remain committed to continuing to recruit talented women to fill leadership positions.