U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell led the U.S. delegation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women and the Economy Fora September 15 – 18, in Manila, Philippines. While in the Philippines, Ambassador Russell launched several U.S.-led initiatives and made joint commitments with other APEC officials that will empower women to play larger roles in the APEC economies.
The U.S. delegation included representatives from a number of U.S. agencies, including the Department of State, USAID, the Department of Labor, and the Small Business Administration. The United States was also represented by the private sector, including Google, Care.com, BSR, C&M International, Black Girls Code, The Filipina Women’s Network (FWN CEO & Founder Marily Mondejar), George Mason University, and ACG Inc.
Initiatives led by the United States focus on data collection, women’s entrepreneurship, women’s health and its relation to economic participation, leadership, and women in transportation. They are implemented with support from the State Department, as well as the U.S.-APEC Technical Assistance to Advance Regional Integration (US-ATAARI) activity, a project with funding and strategic direction from the State Department and technical oversight and management from USAID.
Women and the Economy Dashboard
The 2015 APEC Women and the Economy Dashboard launched during the Fora. The Dashboard offers a data snapshot of women’s economic participation across the APEC region. Initiated by the United States in 2014, the Dashboard enables economies to mark and measure progress on 75 indicators. The Dashboard will help prioritize gender mainstreaming efforts, policy discussions, and capacity-building, with updates tracked every two years. The APEC Policy Support Unit’s analysis of the Dashboard highlights regional gaps and weaknesses based on the indicators where economies should develop and target activities beginning in 2016. The United States led the development of the framework for the Dashboard, which was agreed to by President Barack Obama and other APEC Leaders in November 2014.
Women’s Entrepreneurship in APEC (WE-APEC)
The United States officially launched the Women’s Entrepreneurship in APEC (WE-APEC) initiative, which aims to strengthen connectivity, collaborations, best practice-sharing, and regional trade between governments, entrepreneurs and the private sector throughout the APEC region. The initiative contains three main components:
- Economy-specific actions to strengthen eco-systems supporting women’s entrepreneurship based on findings from an initial region-wide report;
- An online platform that offers a detailed look at the ecosystem for women entrepreneurs in the APEC region, including a searchable directory that provides easy access to over 600 service providers for women entrepreneurs in APEC;
- Efforts to create a coordinating body between regional women’s entrepreneurship networks that will aim to improve trade, investment, and export oriented activities for women entrepreneurs in the region.
Healthy Women, Healthy Economies Policy Toolkit
The United States and the Philippines launched the Healthy Women, Healthy Economies Policy Toolkit, which offers actions that public and private sectors can take to enhance women’s economic participation by improving women’s health. This is the first time economies looked at the specific health issues impacting women’s economic participation, and it was developed in partnership with health, labor, gender, and economic area experts and private sector industry leaders. Recommendations were developed over the course of a year based on stakeholder meetings and a U.S.-funded literature review which grounded the recommendations in research. The Philippines and private sector companies such as Merck- Serono committed to piloting and measuring the impact of the toolkit beginning in 2016.
Women in Transportation
Women in Transportation (WiT) is a U.S-led effort to respond to the vast under-representation of women in each of the major transportation modes – trucking, rail, air, and maritime – as well as in related construction, maintenance, and ground-passenger transportation jobs. The effort has been recognized as an innovative practical initiative to advance women’s economic participation in male-dominated sectors.
The United States has led the development of a data framework and best practices report focused on women’s integration into the sector. The framework provides for benchmarking and tracking the participation and influence of women as transportation workers, entrepreneurs, leaders, and consumers. The framework will be unveiled by Transportation Ministers and highlighted at a special WiT Forum in October 2015.
The United States joined other APEC economies in developing a domestic Individual Action Plan (IAP) to increase women’s leadership in both the public and private sectors. U.S. efforts focus on increasing women’s leadership representation in the federal workforce and executive branches. The U.S. IAP also focuses on programs to increase the number of women and girls studying science, technology, engineering, and math. The IAP is part of a project led by Japan to increase women’s regional leadership.
Background on APEC’s Work to Promote Women’s Economic Participation
The UN estimates that the APEC region loses upwards of $89 billion in GDP a year due to laws, policies, and social norms that inhibit women from being able to fully participate in and benefit from the economy. In 2011 under U.S. leadership, APEC elevated and energized its focus on women’s economic empowerment. Since then, APEC Ministers and Leaders from all 21 economies have agreed to take action to realize the full potential of women, focusing efforts on five key pillars impacting women’s economic empowerment: 1) access capital and assets; 2) access to markets; 3) skills, capacity building, and health; 4) women’s leadership, voice, and agency; and 5) innovation and technology.
Fact Sheet Courtesy of the U.S. Department of State