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Women’s equal economic participation and leadership is indispensable, says director Klein

By APEC Women and the Economy Forum

SEATTLE, USA – Ministers and high-level representatives from the 21 APEC member economies reaffirmed their commitment to further boost women’s economic participation and leadership across Asia-Pacific.

“The moment demands that we accelerate our efforts,” said Jennifer Klein, director of the White House Gender Policy Council, who chaired the 2023 APEC high-level policy dialogue on Women and the Economy which culminated the week-long Women and the Economy Forum (WEF).

The WEF was launched twelve years ago by former secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the United States’ host year in 2011 to unlock the full growth potential of the Asia-Pacific region by promoting the economic participation of women across APEC.

Director Klein explained the key objectives of this year’s WEF that are critical to economic growth, including advancing gender equality in our climate response efforts; expanding digital inclusion and innovation; strengthening the care economy; and promoting equity and equality and supply chains. “Achieving these objectives will require collective action.”

“Over the past several years, we have seen time and time again that women and girls are disproportionately affected by crises – from the COVID-19 pandemic, to rising food insecurity, to the climate crisis – these inequalities fuel instability in local, regional, national and global markets,” director Klein said as she opened the Sunday’s meeting in Seattle.

“We know that there were rewards that follow from women’s full participation in the economy,” Director Klein added. “Significant research has shown that closing gender gaps in the workforce could add between USD12 to 28 trillion to global GDP over a decade.”

“Similar analysis by the International Monetary Fund found that countries could boost the size of their economies by up to 35 percent simply by eliminating discriminatory laws and leveling the economic playing field for women,” director Klein added.

Director Klein also called upon the private sector to collaborate with governments in furthering the critical imperative of women’s full economic participation, including by changing business operations to promote women-led micro small and medium-sized enterprises in global supply chains. She said that investing in childcare and other care infrastructure for employees, addressing discriminatory gender norms and promoting gender equality should also be integrated as a core part of corporate business models.

“To unleash the full economic potential of women across the APEC region we need to work in partnership, particularly with the private sector, which has a critical role to play and of course, much to gain,” director Klein said.

Director Klein underscored that partnering with fellow APEC economies, multilateral partners and civil society will be essential to address the 21st century economic gaps for women from the benefit of gender equality and women’s economic advancement, as well as to foster economic prosperity and stability across the entire region.

“Our work takes place during an unprecedented time of conflict and crisis with significant effects on women and girls around the world,” Director Klein said: “In the spirit of cooperation, I will call on all of us to work together in good faith to meet these challenges and create an environment that fosters the full participation of women and girls.”



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