FACT SHEET: APEC Breaks Down Barriers to Women’s Economic Participation

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

President Barack Obama and other Leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum made historic commitments today in Beijing to advance 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 collectively have agreed to take action to realize the full potential of women, focusing efforts on five key pillars impacting women’s economic empowerment, women’s access to markets, skills, capacity building and health, women’s leadership, and innovation and technology. APEC economies seek to support gender responsive programs and policies across all sectors and to identify potential areas of action or regulatory reform to advance women’s economic participation.  To turn this vision into action, the United States and APEC Leaders agreed today in Beijing to launch, support, and expand five regional initiatives.

APEC Women and the Economy Dashboard

Since 2011, APEC Ministers have convened to identify barriers to women’s economic participation and recommended regional and domestic actions to realize progress. Increasingly across APEC fora, data is used to measure progress and underpin policy discussions, such as through APEC initiatives on the Ease of Doing Business and Supply Chain Performance. Likewise to advance women’s economic participation, data is needed to create a common baseline, to focus capacity building efforts, and to develop evidence-based policy recommendations.  This is especially true as many economies still do not collect sex-disaggregated data.

To fill this need, the United States has worked with the other member APEC economies to establish the Women and the Economy Dashboard, a framework built on 26 contributing factors, to track and measure APEC’s progress in improving women’s economic participation. The framework will help policy makers in APEC to prioritize collective efforts on policy and capacity building as well as inform each economy’s domestic goals. Measurements will include key indicators across the five core areas of: 1) access to capital, including financial inclusion; 2) access to trade and labor markets; 3) skills, capacity building and health, including policies related to domestic violence and discrimination against women; 4) leadership, including national identification; and 5) innovation and technology, including access to cell phones and the internet as well as (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education.

The APEC Women and the Economy Dashboard is a milestone achievement, which parallels and complements efforts being undertaken in the G20 on female labor force participation and in the post-2015 sustainable development goals process.

Women’s Entrepreneurship in APEC (WE-APEC) Network In May, Ministers at the APEC Women and the Economy Forum called for the launch of an “Asia-Pacific regional women’s entrepreneurship network of networks to assist women entrepreneurs in all APEC economies in better connecting to each other, and expanding their channels and opportunities to engage in regional trade and economic cooperation.”  Responding to this call, the United States with support from Australia has launched the development of a Women’s Entrepreneurship in APEC (WE-APEC) Network.  WE-APEC, a cross-cutting regional network, will aim to identify and connect women’s entrepreneurship networks in each economy with public and private sector support services and global supply chains to ultimately expand economic opportunities and regional trade.

The initial phase of the WE-APEC initiative aims to:

1) conduct a regional assessment of existing networks and public and private sector support services;

2) develop regional analysis on best practices and gaps within the APEC region regarding women’s entrepreneurship networks; and

3) launch an online platform that allows governments, entrepreneurs and the private sector to link to regional women’s entrepreneurship networks and provides a sustainable mechanism to link women entrepreneurs through the region and facilitates information sharing, best practices and opportunities.

Healthy Women, Healthy Economies

The Asia-Pacific region lags behind other global regions with respect to women’s health and survival relative to that of men. Sustainable economic growth cannot be achieved if one-half of the workforce (women) is unable to fully participate in the economy due to health implications.  Women must enjoy equal protection on the job and be free from domestic violence and other gender-specific health and social challenges that impact workplace productivity.  Raising female labor force participation would raise GDP substantially – by as much as five percent in the United States and nine percent in Japan. To address this need, the United States launched the “Healthy Women, Healthy Economies” multi-year initiative in APEC to develop policy recommendations and actions that aim to enhance women’s economic participation by improving women’s health.  In 2014, the initiative began with an APEC expert’s group focused on identifying health-related barriers preventing women from entering or remaining in the work force. The barriers identified included 1) lack of women- and family-friendly health services, workplace policies, and education, 2) lack of access to basic healthcare, and 3) health issues such as domestic and workplace violence.

Women’s Leadership

In 2014, APEC economies agreed to work towards establishing measurable, aspirational, and voluntary goals to increase women’s representation in leadership roles.  They also agreed to support the development of research on gender diversity in public and private-sector leadership positions in the APEC region.  To meet these goals, APEC economies agreed to identify and share private sector best practices that have resulted in increasing women’s representation in senior leadership positions within the last two to three years.  The results were reported and published in a report launched this week in Beijing entitled 50 Leading Companies for Women in APEC.  Seven U.S. companies were highlighted for their innovative practices which promote women in leadership, including Citi Bank’s Hong Kong Office, Proctor & Gamble, State Street, AT&T, Eli Lilly, Baxter, and Qualcomm.

Women in Transportation

The APEC Women in Transportation initiative, launched by the United States in 2012 within APEC’s Transportation Working Group, focuses on the linkages between increasing women’s economic participation and critical labor shortages in the transportation sector. In 2014, the WiT Task Force was established to lead efforts to address inequality and projected future labor shortages in the Asia-Pacific transportation sector by including more women in the workforce of APEC Economies.  The WiT Task Force is the only industry-specific initiative seeking to translate the overarching policy objectives of the APEC Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy into demonstrable policy improvements with measurable impacts on gender equity in the transportation sector.  Efforts will focus on education, access to jobs, retention, and leadership.