Advancing the rights, interests, and role of women around the world

Posted in News, Transcripts, Video, Women's Rights

THE HONOURABLE KEVIN RUDD
26TH PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA
BEIJING
2 APRIL 2016

Kevin Rudd speaks in Beijing about the importance of women's roles in the world
Kevin Rudd speaks in Beijing about the importance of women’s roles in the world

HER EXCELLENCY MENG XIAOSI, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE ALL CHINA WOMEN’S FEDERATION.

MADAM YANG LAN, CHAIRPERSON, SUN MEDIA GROUP.

BARBARA WOODWARD, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO CHINA

VISHAKHA DESAI, PRESIDENT EMERITA, ASIA SOCIETY.

DISTINGUISHED GUESTS.

AND YOU, THE DELEGATES TO THIS IMPORTANT CONFERENCE.

YOU, WHO HAVE MADE SUCH A CRITICAL CONTRIBUTION TO THE ROLE OF WOMEN HERE IN CHINA.

BUT ALSO THE EXTRAORDINARY CONTRIBUTION YOU ARE NOW MAKING TO THE CORPORATE LEADERSHIP OF CHINA AS WELL.

 

FAMILY STORIES
EACH OF US IS THE PRODUCT OF OUR OWN UPBRINGING, OUR OWN FAMILIES, AND OUR OWN PERSONAL STORY.

AND I AM NO DIFFERENT FROM ANYONE ELSE.

SO LET ME BEGIN WITH MY OWN STORY.

I AM THE SON OF A STRONG WOMAN.

I AM THE HUSBAND OF A STRONG WOMAN.

AND I AM THE FATHER OF A STRONG WOMAN.

MY MOTHER WAS BORN ON A FARM IN RURAL AUSTRALIA IN 1921.

SHE WAS A CHILD OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION OF 1929-32.

OF COURSE, THE DEPRESSION WAS NOT JUST AN AUSTRALIAN STORY.

IT WAS A GLOBAL STORY, AS ECONOMIES COLLAPSED AROUND THE WORLD, THROWING TENS OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE INTO UNEMPLOYMENT AND POVERTY.

VERY SIMPLY, THEY HAD NO MONEY.

FROM THE AGE OF 5, HER JOB EACH MORNING, WITH HER SIX BROTHERS AND SISTERS, WAS TO GET OUT OF BED WELL BEFORE DAWN TO HERD THE DAIRY CATTLE FOR MILKING.

SHE AND HER SIBLINGS WOULD THEN SPEND THE NEXT SEVERAL HOURS MILKING THE HERD BY HAND.

BY 7 O’CLOCK, SHE WOULD RETURN TO THE FARM HOUSE FOR A MODEST BREAKFAST BEFORE WALKING FIVE MILES UP THE MOUNTAIN TO SCHOOL.

HER FATHER HAD A WEAKNESS FOR ALCOHOL.

IN FACT, THE FARM WAS RUN BY HER MOTHER.

HER MOTHER, HANNAH, WAS A FINE HORSEWOMAN, SHE WAS A PROFESSIONAL BUTCHER, AND SHE RAN THE FAMILY BUDGET – TO THE EXTENT THAT THERE WAS ONE.

MY GRANDMOTHER, WHO LITERALLY RAISED A FAMILY OF 7 CHILDREN ON HER OWN, DIED OF STROKE IN HER EARLY 50S.

IN THE MEANTIME, MY MOTHER LEFT SCHOOL EARLY BUT MANAGED TO SECURE A TRAINING POSITION AS A NURSE DURING WORLD WAR 2.

HER FIANCÉ WAS A SOLDIER BUT WAS KILLED DURING THE WAR.

SHE THEN MARRIED ANOTHER RETURNED SOLDIER, AND WENT FARMING TOGETHER, FIRST PLANTING THEIR OWN BANANA FARM, AND THEN WHEN THAT FAILED BECOMING A SHARE FARMER ON A DAIRY FARM WHERE I WAS TO GROW UP.

AS WAS THE EXPECTATION OF SO MANY WOMEN IN RURAL AUSTRALIA AT THE TIME, SHE WORKED THE FARM WITH MY FATHER, BUT WAS ALSO EXPECTED TO COOK AND CLEAN AND RAISE 4 CHILDREN.

I WAS THE YOUNGEST.

AND THEREFORE THE MOST BADLY BEHAVED!

WHEN MY MOTHER WAS SIMPLY TOO BUSY, I WAS ALSO RAISED BY MY SISTER, 7 YEARS OLDER THAN MYSELF.

WHEN MY FATHER WAS KILLED IN AN ACCIDENT WHEN I WAS 11, MY MOTHER HAD TO LEAVE THE FARM.

THE VIEW IN THOSE DAYS WAS THAT THERE WAS NO WAY THAT SINGLE WOMEN COULD BE ENTRUSTED WITH THE MANAGEMENT OF A FARM OF NEARLY 500 ACRES, EVEN THOUGH THERE WAS NO SINGLE ASPECT OF FARM LIFE AND WORK THAT MY MOTHER HAD NOT MASTERED.

WE THEN HAD NO STABLE PLACE TO LIVE FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF YEARS, AND SHIFTED FROM ONE RELATIVE TO ANOTHER.

BUT MY MOTHER, A DEEPLY DETERMINED WOMAN, AND A STRONG WOMAN OF CATHOLIC FAITH, DECIDED TO RETRAIN AS A NURSE, THE PROFESSION SHE HAD WORKED IN DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR.

AND SHE DID.

AND WITH HER MEAGRE EARNINGS, AFTER A COUPLE OF YEARS, SHE WAS ABLE TO BUY A SMALL HOUSE IN A NEIGHBORING RURAL TOWN, WHERE SHE THEN SECURED A JOB IN A LOCAL HOSPITAL.

AND THAT IS WHERE I GREW UP DURING MY HIGH SCHOOL YEARS.

MY MOTHER EFFECTIVELY AS A SINGLE PARENT.

MYSELF ATTENDING THE LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL.

SHE THEN BEGAN SAVING ALL SHE COULD IN THE HOPE OF ONE DAY SENDING ME TO UNIVERSITY.

NO ONE IN MY FAMLIY, OR IN THE GENERATIONS BEFORE, HAD BEEN TO UNIVERSITY.

AND WHEN I GAINED ENTRY TO THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, TO STUDY CHINESE LANGUAGE AND HISTORY, FOR HER THIS WAS A DREAM COME TRUE.

SHE HAD NEVER BEEN MUCH PAST PRIMARY SCHOOL.

AND I REMEMBER HER PRIDE ON GRADUATION DAY.

MY MOTHER WOULD GO ON TO WORK FOR ANOTHER 15 YEARS AND WHEN SHE DIED, IN A TRIBUTE TO HER CONFUCIAN SAVING PRACTICES, SHE LEFT EACH OF HER GRANDCHILDREN WITH AN INVESTMENT ACCOUNT AT THE BANK.

MY MOTHER LIVED LONG ENOUGH TO SEE ME ELECTED TO PARLIAMENT, BUT DIED NOT LONG BEFORE I WAS ELECTED AS PRIME MINISTER.

IT WAS AT UNIVERSITY THAT I MET MY WIFE, THERESE.

WHEN WE MARRIED THE DAY AFTER SHE GRADUATED, WE DIDN’T HAVE MORE THAN A THOUSAND DOLLARS IN THE BANK.

MY WIFE, WHO IS A TRAINED PSYCHOLOGIST, WAS WORKING FOR A COMPANY WHICH WAS THEN BANKRUPTED.

THAT WAS WHEN SHE DECIDED TO GO INTO BUSINESS.

NEITHER OF US HAD A BACKGROUND IN BUSINESS. BOTH OF OUR FATHERS HAD BEEN SERVICEMEN DURING THE WAR.

IN FACT, HER FATHER’S AIRCRAFT HAD CRASHED IN INDIA DURING THE WAR AGAINST JAPAN, AND FROM THE 1950S ONWARDS SPENT THE REST OF HIS LIFE IN A WHEEL CHAIR WHILE PUTTING HIMSELF THROUGH UNIVERSITY AS AN AERONAUTICAL ENGINEER.

BUT FOR MY WIFE TO SET UP A BUSINESS WE NEEDED MONEY THAT WE DID NOT HAVE. BY THAT STAGE WE HAD MANAGED TO BUY A SMALL HOUSE IN BRISBANE, AND WE’RE PAYING OFF A LARGE MORTGAGE.

TO START THE BUSINESS SHE NEEDED A LOAN OF $10,000 AUD, EQUIVALENT TO ABOUT $7,000 US OR $50,000 RMB TODAY.

SHE WENT TO SEE THE BANK MANAGER WHERE WE HAD THE HOME MORTGAGE ACCOUNT.

HE LISTENED POLITELY. BUT THEN RANG ME UP AFTERWARDS AND SAID:

“YOUR WIFE HAS BEEN IN ASKING FOR A BANK LOAN. BUT YOU ARE THE MAN OF THE HOUSE. I WILL NEED YOU TO GUARANTEE THE LOAN. AND TO TAKE OUT A FURTHER MORTGAGE ON THE HOUSE.”

I DIDN’T HAVE THE HEART TO TELL MY WIFE THIS HAPPENED FOR ANOTHER 20 YEARS.

BUT IN THOSE DAYS, WOMEN STARTING UP AUSTRALIAN BUSINESSES WERE NOT TAKEN VERY SERIOUSLY.

MY WIFE SOLD HER BUSINESS AT THE END OF LAST YEAR.

SHE CONTINUED TO BE ITS MANAGING DIRECTOR THROUGHOUT THE TIME I WAS PRIME MINISTER.

IN FACT, SHE WAS THE FIRST WIFE OF AN AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER TO BE A BUSINESS WOMAN.

AND HAVING SOLD OFF HER AUSTRALIAN OPERATIONS TO AVOID ANY CONFLICT OF INTEREST WHILE I WAS IN OFFICE, CONTINUED TO RUN HER GLOBAL BUSINESS PRACTICES DURING MY TIME IN PRIME MINISTERIAL AND MINISTERIAL OFFICE.

BY THE TIME SHE SOLD HER BUSINESS, SHE EMPLOYED ABOUT 4000 PEOPLE IN 12 DIFFERENT COUNTRIES ACROSS EUROPE, ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST.

HER BUSINESS WAS HOW TO HELP LONG TERM UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE, INCLUDING THOSE WITH DISABILITIES, INTO WORK.

ONE OF HER MOST REWARDING ENGAGEMENTS WAS IN SAUDI ARABIA, HELPING TENS OF THOUSANDS OF SAUDI WOMEN INTO JOBS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THEIR LIVES.

AND SHE HAS BEEN HONORED WITH MULTIPLE BUSINESS ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS OVER THE YEARS.

AND FOR HER WORK ON BEHALF OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES SHE RECEIVED THE AUSTRALIAN HUMAN RIGHTS MEDAL IN 2010 AFTER I HAD LEFT PRIME MINISTERIAL OFFICE.

MY WIFE IS A FORMIDABLE WOMAN.

IN FACT, IF THERE IS SOMEONE YOU SHOULD HAVE INVITED TO SPEAK HERE TODAY IT IS MY WIFE RATHER THAN MYSELF.

OUR DAUGHTER, JESSICA (LU JIEXI) TRAINED AS A LAWYER IN AUSTRALIA.

SHE THEN BEGAN WRITING NOVELS, AND HAS ALREADY HAD TWO BOOKS PUBLISHED.

BUT LIKE HER MOTHER, SHE HAS A PASSION FOR BUSINESS. ONLY LAST YEAR, SHE OPENED HER OWN ONLINE BUSINESS BETWEEN AUSTRALIA AND CHINA AND HAS BEEN WORKING HARD AT IT SINCE THEN.

RUNNING A BUSINESS IS HARD, PARTICULARLY WHILE ALSO GIVING BIRTH TO AND RAISING TWO LITTLE CHILDREN, ONE ONLY THREE MONTHS OLD.

SHE TOO IS A FORMIDABLE YOUNG WOMAN.

AND TO COMPLETE THE FAMILY STORY, AFTER MARRYING A CHINESE AUSTRALIA GUY, HAS GIVEN BIRTH TO OUR FIRST GRAND DAUGHTER, XIAO YUE’ER.

HER ENGLISH NAME IS JOSEPHINE.

AND LIKE HER MOTHER, HER GRAND MOTHER, HER GREAT GRAND MOTHER, AND HER GREAT GREAT GRAND MOTHER, SHE IS ALREADY VERY FORMIDABLE!

SO THESE ARE THE IMPORTANT WOMEN IN MY LIFE.

AND MY SHARED EXPERIENCE WITH THESE WOMEN’S LIVES HAS HAD A PROFOUND IMPACT ON ME – AS A SON, AS A HUSBAND, AS A FATHER, AS A GRAND FATHER – AND AS A POLITICIAN, AS A FOREIGN MINISTER AND AS A PRIME MINISTER.

WHAT HAS IMPACTED ME MOST HAS BEEN THEIR QUALITIES: STRENGTH, DETERMINATION AND RESILIENCE AGAINST THE DEEP STRUCTURAL PREJUDICES OF THE TIME.

 

CONTRIBUTIONS IN GOVERNMENT
BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN IN PRACTICE?

SENTIMENT IS ONE THING.

WHAT YOU DO WITH YOUR LIFE IS ANOTHER.

BECAUSE OF MY EXPERIENCES AS A YOUNG CHILD IN THE RURAL COMMUNITIES IN WHICH I GREW UP, I HAVE A VISCERAL HATRED OF ANY FORM OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

IN PUBLIC LIFE, WHEN CABINET SECRETARY IN AN AUSTRALIAN STATE GOVERNMENT, SOME 25 YEARS AGO I HELPED LAUNCH A WOMEN’S INFORMATION SERVICE – A TELEPHONE ADVISORY SERVICE FOR WOMEN IN DISTRESS ACROSS THE STATE AND REFERRAL SERVICE TO WHERE THEY COULD GET HELP IF THEY WERE VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

AS A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, I BECAME ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S EARLIEST WHITE RIBBON AMBASSADOR’S, MEN PREPARED TO STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT AGAINST ALL FORMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

AS PRIME MINISTER, I LAUNCHED AUSTRALIA’S FIRST “NATIONAL PLAN TO REDUCE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND THEIR CHILDREN 2010 – 2022.”

THIS PLAN HAS RECENTLY ENTERED INTO ITS THIRD PHASE OF OPERATION. IT HAS ALSO BEEN CITED BY UN WOMEN AS A MODEL NATIONAL RESPONSE.

I ALSO APPOINTED WITHIN MY FIRST YEAR OF OFFICE AUSTRALIA’S FIRST NATIONAL COUNCIL TO REDUCE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND THEIR CHILDREN.

AS A CHILD GROWING UP, I ALSO BECAME ACUTELY CONSCIOUS ALSO OF THE IMPACT OF HOMELESSNESS ON WOMEN. THE FIRST WHITE PAPER I COMMISSIONED AS PRIME MINISTER WAS FOR A NEW HOMELESSNESS STRATEGY FOR AUSTRALIA.

AS A RESULT, WE ESTABLISHED MAJOR NEW SUPPORTED ACCOMODATION FACILITIES ACROSS ALL OF AUSTRALIA’S MAJOR CITIES FOR BOTH HOMELESS WOMEN AND MEN WHO WERE MOST EXPOSED TO VIOLENCE IN OUR INNER CITY AREAS.

NOTHING HAS GIVEN ME GREATER DELIGHT IN LIFE THAN TO SEE THE FACES OF HOMELESS WOMEN ACCORDED THE DIGNITY OF A SECURE PLACE THEY CAN CALL HOME IN A WORLD THAT HASN’T TREATED THEM FAIRLY.

WE ALSO RADICALLY LIFTED OUR NATIONAL INVESTMENT IN ALL FORMS OF SOCIAL HOUSING TO INCREASE MASSIVELY THE HOUSING STOCK AVAILABLE TO THE MORE VULNERABLE MEMBERS OF OUR SOCIETY, INCLUDING SINGLE MOTHERS.

I ALSO REMEMBER WELL THE DIFFICULTIES WE FACED AS A YOUNG MARRIED COUPLE RAISING SMALL CHILDREN WHILE FACING THE DEMANDS OF WORK.

FOR THESE REASONS, I AM PROUD AS PRIME MINISTER TO HAVE INTRODUCED AUSTRALIA’S FIRST PAID PARENTAL SCHEME IN HISTORY PROVIDING DIRECT INCOME SUPPORT FOR THE FIRST 5-6 MONTHS AFTER BIRTH OF THE CHILD.

THE PRINCIPLE BENEFICIARY OF THIS IN PRACTICE HAS BEEN WORKING WOMEN.

AS PRIME MINISTER, I ALSO NEARLY DOUBLED THE CHILDCARE TAX REBATE FOR WORKING WOMEN TO 50% – MEANING THAT HALF THE CHILD CARE FEES PAID BY WOMEN FROM LOWER AND MIDDLE INCOME FAMILIES WOULD BE REFUNDED TO THEM.

I HAD ALSO SEEN THE SORT OF GENDER-BASED PREJUDICES THAT MY WIFE HAD ENCOUNTERED IN CORPORATE LIFE AND LEADERSHIP BOTH IN AUSTRALIA AND IN SOME CARES AROUND THE WORLD.

FOR THESE REASONS, I THOUGHT IT WAS IMPORTANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHEN I WAS PRIME MINISTER.

AFTER 109 YEARS OF AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL HISTORY, I WAS PROUD TO APPOINT AUSTRALIA’ FIRST WOMAN AS GOVERNOR GENERAL – A POSITION EQUIVALENT TO THAT OF HEAD OF STATE.

I WAS ALSO PROUD TO HAVE AS AUSTRALIA’S DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER THE FIRST WOMAN TO HAVE OCCUPIED THAT POSITION IN OUR HISTORY.

I WAS ALSO PROUD TO HAVE WOMEN MAKING UP NEARLY A THIRD OF MY SECOND CABINET.

THIS REMAINS AN AUSTRALIAN RECORD.

I ALSO INTRODUCED AUSTRALIA’S FIRST NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR INCREASED PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN IN COMPANY BOARDS, INCLUDING A NATIONAL DATABASE OF “BOARD-READY” WOMEN, TO DENY MEN THE EXCUSE THAT THEY DID NOT KNOW ANY WOMEN THEY COULD APPOINT.

WE ALSO INITIATED A “WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP AND DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY” WHICH FUNDED 6 NATIONAL WOMEN’S ALLIANCES IN THE NGO SECTOR TO ENGAGE WITH GOVERNMENTS BOTH AT HOME AND ABROAD TO OVERCOME GENDER INEQUALITY.

CONSCIOUS OF OUR RESPONSIBILITIES INTERNATIONALLY, I ALSO BELIEVED IT WAS IMPORTANT TO ADVANCE THE CAUSE OF WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD.

I ESTABLISHED THE POSITION OF AUSTRALIA’S FIRST AMBASSADOR FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS.

THE ENHANCEMENT OF THE ROLE OF WOMEN AND GIRLS AROUND THE WORLD BECAME ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S TOP TEN FOREIGN AID PRIORITIES – ACROSS THE RANGE OF PROGRAMS INCLUDING SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED FUNDING FOR

  • BIRTHING KITS;
  • EDUCATION FOR GIRLS;
  • SANITATION AND WATER FOR ALL;
  • INCREASED WOMEN’S VOTER PARTICIPATION, INCLUDING FOR EXAMPLE DIRECT SUPPORT FOR THE TUNISIAN WOMEN’S MOVEMENT;
  • PROGRAMS TO ENHANCE WOMEN’S RIGHTS TO LANE TITLE AND IN INHERITANCE LAW IN A RANGE OF COUNTRIES INCLUDING INDONESIA;
  • AND A RANGE OF MICRO FINANCE INITIATIVES TO ASSIST WOMEN STARTING UP SMALL BUSINESSES AROUND THE WORLD.

WITHIN OUR OWN REGION, AS FOREIGN MINISTER I ESTABLISHED WITH MY US COUNTERPART HILLARY CLINTON, THE

“AUSTRALIA-US PACIFIC WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT POLICY DIALOGUE” INVOLVING DELEGATES FROM 14 PACIFIC NATIONS, GIVING RISE TO IMPORTANT POLICY INNOVATIONS FOR THE PREVENTION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN THE REGION.

MORE BROADLY, I WAS ALSO CONSCIOUS OF THE ROLE WHICH THE UNITED NATIONS PLAYS IN ESTABLISHING INTERNATIONAL NORMS IN DEALING WITH THE PROBLEM OF GENDER INEQUALITY ACROSS THE WORLD.

IN 1983, THE UNITED NATIONS ADOPTED THE CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (CEDAW).

IN 2000, THE UN ADOPTED THE OPTIONAL PROTOCOL TO CEDAW WHICH PROVIDED FOR MORE STRINGENT ACCOUNTABILITY MEASURES THAN THE 1983 CONVENTION.

THE PREVIOUS AUSTRALIAN CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT HAD REFUSED TO RATIFY THIS CRITICAL PROTOCOL. AS PRIME MINISTER, I DIRECTED THAT AUSTRALIA ACCEDE TO THE CEDAW OPTIONAL PROTOCOL WITHIN OUR FIRST YEAR OF GOVERNMENT. THIS OCCURRED ON 4 DECEMBER 2008.

 

FUTURE CHALLENGES
THESE REPRESENT SMALL NATIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO A MUCH GREATER GLOBAL NEED: THAT IS TO TURN GENDER EQUALITY FROM ASPIRATION INTO REALITY.

THIS IS A FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL WOMEN.

IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION OF EQUAL ACCESS TO HEALTH.

IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION OF EQUAL ACCESS TO EDUCATION.

IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION OF EQUAL ACCESS TO EMPLOYMENT.

IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION OF EQUAL ACCESS TO BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY, AND EQUAL ACCESS TO FINANCE.

IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION OF EQUAL ACCESS TO POSITIONS OF LEADERSHIP – LOCALLY, REGIONALLY, NATIONALLY, GLOBALLY; AND ACROSS ALL SECTORS; INCLUDING POLITICS, ADMINISTRATION, BUSINESS, ACADEMIA AND CIVIL SOCIETY.

IT IS NOT, HOWEVER, JUST A QUESTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS. THERE ARE MULTIPLE EMPIRICAL STUDIES WHICH DEMONSTRATE THAT CORPORATIONS WITH HIGH LEVEL OF WOMEN EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP AND WOMEN BOARD MEMBERSHIP DO BETTER IN THE GLOBAL MARKETPLACE OF THE 21ST CENTURY.

RECENT STUDIES BY THE OECD ARE ONE CASE IN POINT, FOR EXAMPLE:

  • THE 2014 OECD REPORT ON ENHANCING WOMEN’S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT THROUGH ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND LEADERSHIP THE MIDST OF CHINA’S NEW URBANIZATION 2014. THE 2015 KPMG REPORT ON WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP.
  • AND THERE ARE MANY OTHERS.

SIMILAR STUDIES HAVE DONE THE SAME FOR THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN POLITICAL LEADERSHIP.

FOR EXAMPLE, THE PEW RESEARCH CENTRE 2015 STUDY ON “WOMEN AND LEADERSHIP” DEMONSTRATE THAT PUBLIC OPINION IN THE UNITED STATES IS THAT WOMEN ARE EQUALLY QUALIFIED TO THAT OF MEN WHEN IT COMES TO QUESTIONS OF POLITICAL LEADERSHIP.

BUT PEW RESEARCH REPORT ALSO SAYS THAT BARRIERS CONTINUE TO EXIST.

BEYOND THE IMPACT ON POLITICAL AND BUSINESS LEADERSHIP, HOWEVER, THERE IS AN EVEN BIGGER IMPACT OF GREATER WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN THE WORKFORCE ON GLOBAL GROWTH IN THE ECONOMY.

HERE, IN PARTICULAR, I REFER TO THE SEPTEMBER 2015 REPORT BY THE MCKINNEY ENTITLED “THE POWER OF PARITY: HOW ADVANCING WOMEN’S EQUALITY CAN ADD $ 12 TRILLION TO GLOBAL GROWTH”.

I FIRST BEGAN ARGUING THIS CASE AT THE APEC FOREIGN MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE IN HAWAII IN 2011 WITH HILLARY CLINTON. THE ECONOMIC CASE FOR FULL GENDER EQUALITY IS OVERPOWERING.

ACCORDING TO THE MCKINSEY STUDY, A “FULL POTENTIAL” SCENARIO IN WHICH WOMEN PARTICIPATE IN THE ECONOMY AT THE SAME PARTICIPATION RATE AS MEN FINDS THAT IT WOULD ADD $ 28 TRILLION OR 26% TO GLOBAL GDP IN 2025 COMPARED WITH A BUSINESS AS USUAL SCENARIO.

TO PUT THIS INTO CONTEXT, THIS IS AN AMOUNT ROUGHLY EQUIVALENT TO THE COMBINED SIZE OF THE US AND CHINA ECONOMIES TODAY.

MCKINSEY ALSO ADDED A “BEST IN REGION” SCENARIO, IN WHICH ALL COUNTRIES WITHIN A GIVEN REGION MATCH THE RATE OF IMPROVEMENT IN WOMEN’S WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION WITH THE BEST PERFORMING COUNTRY WITHIN THAT REGION.

UNDER THIS SCENARIO, $ 12 TRILLION IN ANNUAL 2025 GDP WOULD BE ADDED, AN AMOUNT COMPARABLE TO THE COMBINED GDP OF JAPAN, GERMANY AND THE U.K..

CRITICALLY, BOTH HIGH AS WELL AS MIDDLE AND LOW INCOME COUNTRIES STAND TO GAIN.

MANY MAY DEBATE THESE NUMBERS, BUT THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT IN A GROWTH CHALLENGED GLOBAL ECONOMY, GREATER WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN THE WORKFORCE AT ALL LEVELS REPRESENTS A CORE ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTION TO SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC GROWTH.

THIS IS PARTICULARLY CRITICAL AT A TIME WHEN ECONOMIC GROWTH IN EUROPE IS FLATLINING, AND THAT MUCH OF ASIA IS ENCOUNTERING SIGNIFICANT HEADWINDS.

IT IS ALSO A SIGNIFICANT AT A TIME OF RAPID DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE WHERE AGEING SOCIETIES WILL NEED TO DRAW UPON WORKFORCES WHERE WOMEN ARE ABLE TO WORK AS MUCH AS MEN IN ORDER TO SUPPORT THE LONG TERM SOCIAL SECURITY NEEDS OF THE NATIONS.

IF I WAS RECOMMENDING AGENDA ITEMS FOR THE NEXT G7 AND G20 MEETINGS, IT WOULD INCLUDE THE POTENTIAL CONTRIBUTION OF EQUAL WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN THE WORKFORCE TO FUTURE GLOBAL GROWTH.

THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN BY MAGIC.

IT WILL HAPPEN THROUGH A COMBINATION OF POLITICAL, POLICY AND CULTURAL CHANGE,

  • INCLUDING ELIMINATING REMAINING CULTURAL TABOOS AGAINST WOMEN HAVING EQUAL WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION.
  • INCLUDING THE PARTICULAR HEALTH NEEDS OF WOMEN NEED TO BE DEALT WITH EFFECTIVELY.

WATER AND SANITATION SERVICES NEED TO BECOME UNIVERSAL SO THAT MILLIONS OF WOMEN ARE LIBERATED FROM THE VIRTUAL SLAVERY OF HAVING TO PHYSICALLY CARRY WATER ON THEIR HEADS FOR MILES EACH DAY, PREVENTING YOUNG WOMEN FROM ATTENDING OR COMPLETING SCHOOL.

  • INCLUDING THE ABSENCE OF MENSTRUAL HYGIENE SERVICES WHICH IS FUNDAMENTALLY DISRUPTING A YOUNG WOMEN’S EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY.

WOMEN AND GIRLS MUST BE ALSO GIVEN FULL ACCESS TO EDUCATIONAL CURRICULA ACROSS THE BOARD, RATHER THAN BE FUNNELLED INTO SO-CALLED “GIRL SUBJECTS”.

OVER TIME, CHILD CARE MUST BECOME AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE.

WOMEN AND GIRLS MUST BE EFFECTIVELY PROTECTED BY THE THREAT OR THE REALITY OF VIOLENCE BY MEN.

HOUSING SUPPORT SERVICES MUST BE AVAILABLE FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN UNDER THE THREAT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

AND ACROSS THE WORLD TODAY THERE MUST BE A GLOBAL POLICY OF “ZERO TOLERANCE” AGAINST ANY TYPE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AT ANY TIME AND ANYWHERE, AND UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

WOMEN ALSO MUST BE GIVEN EQUAL ACCESS TO PROPERTY INHERITANCE, INCLUDING LAND TITLE. THIS IS OFTEN FUNDAMENTAL TO WOMEN BEING GIVEN EQUAL ACCESS TO FINANCE TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS, WHERE TOO THEY MUST BE GIVEN EQUAL ACCESS.

AND BEYOND THIS, WE NEED TO SEE MORE WOMEN IN POSITIONS OF COMMUNITY AND CORPORATE LEADERSHIP ACROSS THE WORLD.

 

CONCLUSION
CHAIRMAN MAO ONCE SAID “WOMEN HOLD UP HALF OF THE SKY“.

FOR THE WOMEN OF THE WORLD TODAY, THEY HAVE STILL BEEN PREVENTED FROM HOLDING UP HALF OF THE SKY.

WE NEED TO CHANGE THAT.

THE WORLD NEEDS TO CHANGE THAT.

WE NEED DESPERATELY A WORLD IN WHICH WOMEN IN REALITY HOLD UP HALF THE SKY.

IT MATTERS FOR THE HUMAN DIGNITY OF ALL WOMEN.

IT MATTERS FOR THE DIGNITY OF US ALL AS HUMAN BEINGS, WOMEN AND MEN ALIKE.

AND IT MATTERS FUNDAMENTALLY IF WE ARE TO HARNESS ALL THE WORLDS’ TALENTS TO DEAL WITH THE GREAT CHALLENGES OF THE 21ST CENTURY.

A CENTURY IN WHICH MY GRAND DAUGHTER, YUE’ER, WILL LIVE, WORK, AND MAKE HER OWN CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD.