Empowering Young Women Conference

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(As prepared)

Camara do Comércio e Indústria Portuguesa, Lisbon
March 8, 2018

Good Morning!  Wow!  What a group!  I am really thrilled to be here today to open this conference.

I want to take a moment to thank my fellow Ambassadors who are here today to demonstrate their support for all of you and to share their experience and expertise with you.  I am very appreciative of the support of the Association of Women Ambassadors and to each of you for being here today.  I also want to thank FLAD for their support in making today’s conference a reality.

I want to acknowledge the truly remarkable women who are part of our panels today.  They have each achieved incredible success in their fields and have so much to share with all of you.  Each of these women leaders is here today for you and it is up to you to seize that opportunity and to take advantage of having so many leaders here.  Ask them questions, there are no dumb questions!  Make connections!  And learn as much as you possibly can.

Today is International Women’s Day and a day to acknowledge the value and importance of women across every sector of society. There can be no question of the benefits of women’s empowerment—politically, economically, and socially. Women spend a higher portion of their earnings on their families than do men, driving greater prosperity and healthier communities.

We know that if women participated in today’s labor markets to the same extent as men, the global annual GDP would see an additional $28 trillion by 2025 which means there is a lot of room to grow.

It should therefore come as no surprise that countries with greater gender equality tend to have less poverty. Women’s empowerment is clearly a strategic investment in our future.

And it is clearly an investment Portugal has made and continues to make with young women like you leading the way.  In this country where less than 50 years ago women were  required have a husband’s or father’s permission to obtain a passport and where women were barred from all sort of activities, women now make up 60% of university degree holders and 53% of current students. More than 35% of legislators are women.  And a growing percentage of entrepreneurs and business owners are women.

I know from my standpoint as a businessman before I came to Portugal, I know that encouraging women and mentoring women was not only the right thing to do but good for business.

And the United States has a very strong commitment to women’s empowerment and gender equality which extends beyond statements and ceremonies. On International Women’s Day, and every day, we, especially in business, advance the rights of women and girls, and we are well aware that when we do, we all win.

In the U.S. where women now make up 40 percent of the entrepreneurs and women business owners employ more than 8 million workers providing them with more than $264 billion in wages and salaries.  I can tell you that President Trump is supporting policies that promote women’s economic empowerment.

In first year of his Administration, the Small Business Administration, which is a small lending organization that’s an agency of the U.S. Government, has increased lending to women-owned businesses by $128 million.  The recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provides new tax credits to businesses that offer paid family and medical leave to their employees, because access to paid family leave and affordable, high-quality childcare can help enhance women’s ability to participate in the labor force and improve the economic security of their families.

The administration continues promoting the next generation of women leaders through mentoring, training, and education initiatives like today’s event.

In order to realize the full potential of women and girls to contribute to our economies and societies, you all must have the tools you need to succeed and that is what today is all about.  So I challenge each of you to make the most of today.  Ask a question.  Get a business card.  Develop your personal narrative during the workshop so you are ready to tell a potential employer, or university just why they need to choose you.

This is your moment in time, particularly for your generation. The world today it is very competitive but it is also a much more even playing field than it was when all of these women (gestures to speakers) were coming up.  So this is a really special time for you to seize the moment and take on the challenge.

Congratulations on being here, on making this investment of time and energy in yourself. And enjoy the conference!

Thank you everybody!