Thank you very much Prime Minister Abe, for that kind introduction. And thank you for your gracious hospitality to my family.
This is my first visit to Japan, and the warmth you have shown us, the beauty of your landscape, and the vibrancy of your culture are truly incredible gifts to all who come to this country. Yesterday evening, as I arrived in Tokyo, I was struck by the magnificence of the skyline – and this morning I was awed by the ancient beauty of the Imperial Palace. The wonders of this land are a testament to the creativity and resilience of the Japanese people.
It is an honor to join you today at the World Assembly for Women. I am grateful to be with this exceptional and passionate group of leaders to discuss the economic empowerment of women, to celebrate the progress our societies have made, and to chart a bold course for the future.
The economic empowerment of women has been a focus of mine for many years – ensuring that 50% of our population can fully participate in the workforce is critical to strengthening our communities and growing our prosperity.
That is why after my father’s election, I decided to leave my businesses and work in government to advance policies and initiatives that empower women to fully participate in the economy, if they so choose. Policies that enable women to pursue their careers and care for their families, policies that focus on workforce development and skills training, and policies that fuel entrepreneurship so that Americans can turn their aspirations into their incredible legacy.
Our societies are at a critical juncture – a moment of both great challenge and opportunity.
Over the last half century, women have entered every imaginable field, reached the highest levels of management, and now are leading some of the largest companies in the world. We have discovered life-saving medical cures, traveled to space, and created transformative technologies. The women here today represent this historic achievement – and shine the light towards an even brighter future.
Here in Japan, 4 decades ago, 45 percent of women worked outside the home. Today, 66 percent of working-age women are in the workforce – a significant improvement, and one I know will only continue to grow in great measure due to Prime Minister Abe’s vision for Japan.
At the very heart of this vision is womenomics.
Womenomics recognizes the centrality of women, who represent roughly half of our global population, in achieving true economic growth. Women who are empowered to work, to thrive, and to lead bring immense creativity, fresh perspective, and success to our economy – and to the world.
When women work, it creates a unique multiplier effect. Women are more likely than men to hire other women, to give them access to capital, mentorship and networks. Women have been shown to reinvest 90 percent of their income in their homes and communities, and tend to allocate more of their funds to food, healthcare and education—resources that benefit children and improve our societies for generations. When women work, they not only support themselves, but they create a better future for their families and their communities.
Currently, an estimated 49 percent of women across the world participate in the global workforce. If women close the gap with men in all aspects of work and society, it could add trillions of dollars to our annual global GDP over the next decade.
I deeply respect and honor women who choose to work inside the home full-time to care for their families. We never want to discourage that incredible calling, but we must also ensure that every woman has the freedom to work outside of the home – if they so choose.
Therefore, in order to empower women to reach our full economic potential, we must embrace four fundamental changes that will propel us into the future.
First, as leaders in both business and government, we must pave the way in modernizing the workplace.
While the percentage of working women has dramatically increased, corporate expectations have remained all-too stagnant.
Today, in the United States, women now comprise 47 percent of the workforce.
In the vast majority of American homes with children, all parents work – and in 40 percent of households, women are the primary breadwinners.
Yet, work environments and social institutions still largely operate on a single-earner mindset, in which one parent – traditionally the mother – stays at home to provide full time care.
All too often, our workplace culture has failed to treat women with appropriate respect. This takes many forms, including harassment, which can never be tolerated.
Traditional and rigid corporate culture also fails working mothers – and fathers – who work long and often wildly unpredictable hours and get little time off.
Too many mothers dread telling their boss they must stay home to take care of a sick child – and many must go back to work just weeks after having a new baby – because they can’t afford not to.
Every day, working parents are forced to make hard but unavoidable choices.
I joined the government informed by my experiences in the private sector, having been both an executive leading an international real estate business and an entrepreneur who built a successful brand in an entirely different industry.
As a professional with three young children, despite the help I am able to have at home, I too experience the struggles of balancing the competing demands of work and family.
I, however, am far more fortunate than most.
Because of the opportunities I’ve been afforded my whole life, I felt an obligation to seize this moment and join the Administration.
I saw a chance to fuel the number of women owned businesses and grow our economy.
I saw a chance to work on behalf of girls in rural communities and inner cities who by learning to code or studying robotics could secure good-paying jobs in our modern economy.
I saw a chance to go to bat for the women who face the choice of staying home with a sick child or reporting to work at a job that might otherwise fire her.
Our workplaces and our public policies must mirror our values: work and family.
It is time for our societies to find new and innovative ways to make it easier for women to experience the joy of motherhood, without facing career setbacks. This isn’t a women’s issue – it’s a family issue. Yet it disproportionately impacts women who are most likely to leave the workforce or curtail our ambitions because we have no access to affordable care for our children and adult dependents.
Still, in the developed world, we are slowly seeing a movement toward a more equal distribution of responsibilities in our homes. Young fathers are increasingly contributing to housework and helping raise their children.
We have an incredible opportunity to adapt our workplaces to this modern reality.
Today, we can answer an email in the palm of our hand, take a call almost anywhere around the globe, work flexible hours in the gig economy and finish our work at home once we put our kids to bed.
The last decade has revolutionized the way we work – and now has the potential to deliver more flexibility to working women.
Already we are seeing increasing numbers of women leaving behind outdated work environments to start their own businesses from their kitchen tables. Today, women entrepreneurs are flourishing.
Fortunately, the private sector is recognizing the importance of modernizing the workplace. Businesses are instituting policies such as flex-time and paid leave, in part to attract and retain female talent.
Companies that have women on their boards generate a higher return on equity than those that do not, and outperform in times of crisis or volatility.
Integrating and empowering women is not just good corporate policy, it’s good business.
Second, in addition to changing the corporate culture, we must advance public policies that address the composition of our modern workforce.
In the United States, while single women without children make 95 cents for each dollar earned by a man, married mothers earn only 81 cents. Too many women in the United States are forced to leave the workforce following the birth of a child.
We must ensure that federal policies support working mothers and enable them to reach their full potential. This is how we will create an environment where closely bonded families can flourish and our economy can grow at unprecedented levels.
That is why in the United States, we are working to pass sweeping and long over-due tax reform that will afford families much needed relief. We are seeking to simplify the tax code, lower rates, expand the child tax credit, eliminate the marriage penalty, and put more money back in the pockets of hard-working Americans.
Our administration is working to address the high cost of childcare in the United States which currently outstrips housing expenses and state college tuition in much of the Country. It cannot be too expensive for the modern working family to have children.
I applaud Prime Minister Abe for expanding paid family leave here in Japan, an important step in addressing the modern challenges of working families and maintaining women’s attachment to the workforce.
This year, for the first time ever, the President’s Budget included a proposal to establish a nationwide paid family leave program. We know this will take time, but we are deeply committed to working with members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, to get it done and deliver more pro-family solutions to hardworking Americans.
Third, in this age of rapid technology, we must also confront the challenges of workforce development.
It is critical as we look toward the future, that we don’t allow women in the United States and around the world to be left behind by the 4th Industrial Revolution – a revolution that’s integrating robotics, computer programing, artificial intelligence, social media, and cutting-edge technologies into every aspect of our society.
As technology transforms every industry, we must work to ensure that women have access to the same education and industry opportunities as men.
Female and minority participation in STEM fields is moving in the wrong direction. Women today represent only 13 percent of engineers and 24 percent of Computer Science professionals, down from 35 percent in 1990. We must create equal participation in these traditionally male-dominated sectors of our economy, which are among the fastest-growing and most lucrative industries in the world. Over the coming decades, technologies such as automation and robotics will transform the way we work, and we want to make sure that women can lead in the economy of the future. Otherwise, not only will we fail in closing the persistent gender wage gap, we will risk reversing the hard-fought progress we have made in this fight.
Several months ago, the Trump Administration instructed the Department of Education to prioritize STEM education, especially computer science, in our schools. The guidance we offered directed that these programs be designed with gender and racial diversity in mind.
At the direction of the President, I have worked closely with leadership across government Agencies to prioritize workforce development and proven on-the-job training programs like apprenticeships so that young women – and men – have more opportunities to earn while they learn, provide for their families, and master the skills that drive progress in the 21st century.
Finally, we must empower women who live in countries that prevent them from leading.
Across the world, there are still laws that stop women from fully participating in their nation’s economy.
In some countries, women are not allowed to own property, travel freely, or work outside of the home without the consent of their husbands.
Countries like the United States and Japan cannot be complacent. We must continue to champion reforms in our own countries while also empowering women in restricted economies.
That is why this summer, at the G20 conference, the United States and Japan were founding members of a bold, new initiative with the World Bank – the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative. This facility is the first of its kind to empower women entrepreneurs in developing countries. It will provide access to the capital, networks, and mentorship needed to thrive and will dramatically impact the ecosystem of women’s entrepreneurship globally.
And we are just getting started!
As we gather in Tokyo today, I can’t help but think of some of the great women pioneers in this country who have inspired our generation.
Women like Yoshiko Shinohara.
She survived World War Two, started as a secretary and went on to open a small business in her one-bedroom apartment. Her company grew into a world renowned business in over a dozen countries. Today, as you all know, Yoshiko is Japan’s first female self-made billionaire. Now, she helps young people afford the education they need to pursue their dreams and contribute to society.
Because of pioneers like Yoshiko, women in this country – and around the world – aspire to greater feats, climb to higher positions, and pave new pathways forward.
Today, we are redefining success. We’re discarding the old formula of the ideal woman—the ideal worker –the ideal mother. We are helping to shape a more realistic and complete picture of what it is to be a woman who thrives – and who helps her business, community and family do the same.
The fact is, ALL women are “working women.” Whether they make the commute to work each morning, or spend each day with their children at home, or some combination of both. Truth be told, on Sunday nights, after a messy and wonderful weekend with my children, I am far more exhausted than on Friday evenings, after a long week of work at the office. I deeply admire women who choose to work inside the home raising their children and respect this decision.
Eliminating or easing legal and cultural barriers so that more parents can make the choices that are right for their families is a core mission for our generation. We don’t label men “working men.” And it is my hope that by the time my daughter Arabella grows into a woman she will not be defined by whether she works inside or outside the home. She will simply be a woman, afforded the same opportunities as her male peers and equipped with the education and support she needs to fulfill her unique potential.
This is how I believe we will empower women – and in so doing, enable them to raise confident, empathetic, and ambitious sons and daughters, to propel unprecedented growth and job creation, and to cultivate a society that embraces the fullness of life, the dignity of work, and the gift of strong and flourishing families.
So today, I hope you will join me in imagining this future and working together to make it a reality– for our children, for our nations, and for the hope of a more vibrant and inclusive economy.