11 May 2017
Speech of Vice President Maria Leonor Gerona-Robredo at the GLOBAL SUMMIT OF WOMEN in Tokyo, Japan, 11 May 2017
Vice President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh of Vietnam, GSW President Irene Natividad, GSW Japan Host Committee Chair Noriko Nakamura, Outgoing Host Committee Chair Henrika Boknyars, local and international delegates to the GSW 2017, honored guests, ladies and the few brave gentlemen who are here, good evening to everyone.
It is a great time for women to be alive. [Applause]
In my country, the Philippines, in Japan, and all over the world, there has never been so much global recognition of the value of women than today. When we watch the news, we see among the world’s most powerful people, women who are making policies that impact the global economy, leading large corporations, or changing the world through their work in development.
We have even gone past the rhetorics, and have, in fact, quantified the impact of gender empowerment: an additional $12 trillion to global gross domestic product by 2025, if women achieve equality in the workplace.
This Global Women’s Summit is also proof that women’s issues are no longer “soft” ones, even on the global stage. A huge sign of this is that men are also championing the cause for women equality. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s presence with us this afternoon gives a clear signal that our male counterparts are our stakeholders in this advocacy. His support, and those of other powerful male influencers through this summit, indicates a quantum leap in the fight for gender equality around the world.
Truly, this is the time to celebrate our wins, but also to look at how we can further push the women’s agenda. “Beyond Womenomics: Accelerating Access” is a timely and relevant discussion in a world where the global gender economic gap is widening, and even seen to last until 2186. Yes, 2186.
The World Economic Forum has said in 2016 that at current rates, women will not reach global parity with men for 170 years. In many parts of the world, rape is still a method of warfare, baby girls are still being killed, women are still not being allowed to own land, women are still being required to pay their dowry in full before they can divorce their husbands, some still cannot get education, and are still not allowed to drive.
In my country, Filipinas are fortunate to live in an empowering ecosystem for women. The Philippines is ranked 7th out of 145 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index, and the Asia Pacific region’s highest-ranked country, and the only one to make it into the top 10.
We have women senators, congresswomen, governors, and mayors, and more than 37% of senior management and board positions are held by women in our country—a testament to the strength, excellence, and professionalism of Filipinas. [Applause]
Many of them are here with us today. I am proud to lead a delegation of 46 top Filipina businesswomen and government officials, mostly CEOs of major enterprises, and they are there in front of us. But what is even more amazing about these powerful women is not their titles. Separate from their boardroom duties, they create movements that mentor women in their own small enterprises, support and refine laws for women empowerment, shine a spotlight on how women are paid and treated in the workplace, and ensure that the next generations of women and girls, have better economic opportunities than those before them.
For instance, the Philippine Women’s Network or PhilWen, is a consortium of six business groups advocating for the economic empowerment of women and the adoption of inclusive business models by big corporations. PhilWen brings together leading private sector organizations in the Philippines to commit to gender equality goals and become role models in this sphere.
There are also emerging threats, like the abuse that women get on social media for standing up for what they believe in. In some respects, protecting a woman’s dignity and character is more difficult in the virtual sphere, where just about anyone, can make irresponsible comments, often anonymously. Our laws have not yet caught up with the virtual world, because proving cyber harassment is still a trenchant challenge.
Our world is constantly in a state of flux and women who hold up half the sky, as they say, should be celebrated and encouraged to embrace their powerful destinies. And as women get a tighter foothold in the world of business, we hope that this advancement in their empowerment will be mirrored down on the ground, where poor women have much harder time breaking the glass ceiling.
Tory Burch, I hope many of you know her, namesake of the $3.5-billion fashion empire, is a great example of successful women who have not forgotten our sisters at the bottom of the business chain. She started a fellowship program in 2015, to help ten women entrepreneurs with not more than $500,000 in annual revenues, to grow. She provided an education grant, an investment, and one year mentoring, among other things.
Ms. Burch wrote in an article in The Economist that narrowing the gender gap in employment will increase global income per person by as much as 20% by 2030. But that is not all. She pointed out that the benefits go beyond the bottom line. She said, and I quote:
“Women business leaders inspire other women to pursue their dreams. They may also find it easier to balance work and family outside the traditional corporate world. In emerging markets, women reinvest 90% of their earnings in their families and in their communities—which means that investing in women is an investment in our collective future.” [Close quote]
Truly, the world needs to empower women in the world of business, to make this world a much-better place to live in. But for that to happen, we need men and women alike, to catch this vision. That is when all the best women in the world, will win. So, we are looking forward to the results of this Summit, hoping that we can bring the conversation beyond “womenomics” into providing access to all women around the world.
Thank you very much, have a good evening everyone!