Improving Economic Opportunities for Women

On Wednesday, I had the honor of delivering a keynote address at the APEC “Women in the Economy” Summit in San Francisco. This group was comprised of delegates from economies around the pacific region: government officials, entrepreneurs, academics, corporate leaders, and NGOs. It was truly a privilege to be in front of such a prominent gathering of trailblazers, innovators, and leaders, all dedicated to the advancement of women.

The Women and the Economy Summit is based around a simple, but profound, idea: when we improve opportunities for women, it will benefit our economy as a whole.

If we are going to successfully grow our economy over both the short and long term, we must remove the barriers that still stand between women and economic success. That’s why President Obama has made empowering the world’s women and girls one of the important objectives of his Administration. I’m proud to be part of that effort, as the chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

During these tough times, the President is standing with women across America who are doing everything they can to support their families, and make ends meet. On Monday, the President sent a bill called the American Jobs Act to Congress. This bill will put Americans back to work, it will put more money in the pockets of working Americans, and it will be vitally important to America’s women.

If Congress passes this bill, over 900,000 women small business owners will see their taxes lowered. Over 280,000 teachers will be able to keep, or return to, their jobs.  Nearly 80 million working women will receive a payroll tax cut. And it would extend unemployment benefits, helping 2.6 million women whose benefits are in danger of running out. These are just a few of the ways the American Jobs Act will make a difference in women’s lives (pdf).

As we rebuild our economy here in the U.S., President Obama is doing everything in his power to give the opportunity to succeed, because when women succeed, we all succeed. This is true across the Asia-Pacific region, where women face similar challenges that require similar solutions: better and more affordable education, equal opportunity and pay, access to capital, and mentorship and technical assistance in order to succeed in a global economy.

As we continue to participate in the important conversations taking place at this summit, I am proud to serve a President who is leading the way on these vital issues. It is my hope that together, the world’s leaders can pursue strategies that can include women and girls, grow our economies, and lead to new levels of regional and global prosperity.

Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls

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