Ambassador Marcia Bernicat
Senior Official for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment
U.S. Department of State
April 14, 2021
It is a pleasure to be with you today as we discuss the importance of women’s economic empowerment and access to finance, which is more important now than ever.
President Biden and Vice President Harris have said that advancing gender equality is a matter of human rights and is a strategic imperative for the United States.
Gender equality reduces poverty, increases access to education, improves health, and fosters democracy. This administration is deeply convinced of the need to marshal the whole-of-government to drive gender equality and is deeply committed to doing so.
Last month, on International Women’s Day, President Biden signed an Executive Order that formally established a new White House Gender Policy Council, reporting directly to the President. This Gender Policy Council represents one of the most significant elevations of gender equality within a U.S. Presidential Administration to date.
As we look to build back better from COVID-19, economic recovery will not be possible without addressing the outsized impact the pandemic has had on women, especially women from marginalized groups, including increased economic insecurity and gender-based violence. An alarming number of women worldwide have been forced to choose between their jobs or businesses and adequate care for loved ones, and been forced to exit the workforce, leading to heightened economic insecurity for their families, communities, and countries.
Vice President Harris noted “Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can fully participate…When we lift up women, we lift up families, we lift up communities and all of society benefits. This is true in the United States and around the globe.”
Women entrepreneurs are a growing market force and a critical source of innovation and job creation. However, women-owned businesses do not have equal access to the capital needed to stabilize or expand. Through our U.S. International Development Finance Corporation’s 2X Gender Lens Investing Initiative, we are committed to empowering women economically and unlocking the multi-trillion-dollar opportunity that women represent.
Through 2X, DFC has catalyzed more than $7 billion of investment in projects that are owned by women, led by women, or provide a product or service that empowers women. In 2020, DFC committed to mobilizing an additional $6 billion of private sector investment in global women’s economic empowerment. DFC applies a gender lens to every project it considers, asking whether women will benefit.
The United States, through the DFC, also helped to establish the 2X Challenge at the G7 in 2018. The 2X Challenge is an initiative that now includes 15 development finance institutions that are collectively mobilizing capital to women in emerging markets and advancing the field of gender lens investing.
As Secretary of State Blinken said, “We believe…that small businesses and women entrepreneurs are vital to a dynamic economy – and that the best investment is not only economically sound but also adheres to high standards, like protecting the environment and respecting human rights, including workers’ rights.”
Increasing women’s economic participation will be critical to addressing the challenges facing our time, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and inequality.
Addressing these challenges requires strong partnerships, and the United States is committed to working with you as we advance these shared goals.