Remarks by Ambassador Degnan at Business for Gender Equality 2020 Award Ceremony

Ambassador Degnan at the Business for Gender Equality event. Photo by Leli Blagonravova
Ambassador Degnan at the Business for Gender Equality event.Photo by Leli Blagonravova

Gamarjoba! I am honored to be here today for the Business for Gender Equality Award ceremony.

I want to thank Magda Magradze and the Millennium Foundation and UN Women for sponsoring this event.

The United States is committed to working around the world to advance gender equality as a human right, and as a necessary part of sustainable, equitable economic development. This is reflected most recently in the Biden administration’s recently announced effort to work with the United Nations and the G-7 to advance gender equality.

We have learned that investing in gender equality and women’s empowerment can unlock human potential on a transformational scale. It is now widely accepted that for societies to thrive, women and girls, men and boys, must all have equal access to similar levels of education, healthcare, and technology.

The Biden-Harris Administration leads by example. President Biden has nominated and appointed a Cabinet that includes a record number of women in senior roles, including of course his Vice President, Kamala Harris.

The U.S. Embassy is proud to represent these values as well. In addition to myself and my deputy, around half of my senior leadership team are women, including our Defense Attaché and the FBI Chief.

The United States fully supports integrating women into the workforce, and I am pleased to see these innovative companies here today leading the way on promoting equal opportunity.

It’s worth repeating that we see gender equality not as a necessity for human rights and democratic values, but as vital for successful companies and a prosperous economy.

Evidence shows that gender inequality is a significant constraint to economic growth and poverty reduction. Though women comprise more than 50% of the world’s population, they still only own 1% of the world’s wealth. That is a shocking and disappointing figure that really needs to change.

A country or company that excludes half the potential workforce cannot be fully competitive or successful in a globalized market – they are competing with one hand tied behind their back.

Organizations that have more women in senior positions have been shown to have better overall performance.

Improving the status of women is critical to ensuring sustainable economic development. It has been shown over and over again that countries and companies that promote equality while working to reduce barriers to full and equal participation are more innovative, profitable, and ultimately more successful.

Unfortunately, around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic downturn have shown us in the grimmest ways how crises can exacerbate inequality.

Women and girls are bearing the brunt of this pandemic in visible and invisible ways. Women make up an outsized share of our frontline health care workers, face historic levels of unemployment, and are disproportionately shouldering the increased caregiving responsibilities caused by the pandemic.

Women’s participation in the workforce has dropped significantly during this crisis. The McKinsey Global Institute recently found that, although women make up just 39 percent of the global labor force, they account for 54 percent of pandemic-related job losses.

This highlights that women’s equality faces not only legal obstacles, but also broader societal challenges that includes unequal balance of responsibilities in the home.

To achieve gender equality, we need committed companies, we need strong governmental policies, and we need men to take on a more pro-active role in elevating women in society, including taking on a fairer share of the household responsibilities.

I applaud the companies being honored today for doing their part to advance equality. Your efforts are truly inspiring.

Last fall, Georgia also took the important step of adopting new protections to promote gender equality in its labor code. This, coupled with the 2019 landmark legislation combatting sexual harassment, are critical steps to ensure women are able to fully contribute and thrive in the workplace.

However, these steps are only part of the solution. We still need broader action.

The United States will continue to work with Georgia to unlock its full potential, as we are working to do in American society, so that all of Georgia’s citizens have the opportunity to contribute to building a prosperous and inclusive economy.

Didi madloba