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Cherie's Remarks at the Inaugural Meeting of the International Council on Women's Business Leadership

U.S. Department of State, Ben Franklin Room, 24 January 2012

Cherie Blair, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women

Thank you Hillary for your kind words, for your fantastic leadership on women’s rights and not least for setting up this Council to do important work.

The issue of women’s business leadership is of fundamental importance across the world. International competitiveness and economic growth are based on ef´Čücient allocation of resources, including, of course, human resources.

When, because of tradition, deprivation, taboos or simple prejudice, half of the world’s population is prevented from making its full contribution, our economies and societies will suffer. The skill set that the private sector can tap into will be narrower, with the result that economic opportunities around the globe are underutilized.

I am therefore excited and honoured to serve as Vice Chair of the Council and I will contribute my long standing passion and dedication for women’s rights as well as my Foundation for Women’s work to make this a success.

I am convinced that with your leadership Hillary and such distinguished Council members on board, we can advance women’s economic inclusion across the public, the private and the non for profit sector.

Allow me also to express Indra Nooyi’s heartfelt regret for not being able to join the group today. She personally asked me to share with you that she is deeply committed as Vice Chair to the Council’s objective of fostering economic empowerment for women.
If you have worked with Indra in the past you know that she will make sure that we come up with recommendations and actions that can move the needle and lead to tangible outcomes.

Let me also thank our sub-committee Chairs; Maude Olofsson, Beth Brooke, Sri Mulyani and Sally Suzman for their willingness to shoulder a lot of the work in the coming months.
The themes for the sub-committees, namely Access to Markets, Access to Finance, Capacity and skills development as well as Women’s Leadership could not have been better chosen and of course resonate with women across the world.

We know that we have quite a task in front of us if we glance at the “World Bank Development Report 2012” or the Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law” study, but we are lucky as it is also clear where solutions lie and what we need to do. The challenge is to get more people to make changes and not do business as usual.

UN Women informs us that women still perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce over 50 percent of the food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property.

It is therefore clear that we need to change two things: the facts on the ground and the perception men and women often have; the perception that women are less able and less worth, that they are 2nd class citizens. Let’s make sure that all women have a ticket to become first class world residents.

Given that a vast number of individuals, governments, companies, and organisations around the world already work on women’s business leadership, it is vital not to reinvent the wheel, but to pick up the good work of others, scale it, learn together and ensure a concerted effort.

Let’s work together on ensuring that a woman who runs a business is able to take out a loan to grow her own business no matter. Let’s work together to ensure that women’s products reach markets and that women have the right to buy and hold on to productive assets. Let’s work on legal reform to enshrine women’s equality in every new law that is passed. Let’s work together so that women can get equipped with confidence, capacity and capital.

This would mean a better world for all of us. Thank you.