November 1st, 2022
Good evening and thank you Madame President and your co-organizers for hosting this conference on a critical topic. It is an honor to share this distinguished panel with other diplomatic representatives.
I believe the United States is the only nation represented here that has yet to elect a woman head of government or state and so I should say upfront that we still have things to learn on gender equality. Still, in the spirit of learning from each other I would like to share how the United States approaches gender equality and has prioritized it in our foreign policy. At the core of our strategy is the conviction that ensuring every woman and girl has the opportunity to fully realize her potential is not just the right thing to do – it is critical to advancing the prosperity, stability, and security of our country and the world.
In 1995, the United States recognized gender equity as a foreign policy priority and founded the Secretary’s Office of Global Women Issues and tasked it with the mandate to empower women and girls—and promote their rights—internationally. Last week we had the office’s Senior Official, Katrina Fotovat, visit Bucharest. She met with NGOs, government officials, the Ministry of Defense, and a number of you in Parliament to discuss the topics traditionally relegated to “women’s issues,” [suggest air quotes in delivery] but which in fact impact all–Gender Based Violence, economic empowerment, and Women, Peace, and Security.
She was sympathetic to the challenges Romania faces. Both our nations are working to increase women in political representation; for the first time in U.S. history, we have a female Vice President, 50% of our Cabinet officials are women, and we have a female Speaker of the House. Still, as I mentioned, we have yet to elect a female President, we have just 24 women in our Senate, and only 28% of the House of Representatives is female. Surely, we have come far since the 19th Amendment enfranchised American women in 1920, but we still have much ground to cover to advance gender equality.
One mechanism which has helped advance the power of women in U.S. politics is the bipartisan Women’s Caucus which was founded in 1977 by the then-only 15 women members of Congress. Since its establishment, the number of women in the House of Representatives has grown from 15 to 123 and the Caucus’ influence has far exceeded its representation. In recent years, it has introduced legislation, subsequently signed into law, to address the needs of women in the military and women veterans, combat the domestic and international trafficking of women and girls, end sexual harassment and violence, increase the number of women and girls in STEM, and address women’s preventative healthcare.
In addition to increasing women’s political power, we are also focused on their economic empowerment. It was not by chance that in the unprecedented 2021 U.S. Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, President Biden listed economic security and accelerated economic growth as the first strategic priority. When women are economically empowered, they re-invest in their families and communities—producing a multiplier effect spurring economic growth and contributing to global peace and stability. One way we advance this priority is through the EMPOWER HER initiative. During the March Transatlantic Conference in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Raimondo launched this effort, which is a collaboration among the U.S. Commercial Service and American Chambers of Commerce in Europe to promote women’s economic empowerment. I am proud that AmCham Romania was an early signatory of a Declaration in Support of Women’s Economic Empowerment furthering EMPOWER HER ideals and that our U.S. Commercial Service is encouraging U.S. and foreign companies in Romania to implement its ideals in their organizations.
Lastly, given Russia’s war in Ukraine and our robust security partnership with Romania, I would be remiss were I not to mention our efforts in Women, Peace, and Security. The U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security reaffirms America’s commitment to enhancing women’s participation in decision-making processes, conflict prevention and resolution, and political and civil life. Women offer unique contributions to making and keeping peace and these contributions lead to better outcomes for entire societies. We are so pleased to have such strong advocates in Romania for Women, Peace, and Security including Ministry of National Defense State Secretary Cojocaru and Colonel Bercea.
Gender equality is critical to our efforts for a more secure, prosperous, and stable world. Our budget reflects this with $2.6 billion announced in fiscal year 2023—the largest-ever budget request for advancing gender equity and equality around the world. Yes, we have much to do, but we are on the right track and learning from each other allows us to better ensure that every woman and girl has the opportunity to succeed.