NOVEMBER 16, 2023
InterContinental San Francisco
San Francisco, California
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hey, everyone. Please have a seat. Hi. I have to check my watch. Good afternoon. (Laughter.) Good afternoon.
Thank you, Jen. I have to say, I have the great privilege of working with Jen at the White House, and we travel the country and the world together, and I’m looking at her right there. She really is an extraordinary fighter.
And I wish that you all could see her in these rooms, because she is so very kind in terms of her disposition, but she will cut somebody’s throat — (laughter) — if they’re not doing the right thing. It’s true. (Laughter.) So, thank you, Jen. Thank you.
And welcome to everyone. There are leaders from government, civil society, philanthropy here. And together we are doing extraordinary work. And I see a lot of friends here as well.
Mayor Breed, thank you for your leadership. I’ve known you and worked with you throughout the various positions you and I have held in public office, and you really are a great fighter for the empowerment of women everywhere. Thank you for that. (Applause.)
So, we are all here because we agree women around the world should be able to fully participate in economic, political, and social life, and they must be able to participate equally and in positions of leadership.
Currently, however, that is not the case. There are nearly 200 countries in the world. And of these, 176 maintain legal barriers to women’s economic participation. Only six have a national legislature with 50 percent or more women serving. And globally, one in five girls is married before the age of 18.
So, clearly there is a lot more work to be done, including here in the United States. And let us all agree that when we lift the economic status of women, children, their families, and all of society benefits.
And when it comes to women in the workplace, the President and I know that organizing is critical to empowerment. And to that end, I am pleased to announce that just last week in Las Vegas 35,000 members of the local culinary union — the vast majority women and women of color and immigrant women — led by a Latina, successfully negotiated for better benefits, stronger workforce and workplace safety protections, and the largest pay raise in their history. (Applause.) Yes. So, yes, let us applaud their work as an important milestone in the long march toward progress.
So, the majority of my career has been focused on the health, safety, and well-being of women and children. And as Vice President, this work has now extended abroad.
On nearly every trip I have taken overseas, from Guatemala to South Korea to Ghana, I have convened women entrepreneurs, activists, and students to partner with them to invest in their work and lift the next generation of women leaders.
This focus led to an announcement that I made in March in Ghana that the public and private sectors have committed more than $1 billion to support economic empowerment of women globally with an emphasis on closing the digital gender divide.
And today, then, as Jen said, to build on those investments, I am pleased to announce the launch of the women in the sustainable economy initiative also known as WISE. (Applause.) Yes.
So, this initiative will invest more than $900 million from the public and private sectors, including $163 million from the United States government. These investments will support women in what is called the “blue and green economy,” which means supporting women in industries that contribute to a sustainable future, such as clean energy and conservation.
And all of this work, of course, will help address the climate crisis but also with the recognition that the climate crisis has a disproportionate impact on women and children around the world.
Though this new initiative, we will provide skills and training in areas such as engineering and the manufacturing of solar panels, we will increase access to finance for women-owned businesses in these industries, and we will increase girls’ access to STEM education.
In the past eight months, I have partnered with the private sector and philanthropies to generate more than $2.4 billion to economically empower women around the world. And I want to thank everyone here because many of you have been partners through that process of doing what we know is critically important, not only because it is morally right, ethically right, but it is how we will be on a path to increase security and prosperity around the world.
It’s just really good for business. (Laughter.) And there’s a really profound return on the investment.
So, it’s smart work, and it’s good work. And I look around this room, and there are so many who have been in this fight for so long. And I think it’s really important that we have a moment like this to celebrate the success that we have achieved thus far but to recommit ourselves to all that we have yet to do in partnership.
And so, for those who have not signed up, I am here to also encourage you to do what I think is going to be something you will enjoy and will have a profound impact on generations to come.
And with that, I thank you all. And, Jen, I’d ask you to come back up so we continue the program.
Thank you all. (Applause.)