Launch of Investing in Women Business Coalition

  • Speech, check against delivery

Ambassadors,Excellencies, dignitaries, friends of Australia, friends of thePhilippines. I am absolutely delightedto be here at the Australian Ambassador's Residence in Manila to assist withthe launch of this Philippines' Business Coalition under the Investing in WomenInitiative.

I must say Iwas markedly impressed to learn that, not content with just an InternationalWomen's Day on the 8th of March, the Philippines has a National Women's Month,and so you take an entire month to focus on the achievements of the women ofthe Philippines!

In the leadup to International Women's day recently, I invited all the female heads ofmission, the female ambassadors and high commissioners resident in Canberra toParliament House for an event to celebrate International Women's Day. I wasdelighted to see that of the hundred foreign diplomats we have in Canberra asheads of mission, 17 are female and we had a very positive and constructivediscussion that day.

I am alsopleased to confirm that of Australia's 100 diplomats overseas as heads ofmission, 24 are women. But we pale incomparison with the Philippines. 42 per cent of their ambassadors and highcommissioners and heads of mission are female.

So oncemore, the Philippines is leading the way. Congratulations!

Theempowerment of women and gender equality drives economic growth and prosperity,and that drives peace and stability.

While we canreflect on the enormous advances and achievements that have been made, we stillhave a long way to go before we can confidently claim that women have equalopportunities to men in fulfilling their potential.

Again, thePhilippines is a case in point because according to the World Economic Forum,the Philippines is now ranked 7th in terms of the gender pay gap on globalrankings, and that is quite an achievement.

But I alsolearned from another report by McKinsey's that should the Philippines increasethe workforce participation of women by just one per cent each year, by 2025this would add $40 billion to the Philippine's GDP.

$40 billion.That would be a nine per cent increase over business as usual.

So, as I sayvery often, gender empowerment, gender equality is not only the right thing todo. It is the smart thing to do.

Now we arevery pleased that our Investing in Women Initiative has taken hold in this partof the world.

It is anAustralian government initiative to help support gender equality and economicempowerment in South East Asia, and the Philippines Business Coalition bringstogether leading private sector companies.

I urge theseven founding members to promote your achievements in gender equality,economic empowerment and advocate the benefits not only within your companiesbut across the board.

Set benchmarks, set standards and compete against each other for better outcomes.

In my own roleas Foreign Minister, I have sought to embrace the concept of gender equalityand the benefits that it can bring in all that we do in foreign policy.

In our owndepartment, for example, we are responsible for many councils and boards, and Ihave set a target of 50 per cent female-male representation, as in 50 per centmale, 50 per cent female representation on our boards, and we are nearlythere. We are about 48-49 percent offemale representation on the boards that the Department of Foreign Affairs andTrade is responsible for. This is takenup across the Australian government, for the boards for which we areresponsible, the federal government public sector boards. We now aim for 50 percent representation for women.

Some peoplesay 30 per cent, we say, "Well, women make up half of population, let's aim for50 per cent," and we are on our way to achieving that.

In theprivate sector it can often be more difficult to achieve the representation atthe higher levels across the boards and management teams. That is why I am sopleased that the Philippines Business Coalition is committed to ensuring thatthe undoubted benefits that come from economic empowerment of women will beshared across your companies and across the private sector in the Philippines,and you may well pave the way for the public sector to follow.

So it is agreat pleasure to be here this evening amongst so many committed people to thecause of gender equality and economic empowerment.

And let ushope that when we meet again, we will be able to talk about the advances thatwe have made in the interest of the men and women of the Philippines, SouthEast Asia and Australia.

On that noteI am delighted that members of the Philippines' government are here and membersof the ASEAN Women's Entrepreneurs Network.

We lookforward to supporting their events in August when the ASEAN Business Forum isheld here. And we could not be moredelighted that the Philippines will be chairing ASEAN this year and we lookforward to seeing very positive outcomes from this most remarkable grouping often nations.

So, ladiesand gentlemen, welcome to our Embassy here.

Thank you,Amanda [Gorely], for the wonderful work that you do. I had great feedback today from a number ofministers that the Australian Ambassador is making her mark here in thePhilippines and for that, I thank you, Amanda.

Please enjoythe evening. I have great pleasure in launching the Philippines BusinessCoalition for Economic Empowerment of Women under the Investing in WomenInitiative.

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