Ambassador Osius’s Remarks at the AmCham-WalMart Workshop on Women-Owned Business Supplier Development

Ambassador Osius’s at the AmCham-WalMart Workshop on Women-Owned Business Supplier Development

Chào tất cả quý vị và các bạn!  Chúc mừng Ngày Quốc tế Phụ nữ tất cả các chị em!
Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Colleagues, good morning.

I’m honored to join you here today on International Women’s Day to discuss a challenge that is critical to the development of Vietnam’s society and economy: improving access to economic opportunity for women and for women-owned businesses. Thank you very much to Jocelyn Tran and Walmart for supporting this conference; it’s always a pleasure to get to show off the great work that the American private sector is doing here in Vietnam, both through corporate social responsibility programs and by forging links between the United States and our Vietnamese friends. Thanks also to the American Chamber of Commerce for facilitating today’s events and for your unflagging efforts to advocate for U.S. businesses here in Hanoi.

Since I began my tenure as Ambassador, I’ve tried to contribute to Vietnam’s joint goals of more fully integrating into the global economy and graduating into middle income status.  We’ve made a lot of progress toward both of those goals, but we can’t hope to achieve success if women are excluded from equal partnership in the conversation. When women are full partners, economies grow, and we all benefit.  For example, when women farmers in developing countries have access to the same resources asmen, agricultural output can increase by as much as 4 percent.  In Vietnam, that’s over 800 million dollars!  When women are included in corporate leadership, companies perform better in nearly all measures of organizational effectiveness.  These companies routinely lead the way in finding innovative solutions to longstanding problems precisely because they encourage a diverse range of voices to participate.

But expanding economic opportunities for women isn’t just about the economy; the benefits are far-reaching.  Toni Morrison, one of America’s most treasured writers, once said “There is no modernity and no justice without the talent, the passion and the steely intelligence of women.” When women have greater control over household finances, more resources are invested in future generations – children are better fed, better educated, and have better health.  When women take on more leadership in business, they simultaneously gain political power; and when women are more involved in politics, their priorities are reflected in legislation and countries focus more on long-term growth, environmental protection, and investment in their people.  And in the end, we, our children, and our grandchildren all benefit.

Ensuring women have equal access to economic opportunity begins early; it begins by ensuring girls have equal access to education. When girls have access to formal schooling, they marry later, bear children later, and have lower rates of HIV/AIDS infection.  Just one year of formal education translates into a five-to-ten percent drop in child mortality.  A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to live past the age of five and 67 percent less likely to have stunted growth.  Educated girls are freer to become women who drive innovation, push the boundaries of scientific understanding, and lead their people into a more prosperous future.

Happily, Vietnam is already ahead of the curve in fully including women in the economy.  The difference in school enrollment between boys and girls is minimal, and the gender wage gap is one of the lowest in the developing world.  This is unsurprising to all those of us who are familiar with the women of Vietnam.  Ever since the Trung Sisters, the world has known that one underestimates Vietnamese women at one’s own peril.  Today, we can see that remarkable women like Cao Thị Ngọc Dung of PNJ, Nguyễn Thị Phương Thảo of HD Bank and VietJet, and Thái Hương of the TH dairy company are continuing this long tradition of strong female leadership in Vietnam.

Still, there is work yet to be done to promote gender equality. Vietnam maintains one of the highest birth sex ratio differentials in the world, with a dramatic preference for baby boys over baby girls. The equality women enjoy in Vietnam’s cities often does not extend to rural areas. And despite generally good access to education, women are still greatly underrepresented on corporate boards and in political leadership.

The United States is helping Vietnam address some of those gender inequalities. Through the Mekong Vitality Expanded Alliance, we are supporting microfinance loans to small, women-owned businesses, helping bakers, livestock farmers, and basket weavers build capital and access international markets. Through our Land Access program, we are helping women – particularly those in rural and underserved areas – understand their rights when they seek to purchase property, a necessary first step in starting many businesses, and a significant hurdle for many who don’t clearly understand complicated laws. And through our Governance for Inclusive Growth  program, we are helping the Vietnamese government implement legislation that protects the rights not just of women, but of all vulnerable groups including ethnic minorities, the LGBT community, and others.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am convinced that pursuing inclusive growth is the best way to achieve the greatest long-term sustainable overall growth. The data back this up. I know this conviction is shared by our Vietnamese partners.  I hope that in today’s conversation, we can help women and women-owned businesses gain better access to international markets and contribute more fully to Vietnam’s inclusive growth.

Cảm ơn quý vị!