Melanne Verveer
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues
Washington, DC
March 21, 2012

Greetings to all of you gathered for the Ankara Entrepreneurship Conference. I wish I could be with you in person to commend you on the important work you are doing to advance the progress of women in the economy.

We know that when women thrive, all of society thrives. Investments in women correlate positively with poverty alleviation and a country’s general prosperity. Today there is a mountain of research that shows that gender equality is smart economics. Women-run businesses, for example, are accelerators of GDP. Yet still too often the potential of women is not being tapped. We are not only shortchanging women in the process but shortchanging our prospects for stronger societies, economies and countries.

Today, all over the world women are agents of change in their societies – advancing economic, social and political progress. And that is exactly what you are doing! This conference represents a growing commitment by many to investing in progress for women not just in Turkey and across Europe but also around the world.

I applaud your efforts to increase women’s economic opportunities and to enhance interregional and international partnerships between associations and the private sector. I applaud too your efforts to serve as mentors to emerging women in business and as advocates for policies to provide for greater economic opportunity. As Secretary Clinton has said, “Talent is universal but opportunity is not.” And when women are provided with opportunities, they invest exponentially in their families and communities.

We in the Obama Administration are working to support women’s leadership. I have seen firsthand how women are joining in concerted efforts across the sectors – women in business, civil society and in government working together to create a better world. The public arena needs women’s talents, perspectives and experiences in the development of sound policies. After all, democracy without the participation of women is a contradiction in terms!

In business, no one knows better than you that women face obstacles in starting or growing their businesses. They face barriers in getting the training they need, mentors and networks; barriers in access in finance and markets. Sometimes women confront discriminatory laws and regulations. Some do not even have property rights. We in our government are working to promote and support women’s entrepreneurship. That means working to enable women to overcome the barriers they confront everywhere.

We know that diversity is good for business. Whether we want to increase a return on investment or spark economic growth, we need a broader range of expertise, experience and ideas. We need more women in management and on boards of directors. It’s a win-win for business and for women.

I am confident that when you leave this conference, you will go on with renewed commitment and dedication to supporting women’s progress and in the process creating a better world for all. As Secretary Clinton reminds us, “If women’s potential is not tapped and women’s progress is shortchanged, global progress and prosperity will have its own glass ceiling.”

Thank you for all you do and all you will do in the months and years ahead.