Women as Change Agents in the Recovery from the Global Financial Crisis
This event will serve as the inaugural meeting of a new Council on Foreign Relations series on women and development, sponsored by ExxonMobil. The series focuses on innovative approaches to advance economic opportunities for women and girls worldwide. Join Robert B. Zoellick for a discussion of women’s roles in recovery from the global financial crisis.
**Please note the special timing and format**
11:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. - Registration
12:00 p.m.-12:30 p.m. - Seated Lunch
12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. - Meeting
This session was part of the the ExxonMobil Women and Development Roundtable series, which is made possible by the generous support of ExxonMobil.
TERRI FARIELLO (vice president, ExxonMobil Washington office): Good afternoon. Welcome. I'm Terri Fariello, vice president of ExxonMobil's Washington office. On behalf of all of my colleagues at ExxonMobil, many of whom are here today, it's certainly a tremendous honor to partner with the Council on Foreign Relations on the ExxonMobil Women and Development Roundtable Series. It's a pleasure to support today's inaugural meeting.
We're very grateful to Bob Zoellick and Cokie Roberts for being here today. We look forward to an engaging discussion.
Our support for the women and development series is an important part of the ExxonMobil women's economic opportunity initiative, a global effort that we launched in 2005 that helps women in developing countries fulfill their economic potential and serve as drivers of both economic and social change in their communities.
After five years of investments through this initiative, we are targeting three program areas to improve women's economic opportunity globally. The first is to help build the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders. The second program area is to reduce the barriers to women's economic participation. And the third is to help identify and deploy technologies for women. With our mutual interest in women's roles in strengthening the global economy, ExxonMobil hopes that we can become strong partners with many of you here today.
And now I'd like to introduce our featured -- our presider and featured speaker for today's event. As an Emmy Award-winning journalist and author, Cokie Roberts has addressed women's issues in her reporting and writing throughout her amazing career as well as through her work with Save the Children.
And we are extremely fortunate to have Bob Zoellick, the current president of the World Bank Group, launch our inaugural series on women and development.
Bob has had an impressive career -- both the private and public sectors. And under his leadership the World Bank is strengthening its gender coverage in its operational portfolio. Please join me in welcoming them both today. (Applause.) (Off mike.) (Pause.)
COKIE ROBERTS: Hello. (Pause.) So hello, everybody. I'm Cokie; he's Bob. (Laughter.) I'm -- I have a few sort of little housekeeping remarks to make here. First of all, I want to say, genuinely, thank you, Terri. What a -- what a great job ExxonMobil is doing in this field. Thank you all very, very much. It's so important and -- (applause) -- and you know, you don't have to do it. And it matters.
But also, there are Council on Foreign Relation members around the nation and the world participating in this meeting via teleconference. And for those of you who are not in the room, I have to tell you that there are more women in this room probably than ever in history. (Laughter.)
And this is a -- (applause) -- this is a good event. You know, it always comes as a shock to men to learn that in the last election that only 36 percent of the electorate was white male. And it's not that they didn't show up. That's all there are of you. (Laughter.)
ROBERT B. ZOELLICK: We're a rare and special breed worthy of additional attention.
ROBERTS: (Laughs.) But you know, well, you wouldn't know that normally, however, to look at the Congress or the boards of directors of corporations or the evening news, so it's important to talk about these issues, because we are talking about the majority of humankind.
I'm also just going to do the usual "please turn off" -- and it says not just put on vibrate, actually turn off your cell phones, BlackBerries and all wireless devices so you don't interfere with the radio microphones.
And a reminder, this meeting is on the record, so don't say anything you don't want to say or you don't want reported.
But we are -- it is very exciting to have this meeting, and it is really very wonderful of you to be here, because these are important, very important issues.
And one of the things we've learned over the years -- I had a colleague who is a somewhat famous producer call me recently, and he said, "You know, I've been working on poverty, and I've been trying to get at the whole question of what do we do about poverty." And he said, "I just" -- you know, it was -- "I know that sounds crazy, to look at this whole big thing, but I was trying to find a way to really deal with it." And he said, "You know what we came up with?" And I said, "Girls' education." And he said, "How did you know?" (Laughter.)
(Laughs.) And of course we have learned that over the decades now, and the World Bank has been one of the places that has really done the research to discover that development -- that having women become agents of development is the way to make a country turn around.
So why do you -- what do you think happens now? How in this -- in this time, when the economy is in such bad shape around the world, can women make a difference?
ZOELLICK: Well, first, like you, Cokie, I want to thank ExxonMobil. As I mentioned a little bit at the table, but everybody should know, Richard Haass, who's been a colleague for some 20 years, called me particularly and asked if I would take part in this, because I know he think this is very important for the council, and it's a wonderful effort by ExxonMobil. And as I mentioned, at the Clinton Global Initiative I had a chance to be on a panel with your CEO about it. So thank you very, very much.
Well, maybe let's start by -- since the news is being drawn by the economic crisis -- (off mike) -- touch on a little bit of some of the economic crisis's effect on women.
One thing that many people in the United States are unaware of is that many of the export industries in developing countries are primary employers of women. So if you look at the cut flower industry in Uganda and Kenya, which is now hundreds of millions of dollars of business, those are 75, 80, 85 percent women employees. In the textile industry in Cambodia, 90 percent of the employees are women. Lesotho, the numbers are very similar.
So one of the very unfortunate effects about the global recession is the effect on women's opportunities economically in the business sector.
A second area is, as many of you are probably well aware, the microfinance industry has been particularly successful in reaching out to women borrowers who would otherwise not have access.
And so if you look at some 90 -- the lowest 90 million or 100 million microcredit borrowers, about 85 percent of those are women.
And this is an area where we've been able to have some positive effect. We were a major investor in microfinance institutions, about the third largest in the world. But, as many of you may know, microfinance institutions are generally not depositories, so they get their money from abroad. And in this crisis, while at first their loan performance is relatively good, it's slipped a little bit; they were finding their funds drying up. And so we actually worked with KfW, which is a German institution, to put together a $500-million revolving fund to try to support this.
A third area, and this just really shows the tragedy of this for the safety-net aspects of development, is: What you see in countries that don't have the proper safety net support is that it's the woman head of household who will often go without food if it's a question of children not being able -- not having enough money for food. And you see this effect in nutrition for both boys and girls, and also often sort of taking out of school.
So just to give you a very human dimension of the crisis that we read about in Wall Street or Congress is that we estimate that this year there'll be some 30(,000) to 50,000 additional infant deaths in sub-Saharan Africa because of this crisis. And what many people in the developed world haven't focused on was that what is seen as a financial crisis here really started with a food and fuel price crisis, something that we'd been involved with with the World Food Program, which is actually headed by another head -- a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Josette Sheeran.
And so part of the challenge, I think, in this crisis is, now that we have learned some particular lessons about women's roles in not only safety net but development, how do we try to offset some of this downturn?
MS. : And? (Laughter.)
ZOELLICK: Well, this is where -- this is where the story gets particularly interesting, because I was -- I was at another group talking about safety-net programs more generally, and I pointed out that we now are developing the research that has demonstrated that funding targeted at women -- let's start with the safety-net issue -- has a statistically different effect.
In general, what we find is, societies that have greater gender equality tend to have less poverty. But if you look at a program that Mexico has called Oportunidades, which is a conditional cash-transfer program where the money goes to the poorest families -- and the conditions are you send the kids to school, and people get health checkups -- this money is actually given to the woman head-of- household. Because what the data now shows, if you give women the money, more of it goes to the family, more of it goes to the community --
ROBERTS: Surprise. (Laughter.)
ZOELLICK: -- the nutrition and educational performance improves. And you know, we've now done studies in a place like Brazil, where the chance of childhood survival, if you give the money to the women head-of-household, increases by some 20 percent.
So part of the lesson here, and this is part of a broader lesson in a financial crisis -- if you go back to the '90s, which people may recall in East Asia and Latin America -- was that it's not just the macroeconomic performance, but it's how do you have targeted safety- net programs. And these safety-net programs that I've talked about are ones that, in Mexico and Brazil, are half of 1 percent of GDP. So we don't have to get into the full health-care debate. I mean, these are very modest programs in terms of expense. And if you focus them on these areas, you can make a difference.
But let's go beyond that aspect. I mentioned in the microfinance industry the types of support that we're trying to give to try to help that dimension. Many of you are reading about President Clinton -- President Obama's initiative about food security. If you look at the primary producers of agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, women are probably the most significant part of the labor force; but if you look at issues about how systems have provided seeds or fertilizer or credit or property rights, they're often shut out of the system. So some of the people who are here today who've helped develop this at the World Bank have emphasized that this is not just a question of fairness, but gender equality is smart economics.
And you can take this through -- you know, aspect through aspect of the system. So, for example, one of the things that I was struck by on one of my earliest visits with the World Bank was I went to Vietnam, where there was a rural electrification program. And many of you may recall, there were some wonderful biographies of Lyndon Johnson done over the years.
And there's one -- including -- the most recent volume was "Master of the Senate" -- that talks about what it was like in the hill country of east Texas -- or west Texas at the time that rural electrification first came in. And there's this chapter that is extremely moving because you really just see what a huge difference it makes in lives and particularly in the lives of women.
And this stuck in my mind because my true love is history. When I was in Vietnam, and I went to some of these very mountainous rural areas where they brought electricity -- and you could see that for the women and the families, all of a sudden they didn't have to spend hours hauling water, because they had a water pump. When it came time to grinding the grain, now they had machinery to handle that. Now they had electricity, so they and others could read at night. They would have TV programs that came in and many of them being slightly more educational than the ones you see here.
But what is significant about this is how -- once one is attentive to this issue, how you can work it in. So we've supported a program in Laos that helps make the electric connection from some of the basic lines to the family lines, so as to make sure that households get this, because frankly there's a disproportionate benefit to bringing women into the labor force.
Now, you know, the starting point and -- is of course, you know, why would a society ignore 50 percent of its talent and potential? But what's interesting in each of these areas is how -- as you drive down the issue and you're aware of the issue, how you can not only in a sense give people a greater opportunity but improve the prospects of the country.
And just to give you another one -- I think this one comes from Ethiopia -- we learned that if you have forms that -- for land titling that create room for two names, you can go a long way towards being able to give women property rights as well. And then I think there was something also with the photographs, as I recall, then.
So these are sort of wonderful examples, and the -- part of relevance for the World Bank, going to your point about education for girls, is the fact that, you know, part of what we do is try to expand knowledge and learning around the world. So once we get this information -- and so, for example, some of these programs that we've started in some countries, we then can apply in totally different regions.
So what's exciting about this, not only in terms of the fairness of treating girls and women, but frankly for a lot of societies, this can be a real sort of generator of growth and broader opportunities.
ROBERTS: One of the things that struck me over the years, in learning about this, is how that's become an accepted fact -- by the World Bank, by the Inter-American Development Bank, by the Asian Bank -- that we understand that this investment pays off in terms of all kinds of things: health and GDP and transparency even, all of that.
But it's not a straight line. We find that women progress and then regress, in terms of economic opportunity. And is there something that the bank is doing about that?
ZOELLICK: Well, you know, this is the broader challenge of development, which is that outsiders can only do so much. You always have to get something to be owned. And this is where one has to recognize, you know, different societies, different approaches.
But what we found quite powerful, and this is the relevance about making this a case of smart economics, is we now can show examples that say, if you want to get the best bang for the buck, as it were, for your social welfare program or your social safety net program, here's the evidence of how this works.
And so you can see the effects on reduced malnutrition or improved education. Another aspect that I think is going to be increasingly important is how we draw in the private sector.
So again we're one institution. We have some significance in working with governments. We have IFC, which is a private-sector arm. And for example, one of the commitments of IFC, our private-sector arm, is to provide $100 million in credit, to women entrepreneurs, by 2012.
And in the process of doing that, what we're trying to expand is not just the money. But we'll work with financial institutions and identify this as a potential market segment, a sense of how you try to reach it.
Maybe in some countries, there have been legal impediments for people being able to hold property or be able to exercise contract rights, without a spouse's signature.
So each of these -- the wonderful thing about sort of market systems is that once you start to get focused on the issue and work with people and then frankly get the private sector to realize the potential, you have enormous benefits.
So one of the other things that we created, as probably everybody here knows -- the third Millennium Development Goal deals with girls and women and gender equality.
And so the Danish development minister, who actually I think will be in Washington next week, is -- has took a lead about trying to get what -- had torchbearers for this third MDG -- trying to get people to make various commitments.
So as we looked at areas where we could upgrade our game -- and there's always a need to continue to do this -- one of them was how we could try to organize a private sector council. And what's fascinating about this, we have an annual meeting -- not surprisingly, each year -- (laughter) -- and in Istanbul this year. And so we had this private sector council meet. And what, again, I find exciting about this is that, once you get people engaged, you get people coming up with ideas that, frankly, sitting here in Washington or at the World Bank or any place, you wouldn't be able to come up with.
So, many of you heard about the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative. Okay. Well, what we've tried to do, also -- first with the Nike Foundation, but we hope to get other supporters -- is an initiative dealing with adolescent girls that -- frankly, of all the meetings that I have attended at the World Bank, we had another one of the sessions about 12 months ago where we had five of these young women come and tell their stories at the Bank. And you know -- this isn't just because it's a soft-hearted bunch -- I mean, there wasn't a dry eye in the room, because you'd hear these stories of these young girls taking care of their families, getting up at 5:00 a.m., trying to sort of improve their lives.
But the connection that we're doing, starting with Nike and, in Denmark, I think, in Liberia, is that we're taking what we hope will be 3,000 girls between sort of the age -- starting at age 16; it's 16 to 24. And the idea is, if you can keep them in school, if you can connect the school and skills training to jobs, help them get the job connection and then build a mentor system, it has a huge effect not only on those girls' and women's sense of their own personal opportunity, but on their ability to contribute to society.
Frankly, they tend to get married later, they have fewer children, so it has a whole series of other benefits.
And we're starting this with the Nike Foundation in Liberia, but we've got efforts ahead in Rwanda; we've got some other ones in southern Sudan and some other countries that we're trying to explore with.
Now, that's with Nike. But here's another one that, frankly, kind of blew me away, but it's very powerful. I think actually she may be a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Marilyn Carlson (sp), who runs one of the main travel services. She told us about --
ROBERTS: She's a member of the global leadership.
ZOELLICK: She told us about a trafficking-in-women's initiative and that they were undertaking as a hotel chain. And interestingly enough, you know, part of this is getting the word out, because not all hotels will do this, but basically having -- you know, they have a huge network in getting the hotels to sign up at least for the laws of the country. So let's just start out with the laws of the country. And the types of pledges that the hotel management would take.
And so, you know, this can be a very huge idea. I was actually coming back and trying to think about what we as a global institution could do to help catalyze it.
Another one that, you know, may not come to mind is Peter Sands, who's with Standard Charter Bank, a very innovative CEO, started to back something called net ball. And frankly, you know, while I've heard of volley ball, I hadn't heard of net ball. Well, it turns out what net ball is is about as simple a system -- it's sort of like volley ball in poorer countries. You don't really need much to be able to participate.
And Peter told the story of, you know, when his people brought to him this idea -- because they do a lot of work on emerging markets, he kind of thought, well, what's this going to be. And yet what it did -- you could see what it is doing is create the sort of change that I started to see in the United States with allowing girls and women much more in sports activities. It builds a confidence. It builds an engagement.
And the neat thing about this now is that some of the early girls that they started to bring into this process are now going to be representing India in the Commonwealth Games. I think in the London Olympics they're going to have this at the -- whatever the category is for a sport before it becomes an official sport. So if you think about the building of these things.
Now, my point is not just those examples. My point is really, you know, one you start to get other parties involved, and private sector parties, you come up with a whole bunch of ideas that none of us would come up with here.
So, coming back to your question, part of what we hope to do, what we do with other partners, is play a catalytic role.
And kind of, as with ExxonMobil and others, you -- what you see once people start to get engaged about this, they start to get pretty excited, not only because it's a sense of fairness and decency to people, but they start to see opening up huge doors of opportunity.
ROBERTS: I'm about to turn it over to you all for questions.
But there's also -- not everybody gets excited. There's also a push back. And for instance, what we're seeing right now in Afghanistan is girls' schools being blown up. They're the prime targets. What are the challenges that you see as you are pushing ahead with this initiative?
ZOELLICK: Well, probably the people in this room could speak -- (chuckles) -- more accurately about the exact challenges, but it's something every day. It's attitudes. You know, before I come to Afghanistan, I'll tell you some of the basic ones.
Look, I -- I've had the good fortune to either run or closely run a number of organizations. And I'll say this is true, you know, still in the United States. I was a little surprised when I came to the Bank -- and some people here who -- from the Bank staff know -- that for an institution that should in a sense be a leader, that our own gender performance at higher levels isn't what it should be.
ZOELLICK: And so --
ROBERTS: (Laughs.) I don't think it surprises this group. (Laughter.)
ZOELLICK: Well, we don't do badly. And at least -- and frankly, in comparative experience, when I was USTR, about 70 to 80 percent of our leading people were women, some of who are in this room.
So -- but my point was this, is that even if you tell people this, what happens is systems tend to revert back to their norm, and people tend to say, "Well, we've got this panel board that reviews people, and they end up -- you know, they look for replicants of themselves." That happens in all organizations.
And it's -- and it's not only -- this is not only a male-female thing, too, about this. It's also true with people from the developing world and any category that has been excluded.
So part of it is just -- and frankly, this does also have to come from the top -- you just have to be damn stubborn about saying when you're going to look at sort of panels of people, that you have to make sure that people have done the outreach.
And frankly, what I've just seen -- and I've repeated time and time again is, is that you just -- if you make more of an effort, if you reach out, sometimes you'll have to take somebody that maybe is a little younger, maybe doesn't have all the background, but often I find those people to be more energetic and driven anyway.
So part of this is for developed countries.
ZOELLICK: I mean, part of it is for the corporate world; part of it's for politics. You were talking about Congress and others.
Now, you know, it's interesting: President Kagame of Rwanda has got half his cabinet women.
Now, I mean, I'm not a person to believe in specific quotas, but my main point is, you can -- you can drive this forward if you put attention to it. Just takes a little work and effort.
On the other end of the scale, as you talked about with Afghanistan, look, this is one of the things at stake in Afghanistan, so let's not, you know, kind of beat around the bush. You know, for people -- you know, there's -- obviously there's national interest, there's lots of things that people have to consider, and I don't think people should be cavalier about it. But I was at a session last night with Alexis (sp) and some others talking -- it's a new security group in Washington -- talking about fragile and post-conflict states and assessing a country's commitment.
Well, you know, don't fool yourself. You walk out, that's going to change. And you just better -- you know, and so if you're willing to accept that, fine. But don't come crying a few years later if that changes and said -- "Oh, we didn't know." Because you should have known.
But here's where the other piece matters. You can -- you can link this back to your development strategy. So, for example, we worked with one of the early finance ministers in Afghanistan to create something called the National Solidarity Program, and it's been one of the most successful programs because it's based on local community ownership. So these grants are $30(,000), 40(,000), 50,000.
But you create a local community council, and, in fact, the one that I visited actually had a men's group and a women's group, okay, but they were both participating. And the women's group -- this group was a -- of an ethnic group that allowed a man to come, so I got to talk to the women in the group. And they decide what it is that they're going to have for their program.
So in this small town it was a hydroelectric plant, but sometimes it's schools. We have the evidence that, when the Taliban attacked some of these schools, the people attacked the Taliban -- I mean, because they own it, you know? And so some of them -- now, obviously, if it gets too imbalanced and they're going to lose their lives, people will, you know, take cover. But this is part of the larger question.
I guess, you know, rather than look upon girls' education in Afghanistan as kind of a threat, I'd look at it as an opportunity. I'd look at it to say, if there's buy-in in these communities to educate the girls, maybe that's something that people should be thinking about as you try to build local community support and interest, first for the local authorities, then for the regional authorities, then for the national authorities and others.
So this has to be -- in a way, part of my message for all this is that, you know, the challenge with any topic like this one is to move it beyond a series of one-offs.
Sometimes the one-offs are important in terms of sort of setting the tone, getting people to recognize it, but how do you integrate it into a system at large? How do you integrate it into a social safety net system? How do you integrate it into an education system? How do you integrate it into a financial services system? How do you integrate it into agriculture?
And so, look, I'll -- you mentioned poverty, and I'll just close with this point. One of the things I tell people at the World Bank is, is that, look, some things are going to work and some things aren't going to work. And if poverty was so easy to overcome, people would have done it a long time ago. So we shouldn't be ashamed if we learn that some things work and don't work. And in this area as well, you got to experiment. And the real problem is not -- is not acknowledging when it doesn't work.
But if you're really going to make a systemic effect, we can do some things with research, we can share the knowledge, but, you know, people in this room or others are going to come up with ideas and you kind of have to let the innovation and entrepreneurialism drive it.
ROBERTS: So now it's your turn. So we have microphones. Is there just one or are there a couple? We have a bunch of microphones, four microphones. So if you have a question, please raise your hand and wait for a microphone to get to you. Here's one right here, and here comes a microphone right to you.
And if you'd please speak right into the microphone, please. And would you stand and say your name and affiliation.
QUESTIONER: My name is Robin Lerner. I work for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under John Kerry's leadership. And I really -- I have two issues, and you can address or both, or neither. (Laughter.) One is --
ZOELLICK: I can see you're used to Senate hearings. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: We'd love to get you up for a hearing.
ROBERTS: Hold the mike closer to you.
QUESTIONER: Okay. On the issue of microfinance, of course we've seen -- I mean, microfinance has been this wonderful innovation over the years, but we know that the interest rates are very high. And, I mean, they're incredibly high and in some ways it is just unbalanced. And when I was in Afghanistan, I did have the head of a microfinance bank tell me that the Ulema council was actually considering calling it un-Islamic because of the interest rates.
So, I mean, the things that you've said, you've obviously touched on the things that are required to help women have the tools to get a regular loan, but maybe you can speak a little bit more. Do you think that we're relying too much on microfinance rather than the tools that women need to be able to get a regular loan?
And the second thing is -- you know, I work on gender issues all the time.
And trying to make the argument that now is the time to work on women's issues is sometimes difficult, because people say, well, "First we have to get security, and then we'll work on gender issues," or, "First we have to alleviate poverty, and then we'll work on gender."
And you obviously make this argument, and you may my job so much easier, but -- but not everybody does get that. And so even within the World Bank, and people who aren't in your wonderful gender unit, getting them to get that and integrate that more, what are your efforts on that?
ROBERTS: That question of integration is huge. I mean, we find often that, you know, sort of women are put over here, and then everything else over here, instead of understanding that integrating the whole women piece is what makes everything over here work better.
ZOELLICK: Let me take your second question first. And as you probably know, you're sitting next to one of the people who drives all this, so she can give you a fuller set of answers on it.
As part of our effort to mainstream this, we developed a gender action plan, and there are different elements of that. And I think we now have about 200 projects in 73 different countries, as I recall, that focus on how you can integrate this. And I've just touched on this in my remarks, but what you really have to try to do is, obviously, understand in agriculture it's going to be different than safety net; in financial services it's going to be different than in education.
So what we're trying to learn more is what are the elements that, when you develop a plan, that you want to make sure that the people developing the plan at least start to think about and maybe incorporate? So, you know, I touched on, for people developing safety-net programs, what will be important for them, whether it's our people or the people in the government, is the database that we're now developing that says, look, your money goes further if you give it to the woman head-of-household. So it wasn't an accident that people just decided to do that in Mexico. I mean, they obviously realized that this was a potential benefit of the program.
So, you know, maybe one thing that can help you on this is, is that we do have a lot of evidence about making this point. And we think -- you know, in some ways this may sound like just a phrase, but we think there's an important idea behind it. Fairness is important, but we're going beyond fairness. We're saying it's smart economics. This is a more effective way to not only be able to create opportunity for your people, but also to make your dollars go further and to create additional productivity.
And so what we're trying to do is, sector by sector, make sure that those get integrated and incorporated.
Now, you -- at another level, you've got a very good question, because we have debates. We've got one going on right now, with some of -- our own sort of internal evaluation unit about, when you do this programmatically, you know, what's the best way to try to make sure that it's incorporated?
And the danger in any large institution, you know, whether it's the work the Senate does or things that we do is, how do you avoid the check-the-box phenomenon? Okay, so people are just, okay, we've done this. And frankly what, I guess, one of my insights in life, whether in diplomacy or economics or others, is that a certain amount of moral fervor will get you so far. But basically capturing people's interest goes longer.
Okay, so part of what we're trying to emphasize in each of these cases is how this can be a better benefit. So let's take some of the African farm communities, with the investment in food security. Well, obviously if women are, you know, a primary agriculture producer, and they can't have the property rights that men have, you're not going to get the same performance.
So these are the types of knowledge that, you know, we're both trying to develop and expand and integrate. And then like any institution, you've got -- you've got to review it and check it. And you'll get some better performance than others. And you keep trying to sort of build in the results focus.
So I agree with your point and Cokie's point. This doesn't work if it's just sort of a unit off on the side. Here's the gender unit. Okay, our whole concept is how to build this in across things.
And if you -- if you take some of my comments, I'm not -- part of our logic is not to stop with the bank. Look at my examples, I say to the private sector. One of our roles as an institution is to be a catalytic force.
And so if I can help get five or 10 or 15 other institutions to start to -- you know, another one -- another part of our private- sector councils is Bancorp. And so they're working on financial literacy for women's groups. So it's also how to prepare people to take advantage of some of these situations.
And so in this sense, you know, let's let 1,000 flowers bloom in terms of the private sector being able to be engaged in the process, as opposed to have some central planning model.
But at the same time, where we can help is then to share that experience. And then this goes a little bit. You have to be sensitive to each country's situation. You may have different, you know, cultural dispositions. You may have different histories.
And again I'm not saying that you have to accept those as permanent. But if you want to try to change or move a society, obviously it helps if you're a little culturally sensitive to some of the obstacles in sort of doing it.
So that's at least my cut at your second question.
And you know, the other thing that I have been trying to do with the Bank as a whole is going back to this point about, look, you've got to be open and transparent and evaluate and set results, and the other thing -- and this would help a little bit, from the congressional side, is that, you know, now and then if something doesn't go right, don't blow them up; let us try to fix it again, you know, I mean.
ZOELLICK: So you know, that is a little bit of the "gotcha" problem --
ZOELLICK: -- you know, in the congressional environment, which, if you read today's newspaper, you'll see some examples of, you know.
But -- so anyway, and what --
ROBERTS: We're about to get another question --
ZOELLICK: But what was your first --
ROBERTS: -- but the question was microfinancing --
ZOELLICK: Oh, microfinance.
ROBERTS: -- interest rates.
ZOELLICK: Well, okay, I'll try to be more --
ZOELLICK: It's a bigger topic because the -- one of the things, as you look at microfinance, is that you want to make these things sustainable. And we've actually, through IFC, had about a billion dollars invested in microfinance. Where possible, you want to build these in the private sector, and we've found that most government-led programs -- not all, but there's one in Afghanistan -- run the risk of sort of the government kind of manipulating it for other purposes.
But -- this is why it depends on the market -- what you'd like to do is create an environment so if one place has 24 percent interest rates, that somebody will also come in and offer 22 percent or 20 percent or 19 percent or so on, so forth.
Now, in some markets, like Afghanistan, you may not be able to have that. And then you have to decide, you know, for what time period and others do you want to subsidize it, how to try to reduce it.
But going to your core question -- you also said what else -- I think you can't look -- there's no silver bullet in life. So you got to combine microfinance with, you know, other types of health or education systems. I mean, frankly, another good example is, you know, we've helped train a lot of teachers in Afghanistan -- they're not yet up to the quality you want -- and a large number of those are women, and you didn't even have girls in school before. So if you're going to try to (tap to ?) all the benefits of the public, you got to have multi-sector strategies.
ROBERTS: Next question.
Let's go to the back for a minute and then we'll come back. Okay. Okay.
QUESTIONER: Hi. Nancy Ely-Raphel, UNDP. You've said that you -- or IFC is providing a hundred million --
ROBERTS: Again, you need to get the mike closer to --
QUESTIONER: -- a hundred million dollars for women entrepreneurs in business.
ZOELLICK: Credit supply, yeah.
QUESTIONER: I wondered what percentage that was of what IFC provides to all entrepreneurs and whether that might be half.
ZOELLICK: No. But again, Nancy -- and I look forward to UNDP following our example -- is that if -- what we're trying to do with that sort of investment is to try to create credit lines and the system of financial institutions to do this. And the analogy that I'll give you would be, we've tried to help these institutions in developing countries develop trade finance or trade liquidity.
So this is a particular sort of investment line to try to stimulate that. It's not the only thing that we do with women in business, but it's sort of one tool out of many that we can try to use.
ROBERTS: Question here.
QUESTIONER: Hanifan Dakly (ph), Potomac Capital. One of the fastest ways of creating economic opportunities for women, sustainable ones, at least, is education. And in many places around the world now, women are the majority in both high schools and colleges. And even conservative societies like Saudi Arabia and Oman, they had to cap the women's enrollment to about 60 or 70 percent in most cases before they take over.
QUESTIONER: Yet there seems to be a disconnect between this very high enrollment in college and the job market itself.
ROBERTS: (We've got them ?) here.
QUESTIONER: So the question is, what explains that? And what can be done about it? (Laughter.)
ZOELLICK: Yeah. It's a good question.
I first focused on this in a particular case a couple years ago when I met the prime minister of Jordan. And he made this exact point, that Jordan was now having over half the university graduates as women, but they were having a hard time getting jobs.
And I think there's a couple things, going back to Nancy's question. Because we do investments in Jordan, one of the things I asked was for our IFC team to be able to try to work with the Jordanians to see, first, with our clients, but then with broader business associations, what could we do to try -- you know, first off, the always lesson, as you know, from private sector, is, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to answer that question from Washington -- but if I get some of the Jordanian businesses together with some of the universities, let's find out what the problem is.
Maybe it's also the skills development from the universities. Are people learning in universities what they need for jobs? Maybe it's bias and prejudice -- although in many sectors in Jordan, you do see women playing a much more prominent role, certainly in the government.
So I don't know whether that's the issue.
So in a classic question like that, again, where we can try to be a catalyst is to try to sort of use what tools we have or intersect with other partners and see what you have to do to overcome it.
Let me go back to the adolescent girls initiative. You know, part of the idea here -- and we'll learn from this experience -- is sort of a combination of interventions. You know, what can you do not only to keep them in school, but you noticed I mentioned some of the skills training -- help them to connect to a job, help them get mentored in the job as you go along.
So I think, as in a lot of problems, you know, no silver bullet. I guess what is encouraging -- and the fact you brought it up emphasizes this -- what I'm increasingly finding in some societies that probably precluded women's full participation is people are now focusing on this as an issue.
You mention Saudi Arabia. You know, there's a long way to go, but it's striking that the king of Saudi Arabia has wanted to develop some advanced education, including for women, and he had to move out of the education ministry; he had to go to Saudi Aramco, which, for anybody who deals with Saudi Aramco, is a very state-of-the-art company -- sorry, Exxon, but -- but in part they got a lot of their training from Exxon. And in part -- it's quite interesting, when you meet the executives, they do reflect that. I mean, they're very proud. But so he went out of the system to do that.
So the encouraging thing, in the sense why this sort of movement is important, is you got the appetite there for this, and so now if we can help people come up with some solutions and, you know, with the ones that don't work as well, abandon them, and build on the ones that do.
ROBERTS: Question back there.
QUESTIONER: Patricia Ellis, Women's Foreign Policy Group.
I just want to thank you so much for your commitment, and I think it is so important to have the head of the World Bank, but also a man, speaking out on these issues.
And my question to you is, how can we get more men involved and really taking a prominent role on these issues, so they are not just relegated to, as Cokie said, on-the-side, women's issues? And I'd also like you to comment on the special role you think that women leaders, from Helen Clark to Josette to presidents of countries, foreign ministers, can and should be playing on really getting momentum on these issues.
ZOELLICK: Well, some of you may have better ideas on that than I would. I think the key really goes back to this idea that you need -- you need to have mainstreaming strategies, okay? So frankly, it's not just a question of doing something for a constituency or a special purpose; but you have to capture this notion of how it can improve the productivity of your organization.
Look, you know, I worked at Goldman Sachs -- all to briefly, I might add -- (laughter) -- but you know, they don't miss a -- they don't miss a moment. And part of the idea of this 10,000, you know, women project is, you know, they -- obviously, it's also to do a public service; but they will get very good people, and draw it up. And so they're recognizing in the process this will help them. So it goes back to my point about self-interest drives a lot of things in the world. So how do you get people to see that?
I think the other point, talking about the women leadership, whether it's the institutions that I've been part of or, frankly, trying to support others -- as you mentioned, in the case of Josette who was a colleague of mine at USTR, and then at State, and now the World Food Program; does a fantastic job. But to be honest, you know, whether it's her as an individual or as a woman, sometimes in those institutional structures you've got a lot of challenges. So, frankly, we've tried to be supportive. Okay?
So the world food -- and this is supportive in policy terms, because the World Food Program is a wonderful operational outfit but, frankly, their business model is one that, in part because it has to be -- get about $5 billion of support every year, isn't as efficient as it can -- so we can use risk-management skills and help be efficient in doing that.
The U.N. organization -- you've got Nancy here -- sometimes is not as enlightened as I would like it to be.
But frankly, some of the things that we can do as a support for this, to try to help, frankly, whether it's Ann Veneman or Josette or others to be successful, we try to do.
But again, what I -- what I'm always trying to be a little careful about here is, is that, you know, you always -- you want to get the combination of treating people as individuals, regardless of sex or background or other, color, but recognize that for various reasons people may have been precluded. And by opening up opportunities, legal -- and it's not only the legal system. It's, frankly, sort of getting people a chance to sort of -- that might not, whether through sports or something, have had an opportunity. You're just -- you're maximizing the opportunity for individuals all around the world.
So I mean -- and I guess, for men in general, you know, this may sound a little odd, but don't make it so uncomfortable for them. I mean -- (laughter) -- people can understand this -- no, I mean, to be honest, it's kind of like, you know, whether -- you know, there's always -- just as women got tired of being teased, men get tired of being teased on this, you know?
You know, you think it's a serious thing, so, you know, quit teasing everybody who's trying to do something useful, or keep trying to make a dig on it. Seriously.
You want to know? Because otherwise, they feel uncomfortable. They don't -- they don't know -- you know, frankly, I've had the good fortune to be in an organization that now it's just -- to me, it's a common part of kind of -- of sort of being an executive, okay? And certainly, with the help of some people in this office, I've learned some things about how it can help us in the development agenda. So the more you make it mainstream, normalized, the more you're going to go with it.
QUESTIONER: Good afternoon. I'm Camille Caesar, from the Commerce Department. Can you --
ROBERTS: Again, you need to get as close as you -- because people are listening from afar.
QUESTIONER: Thanks so much.
Good afternoon. I'm Camille Caesar, from the Commerce Department. Thanks for coming. And thank you, Exxon.
My question is about the need for diversity in types of financial institutions in a number of political economies. Many people in recent years, including our last Treasury secretary, have made a lot of the importance of financial infrastructure development, especially in middle-income countries, and the fact that this can be especially helpful to women who are involved in entrepreneurial activities. Can you speak to how we might be seeing progress in this area, especially as we try to climb out of the global economic morass that we're currently in? Thank you.
ZOELLICK: Well, it's a nice agenda -- or adjunct to the microfinance question.
We have a part of the World Bank called CGAP, which is run by Elizabeth Littlefield, that has -- again, takes -- part of our role is knowledge and learning, is to expand experience with how you can take lessons about financial networks, whether it's using telephone technology for banking, whether it's micro -- as I mentioned, the microfinance often isn't on the savings side.
Well, it's helpful to try to create systems where you can build savings or microinsurance programs or others.
And so the most cogent explanation of this is one that former President Zedillo of Mexico said to me, where sometimes people think, oh, well, markets are too dangerous, he said, in my experience, the problem for poor countries is the markets haven't gone far enough.
And this is -- since you're from the Commerce Department, as a former trade negotiator, I'll say, you know, where a lot of barriers exist, they're there to protect -- oligopolies, oligarchies, protected interests.
So one of the fun things about trying to break down barriers in trade is, you also can create additional opportunities for people. You're doing microeconomic reforms. And the same is true in finance.
And just as you started to ask the question, what came to my mind was the fact that the big debate with China now, about savings and consumption and so on and so forth.
And one of the issues, if you were talking about Secretary Paulson, that he was focused on, and which I think the Chinese are going to devote more attention to, is that the structure of the Chinese banking system basically paid a pittance for the depositors, so they didn't do very well.
And it had very low interest rates for the loans, for a lot of the state-owned enterprises. And this is one reason why they've been immensely profitable, one reason they actually had very large retained earnings. And it's one reason why China has a very large savings rate. It's not just the household sector.
So if China going back to the self-interest says, we want to have a harmonious society, which is one of the phrases that guides the current leadership, there's a nice mutuality of interest here.
Because if you open up the service sector more including -- it's interesting, you don't find as much in the way of microfinance in China -- including microfinance facilities to some of the poor areas, you actually have a chance to create a more harmonious society, help poor people in China be able to get a better living, but also open up service sectors frankly to some of the international competitors, whether it be telecommunications or others.
So it's a good area, a good example of -- just as I've used electricity or others. For actually opening up a market can create opportunities for disadvantaged groups, whether they be ethnic groups or whether they be women that haven't had the opportunity or whether they be rural groups.
And I'll just, again, reference CGAP. There's an incredible amount of interesting things in this area.
ROBERTS: What does it stand for?
ZOELLICK: Consultative Group on -- ?
ROBERTS: Okay. (Laughs.)
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)
ZOELLICK: Everybody's mumbling. I can't hear you.
ROBERTS: Yeah. Somebody speak up.
ZOELLICK: Do you know, Alexis?
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)
ZOELLICK: -- to Assist the Poor. There you go.
ROBERTS: Another question, right here.
QUESTIONER: As you have touched on -- Hazel Denton, Johns Hopkins. As you have touched on, it is a critical issue for women in sub-Saharan Africa to be able to plan their families. The context of my question is this. I had a long career at the World Bank, during which I had the pleasure of accompanying Robert McNamara on a trip to Nigeria. Every local leader he met, almost his first question would be, "What are you doing for your people with respect to family planning?" It got some pretty surprised faces, I must say.
My question is, to what extent is the unmet need for family planning in sub-Saharan Africa at the top of your agenda?
ZOELLICK: Well, it's one element. It's an element that I think people feel has been sort of under-recognized in recent years in some of the communities, so we've actually got some work going forward how to try to address this issue. You know, it won't be a shock to you that family planning and which organizations that you deal with, so on and so forth, become very controversial political issues, depending on how they're done.
And we're a multilateral organization. You know, I got 186 members. I'm in the process of every three years having to go to fine committees like the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to try to get money -- $42 billion, actually, not just from the U.S. Congress but from around the world -- for the poorest people, a capital increase. And so we have to get a balance of those topics.
But I think this is one where, again, you know, there are different ways to address that topic. Look at the one that I just mentioned about adolescent girls. If you keep girls in school, if you get them in jobs, you're going to affect, frankly, the birth rate -- on issues. There's other types of family planning issues that, frankly, also are connected with the HIV/AIDS need.
And so one of the other interesting challenges here is actually in -- I think one of the lessons, actually, going back from the McNamara period is, how can you combine some of these social services issues as a package? Im mean, when I talked about the Oportunidades program in Mexico, I mentioned in passing you don't get the money unless you send your kids to the school and you get health check-ups. It's probably done more for women's health in Mexico than anything in the history of the country.
So in general, my sense would be -- and particularly given shortage of resources -- how can you connect family planning probably with some of the health-care systems work that we're trying to do?
ROBERTS: We have time for one more question, but I -- the -- and we'll go to the back there. But I mean, there is a good bit of evidence now that girls' education often has more effect than family- planning programs.
ZOELLICK: (Inaudible.) Yeah.
QUESTIONER: It's Fred Tipson with UNDP. Mr. Zoellick, you've been president now for enough time to have some views about the relative effectiveness of bilateral and multilateral channels to do development assistance.
And in this particular area, the area of advising on gender issues to governments, as Congress thinks about revising the foreign assistance bill, as the administration looks at ways of approaching the whole issue of development assistance, do you have advice as to how they should be thinking about the -- (soft laughter) -- relative value of multilateral and bilateral channels in dealing in some of these sensitive areas?
ZOELLICK: This is what we used to call in the Midwest a "softball," but -- (laughter) --
ZOELLICK: -- but thank you very much. And it's good. I'm really glad you asked this for a U.S.-based audience. And you're right, given some of the look at American assistance programs.
Let me answer it this way. I've been around Washington for 25 or more years in policy things. And yet when I came to the Bank, I was actually surprised at how little influence, relative to other development agencies, that USAID had, despite rather large sums that USAID had.
And if you take the British DFID, or now, the Australians and Canadians, they have much more ability to say, "Here's an issue that we'd like to explore and develop. Here's some funding. Can we connect it with something that you have, maybe get some others, be able to leverage this, be able to make something happen?"
And I still don't know for sure the reasons for this. I suspect it's some combination of the following: The -- USAID, because it was -- it was big enough, like -- unlike most countries; they have operations around the globe -- it has its own structures. And so some of the other countries, frankly, if they're going to get something done, are more likely to leverage off ours. But I think the U.S. misses something, then.
I think another piece of it is, frankly, they might like to, but their money is so severely earmarked for purposes that they don't really have the ability that some of the other aid agencies have to come to us or UNDP and say, "Look, if we put in this, can you get this, (and do us a little bit ?)?"
And so you know, one of the sort of interesting takeaways for this is that, in so many ways, I think the U.S. can pursue its objectives more effectively if it learns how to work with these multilateral organizations.
Now, the other side of that, of course, is that, you know, while we've -- give due deference to the Congress, the Congress has to recognize we got a lot of other shareholders; we can't do exactly what the Congress wants. And here, I'll give -- actually, since you work for Senator Kerry, this is a good sort of positive example.
Senator Kerry, as you may know, came and spoke at the World Bank, and he was talking about some of the global climate-change issues. And he was particularly focused on some of the concerns about coal development. And frankly, because we talked to some of the staff, we kind of alerted him, this gets a sensitive issue with developing countries, because, for example, the U.S. generates 50 percent of its electricity with coal. So it's a little hard to go to developing countries and say, "Don't use coal."
But I frankly think he was right. And the way he phrased it and said it and tried to create some room in a positive way frankly will allow us to bring people around. It's a smart example of how you try to push and prod multilateral institutions, as opposed to just pound them when they don't do exactly what -- you know, whatever the local constituent wants.
But this is a broader lesson. I mean, frankly, this is -- you know, whether it's in the security case or the development case or the environmental case, you know, Ronald Reagan used to have a view that sometimes getting 70 to 80 percent was better than zero, even if it wasn't 100 percent. And so he would take what he could and then come back and try to get some more. And I think there's a tremendous opportunity to draw on these international organizations -- and again, you know, whether it's UNICEF or WFP or UNDP or the ones that we have. And so I hope, as part of the calculation of foreign assistance, people don't just look at this in bilateral terms.
And the other thing, just to give you another -- a little interesting example, there's things that we can do more effectively than the U.S. can do, because we're multilateral and because we've got people from all over different countries. And again, this is -- slight example: I -- about a year and a half ago, right as the financial crisis was hitting, I had a Vietnamese delegation come through. We've worked a lot with Vietnam; Vietnam's done some great development work. But they were getting concerned about some of the market ideas and property rights. So they were asking me in all sincerity about some of their program ideas.
And I had our new chief economist, who's from China, Justin Lin, and I thought, "Hm. Rather than have me answer this question, I'll have Justin answer the question." And so Justin said, "Oh, got to be very careful about abandoning the market, you know. Property rights are really important." How much better is it to hear that from a Chinese chief economist than it is from an American?
ZOELLICK: So there's a lot of opportunities, with a little creativity, to use this more effectively.
ROBERTS: Also with the nongovernmental organizations and the business. I mean, they're -- all of those are global entities now, and so we are talking about multilateralism when you're talking about your partners.
ZOELLICK: Yeah, and then I guess, coming back to the gender topic -- and that's why I really appreciated your effort to emphasize this -- man, we have just started to be able to tap what can come from the private sector if it gets mobilized effectively.
ROBERTS: Well, thank you again, Mr. Zoellick, for coming and sharing your thoughts. (Applause.) Very useful conversation, thank you.
ZOELLICK: Glad to be here. (Off mike.)
ROBERTS: And thank all of you for coming.
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
Watch Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank Group, focus on innovative approaches to advance economic opportunities for women and girls worldwide.
This session was part of the the ExxonMobil Women and Development Roundtable series, which is made possible by the generous support of ExxonMobil.
Mary Robinson and Geeta Rao Gupta discuss the Council on Foreign Relations report, Ending Child Marriage: How Elevating the Status of Girls Advances U.S. Foreign Policy Objectives. In the report, author Rachel B. Vogelstein argues that ending child marriage is not only a moral obligation--it is a strategic imperative that will further critical U.S. foreign policy interests in development, prosperity, stability, and the rule of law.