Main Entrance Herbert Hoover Building Commerce Department 14th Street Washington DC.  Building completed in 1932.  Across from the White House, Commerce has multiple departments.

Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at the Women’s Business Roundtable in Cote d’Ivoire

Jun 15, 2022

Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at the Women’s Business Roundtable in Cote d’Ivoire
Wed, 06/15/2022 – 10:06

Export and investment promotion
Minority business growth


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Office of Public Affairs

Don Graves

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining today’s conversation.

I am delighted to be here in Côte d’Ivoire and to have spent the last few days speaking with private sector and government leaders working to bolster trade and investment.

But I am especially excited to learn from today’s exchange.  

According to a 2019 World Bank report, Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the world, with women constituting 58% of this total. But despite the overwhelming presence of women among Africa’s entrepreneurship base, women’s business performance in terms of wages paid, longevity, and profits falls below that of their male counterparts.

This report found the reasons for this shortfall to be strikingly similar to those we find in the United States: from gender discrimination to social norms that inhibit women’s participation in the workplace; gaps in education and skills development; lack of access to financing, professional networks, and information about career pathways; and an uneven burden of caregiving in the family.  And we know the data is clear that women’s participation and leadership in economic activity more consistently yields benefits within their families and throughout their communities. Increasing women’s leadership in international trade and business isn’t just the right thing to do to advance equity, diversity and inclusion – it’s the right thing to do for the health of our economies.

Recognizing the existence of these social and economic realities in the United States, Secretary Raimondo and I recently launched the Commerce Department’s Equity Action Plan, which integrates our priorities of diversity, equity, inclusivity, and accessibility into our everyday work. And this is why the Partnership for Global Infrastructure initiative led by President Biden and other G7 leaders identifies gender equity as one of the core goals to be factored and advanced in infrastructure development. In our view, the future of African growth depends on the active participation of women in all economic sectors.

Our Equity Action Plan is already underway in our work internationally. In March, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Marisa Lago led the first Women Empowered Leave Legacies Through Trade and Investment (WELLTI) Summit in Dubai, which was attended in-person or virtually by women representing 350 businesses.

The summit was an invaluable platform for women business leaders to network and make lasting connections, and it also provided three key tools to help women entrepreneurs recover faster from economic setbacks.

The first was access to information from best-in-class companies operating in these key markets who provided their insights and experiences to help businesswomen in their planning.

The second tool was an opportunity to build capacity in key areas such as intellectual property protection and negotiating key agreements to effectively enter new markets.

And third, was the insight derived from meeting businesswomen who have successfully navigated challenges and shared their pathways. 

The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. As a result, we are increasing our efforts and working with our colleagues to engage with businesswomen and other private sector leaders globally. 

While we should be looking for common best practices in advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, we recognize the need for approaches that fit local cultural and business contexts. In our engagements around the world, we want to listen and learn more about the most effective ways to support women’s empowerment through expanded trade and investment.  

With this backdrop, I would like to turn the floor over to you for our discussion. We have a wealth of knowledge in this room. Collectively, you represent the private, public, and non-governmental sectors all working in the trade space.

I’m interested to hear about the challenges you face, the supportive policies that will help mitigate these challenges, and opportunities where we can work together.

Thank you in advance for the insights you will share today, and for inviting me to be a part of the conversation.  

Bureaus and Offices

International Trade Administration


Don Graves



Read the full report from the U.S. Department of Commerce: Read More