U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Speech at Women’s Leadership Network Forum


Bethesda, Maryland – U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered a keynote address at the 13th Annual Lockheed Martin Women’s Impact Network Leadership Forum yesterday in Bethesda, Maryland. The Women’s Impact Network Leadership Forum is a nationwide effort at Lockheed Martin focused on mentoring, advancing, and retaining women throughout the company.


Penny Pritzker

Speaking to more than 200 female executives and employees, Secretary Pritzker reflected on her own 27 years of experience in business and commended Lockheed Martin for setting an example for the rest of industry to follow. Pointing to the lack of gender diversity in today’s fast-growing, STEM-driven industries as a threat to America’s long-term economic competitiveness, the Secretary highlighted efforts underway at the Commerce Department to help more women succeed in engineering, computer science, and other innovative fields. During her remarks, Secretary Pritzker also urged government and industry leaders to work together to promote the advancement of women in corporate leadership, to use data to root out pay discrimination, and to partner on global initiatives to empower female entrepreneurs worldwide.

My first corporate job was in a totally male-dominated environment. I wasn’t even allowed to park in the company lot or eat in the executive cafeteria because I was a woman. All of the other women who worked there were secretaries. And I am not talking about cabinet secretaries!

Fortunately, times have changed. Just look at the talent and ambition in this room.  In twelve years, your WIN Forum has grown into a powerful force for mentorship at Lockheed Martin. But that culture did not happen on its own. It took leaders like Marillyn Hewson, and those before her, to build an infrastructure of opportunity for women throughout this company.

Let me start with a story. As some of you know, my grandfather was an accomplished businessman in Chicago who lived the quintessential American dream.

For his 80th birthday, my mother told me that I had to decide what to get him as a gift. You can understand that at age 16, I had no idea what he might actually want. So, I decided to write him a note. In it Lockheed, I asked him why he only talked to the boys in my family about business when I was just as interested.

Later, when hundreds of people gathered for a black tie birthday party in his honor, my Grandfather pulled me aside to say, “Penny, you never cease to push me.  I was born in 1896 – how am I supposed to know that women are interested in business?” He then offered to teach me accounting – a skill he felt strongly about and knew was essential to understanding business.

I was incredibly fortunate to have wonderful mentors in my family. During my 27 years in the private sector, I started five companies, helped build dozens of businesses, and served on several corporate boards.

Yet throughout my career, there were countless times when I sat down at the negotiating table or stepped into the boardroom as the only woman present. Been there. Can anyone relate?

We all know that inequities still encumber women in our economy. Pay disparities are pervasive. Women remain underrepresented in today’s fastest-growing industries. And men hold the vast majority of corporate leadership roles.

In fact, fewer than five percent of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. Just one is African American. None are Latina. Shockingly, one in ten of these companies do not have a single woman on their boards. That is unacceptable in this day and age.

Without action, these disparities could grow even more pronounced in the coming years as women are vastly outnumbered in the STEM-related industries that increasingly drive our economy. Despite being half the workforce, today women comprise just 13 percent of engineers and 26 percent of computing professionals. This lack of gender diversity is not just a failure of equal opportunity – it is a matter of economic competitiveness.

By 2022, there will be at least 2 million job openings in STEM fields like engineering, advanced manufacturing, and the Internet of Things. And remember: these jobs pay far more than non-STEM positions.

Women’s success in our high-tech industries is therefore essential to the American family’s financial security and to our country’s long-term prosperity. To remain the world leader in innovation, we must harness 100 percent of our talent.

Today, I want to outline three priorities for leaders in government and business to promote equal opportunity for women. First, we must implement policies that reflect the wealth of evidence suggesting that inclusivity is a powerful competitive advantage. Women’s leadership in the workplace is good for companies and good for our economy. Second, we must leverage the power of big data to identify inequities and create solutions. And finally, we must empower female entrepreneurs and innovators around the world.

Let’s start with policies to promote women’s workplace advancement. Several studies have found that companies with female executives and female board members outperform their competitors in areas like return on equity and stock price growth. They are also more likely to have women throughout their leadership pipelines – from middle management to division heads with P and L responsibility to the C-Suite.

We know that three-quarters of recently-appointed CEOs in today’s largest companies were promoted from within. That is why executives must strive to increase women’s representation at every level – especially in roles with bottom line responsibility.

By investing in women’s success today, through mentoring, education, and smart work-life balance policies, businesses can cultivate the leaders of tomorrow. Companies like Lockheed Martin are setting an example in so many ways, including with forums like this one.

Yet government also has a role to play. At Commerce, we are working to break down barriers facing women in today’s most innovative fields. For example, we know that eight out of ten patents go to teams of all-male inventors. That is why our Patent and Trademark Office launched an “All in STEM” campaign to get more girls interested in science and technology – complete with a Girls Scouts patch to inspire future female inventors.

And recently, our Minority Business Development Agency launched the Inclusion Innovation Initiative, or I-3. I-3 connects women and minority enterprises with opportunities to take to market new innovations developed our federal research labs, where scientists have discovered many of today’s top technologies, such as Siri, the MRI, and GPS. Our goal is to increase federal technology transfers to Americans too often underrepresented in STEM. We want to see more women and minority entrepreneurs turn new ideas into consumer sensations.

Earlier this year, McKinsey released a study on the economic impact of gender equality. They found that if the United States made $475 billion worth of public and private investments to eliminate pay disparities, make child care affordable, promote parity in high-growth sectors, and address other issues – we could add $4.3 trillion to our annual GDP in 2025.

That is almost a ten-fold return on investment. No one in this room would turn down that deal. Unfortunately, in recent years, Congress has lacked the political will to make strategic, long-term investments in our future. That needs to change if we want to take advantage of our all of our talent.

We all know that you cannot manage what you do not measure. Fortunately, in today’s era of “big data,” we have new tools to measure, examine, and address issues of inequality, like: where do paycheck disparities take root? How can the wording of a job description impact a company’s applicant pool? Where are the snags in the leadership pipeline holding women back?  These are just some of the questions that data analysis can help us answer.

When I became Commerce Secretary, I made open data a strategic priority for the first time. We now have a team in place, the Commerce Data Service, helping our 12 bureaus make our information easier to find, access, and use.

For example, this year our team worked with the Census Bureau to launch MIDAAS – or Making Income Data Available as a Service. Then, in honor of Equal Pay Day, we invited developers from across America to use MIDAAS to “Hack the Pay Gap.”

One team created a program called “Powershift,” to help women negotiate better job offers. Another group demoed an app called “Aware” that enables businesses to identify pay disparities in their own ranks.

Already, many industry leaders are voluntarily taking action. Over the summer, 28 top companies like Apple, PepsiCo, and Salesforce signed a White House pledge to assess their own pay gaps. And in 2017, all businesses with more than 100 employees will begin reporting income data broken down by race, gender, and ethnicity.

As I said before, you cannot manage what you do not measure.  Greater transparency will help industry leaders hold themselves to higher standards and build more competitive companies.

Finally, as we work to promote parity at home, we must also empower women around the world. I am proud to chair the President’s Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship – a group of 20 American entrepreneurs who mentor young innovators both at home and abroad. Half of our ambassadors are inspiring women like Nina Vaca, CEO of Pinnacle Group; Jane Wurwand, co-founder of Dermalogica; and Alexa von Tobel, CEO of Learnvest.

In June, they joined President Obama and me at our Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley, where top investors met with young innovators, like Hira Batool Rizvi, the creator of She-Kab – a digital service that connects Pakistan’s working women to transportation free of threats and intimidation; and Lama Sha’sha’a, the co-founder of the International Robotics Academy, a STEM learning company in Jordan.

Hira and Lama remind us that when we empower women to fulfill their potential, economies grow, families benefit, and societies change for the better.

Look, as women in business, I know we all lead busy lives. But let us never forget what it is like to be the only female scientist in an all-male research lab. The only woman of color at an industry conference. The only girl in an AP computer science class.

And just as Marilynn has made the WIN Forum a priority at Lockheed Martin, I encourage you to return the favor by being a mentor. Whether you have been working for three years or three decades, you have the power to inspire and empower.

America is stronger when both men and women walk through the doors of opportunity. All of us have a responsibility to keep those doors open here at home, and to open new ones for women worldwide.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker

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