Top business leaders urge Tillerson to fill women’s rights role at State – McClatchy Washington Bureau
More than 40 business leaders representing major American companies are pressing the Trump administration to quickly name an ambassador-at-large for global womenâs issues as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson directs a reorganization of the diplomatic corps and is eager to slash the number of special envoys.
Current or former CEOs of companies including Accenture, Aetna Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Macyâs Inc., Xerox and Godiva Chocolatier have signed a letter bearing that message, which will be sent to Tillerson next week.
Also copied on the letter: President Donald Trumpâs daughter, Ivanka Trump.
âWe strongly urge you to quickly select qualified and experienced candidates for key leadership positions that focus on empowering women and girls globally,â reads the missive, reviewed by McClatchy. âThe swift nomination (and confirmation) of the Ambassador-at- Large for Global Womenâs Issues at the U.S. Department of State and the ongoing support for the USAID leadership focused on the empowerment of women and girls will help harness untapped potential as the U.S. seeks to achieve its foreign policy goals.â
The letter â also addressed to Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan, USAID administrator Mark Green and deputy national security adviser for strategy Dina Powell â argues that it is in the nationâs business, security and leadership interests to fill the job and pursue âinvestments in women and girls.â
âAround the globe, people are looking to the U.S., trying to figure out what our policies are going to be, to what extent weâre going to break with the past, to what extent weâll intentionally break with the policy of past administrations,â said Joe Keefe, the president and CEO of Pax World Management, LLC, in an interview.
âThe ambassador-at-large position for global womenâs issues has been around for some time. It would send a message, now, that weâre not turning our back on the central importance of gender equality by leaving those positions unfilled,â Keefe told McClatchy.
The ambassador is tasked with leading the State Department office dedicated to womenâs rights and empowerment. Like many positions in the Trump administration, it is currently vacant.
While Tillerson, in a letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, has already indicated he would keep the role as he cuts many others, some business leaders are worried that if he waits too long, that will send a negative signal about U.S. priorities in the Trump era.
“Leaving it unfilled sends the message that we’re not as concerned as we have been in the past about promoting women’s empowerment,” Keefe said.
A representative for the groups that organized the letter — CARE, Vital Voices and Save the Children USA — said that as Tillerson makes structural choices about the State Department’s make-up, he needs to hear that the business community considers filling the womenâs rights-focused ambassador role to be an urgent priority.
âHe is going to be looking at, what do we do more of, what do we do less of, what do we stop doing?â said Nora OâConnell, a vice president of public policy and advocacy at Save the Children USA. âFor him to hear from top leaders in the American business communityâagain, thereâs a business case for it, as well as a moral case for itâitâs really important he has that as part of his decision-making process.â
Signatories of the letter also found it important to loop in Ivanka Trump, who serves as an adviser to her father and has often discussed her interest in womenâs empowerment matters.
âThis is an issue that is clearly near and dear to her heart,â said Emanuel Chirico, the CEO of PVH Corp., the parent company of brands including Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Speedo. âBy copying her on the letter, weâre just making sure the communication is connected there, and we know weâll have her support.â