March 4, 2023
Remarks by AIT Director Sandra Oudkirk
CAREhER International Women’s Day Summit: Together, a More Sustainable Future
Tiffany, female business leaders, friends – 早安! 大家好!
I am absolutely delighted to be here today to celebrate the female leaders of Taiwan’s businesses, industries, and communities ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.
I’d like to begin by celebrating the organizers and speakers for this event who join us in highlighting the important role and contributions of women today and every day.
It is a priority of the Biden Administration, and all of us at AIT, to underscore the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, or DEIA. We model for the world how we expect women to be treated. Representation matters.
At AIT we are focused on bringing DEIA tenets to all that we do internally and externally because we know that having a diverse workforce focused on understanding and advancing diverse perspectives better prepares us for the challenges of tomorrow.
As U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken affirmed, “A more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible [State] Department leads to a strong, smarter, and more creative…workforce better equipped to handle the … challenges of the 21st century.”
If we are going to address global and economic challenges, our companies and our leaders need to reflect the people and communities we serve. By modeling diversity and inclusion now, we are telling the next generation of female workers, “You are welcome here.” That is, representation matters, especially to the next generation of female and minority leaders who see us and think, “I can do that.”
I believe that investing in women – as valued employees, entrepreneurs, and community leaders – is essential to our competitiveness, resiliency, and adaptability, not just in our businesses, but also in our communities and beyond.
I am the first female Director of AIT. However, as Vice President Kamala Harris said, “I will be the first, but I will not be the last.” I am proud that several female and minority officers lead AIT sections. Nurturing and supporting female leaders in the early stages of their careers is key to having greater female representation at higher levels in the future.
Progress has been slow but steady, and there is always more work to do. But I am heartened by the many examples of change: Taiwan has a female President and the highest rate of female participation in elected office in Asia.
During my tenure, AIT institutionalized our first official DEIA Council which is guided by three pillars – intentionality, transparency, and accountability. That is, we must be intentional in our commitment to DEIA tenets in all aspects of the workplace. We need to be transparent in understanding our own shortcomings. Finally, we must be accountable to all our employees, ensuring that every voice has an opportunity to be heard.
For instance, AIT is intentionally bringing DEIA into all that we do. From ensuring our facilities are handicap accessible, to creating representative social media campaigns, to installing diaper changing tables in men’s restrooms, we believe that it’s not only major actions, but small steps that will move us towards a more sustainable, diverse future.
To improve transparency, we took a critical look inward to better understand the problems within. Last year, AIT’s DEIA and community climate surveys revealed we have work to do – specifically, we needed to do more to ensure the needs of our female team members are met. We are focused on creating a climate where all voices, especially female ones, are valued and validated and all employees feel empowered to contribute all of their talents fully.
Finally, we implemented a culture of accountability and growth. By including DEIA tenets into our formal performance evaluation criteria, AIT is holding individuals accountable to these important principals. Additionally, by creating an anonymous feedback mechanism, every AIT employee can deliver comments, criticism, kudos, or questions directly to my office without fear of retribution.
We know that representation matters, not just in who we are, but in what priorities we set. In our actions, partnerships, and programs, AIT seeks to support a more diverse and equitable business climate in Taiwan and to nurture the next generation of female leaders.
I am personally committed to making a difference in improving the lives of women worldwide and to doing what we at AIT can to empower future female leaders.
Mentorship continues to be one of the most effective means for women succeed in the workforce. In 2021, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo launched the Select Global Women in Tech Mentorship Network. This Mentorship Network links female tech entrepreneurs from around the world with American business leaders, many of whom are in financial services, who serve as mentors and provide advice and support as these entrepreneurs work to grow their businesses in the U.S. market.
I’m pleased to say that we’ve had 18 women entrepreneurs from Taiwan join the Global Women in Tech program since the program began two years ago. I hope to see many more this year at the 2023 SelectUSA Investment Summit!
Additionally, in 2021, AIT partnered with the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs to launch the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, or AWE, program. The US is committed to this important program, which is designed to advance women’s economic empowerment by providing entrepreneurs the skills, resources, and networks needed to start and scale successful businesses.
Building on AWE’s success, AIT also partnered with the Council for Indigenous People to create Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs, or IWE, a Mandarin-language training and mentorship program targeting female micro-entrepreneurs in the indigenous community, many of whom live in Taiwan’s rural areas, where few resources exist to help them develop their businesses.
I am a firm believer in giving a helping hand to people who are starting out. And I hope that AIT can help build synergies between and among the participants in these programs, which target businesses of different sizes and at different stages of development.
Since many of you are leaders of mature companies or successful entrepreneurs, I ask you to consider being a part of our AWE or IWE initiatives as mentors. Your support would be a tremendous contribution to our effort to empower Taiwan’s female entrepreneurs. And if you are looking at a U.S. expansion, please consider the SelectUSA Summit. This will be the first year that our Commercial Section leads an all-female delegation to the Summit.
The panels you will hear from this morning demonstrate that Taiwan already has a great ecosystem for educating, mentoring, and promoting female leaders in diverse and sustainable fields. I know you will learn a lot from them and hope that you will consider joining us as mentees, as mentors, and as investors in both of our economies.