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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at signing of Memorandum of Understanding with Small Business Administration
Washington, D.C., March 15, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me welcome you to the State Department. It's a great pleasure for me because it's not often that I get a chance to appear with my good friend, Aida Alvarez. It's a pleasure. We see each other at meetings, but we haven't done this kind of thing. And it's not often enough that I have the chance to spotlight the contributions women are making in all areas of American diplomacy.

There was a time not long ago when the State Department was an entirely male bastion. The first woman with ambassadorial rank was not appointed until 1949, and until 1972 female foreign service officers had to resign when they got married. Until 1977 there were no women assistant secretaries of state. Shortly after I became Secretary, I was congratulated by Henry Kissinger, who welcomed me to the fraternity.

(Laughter.)

I had to tell him, Henry, it's not a fraternity anymore. That applies not only to the Secretary's office, but to the entire Department of State and to those with whom we do business.

Today's senior diplomat may sit in a conference room designed and built by a female architectural engineer. She may read mail delivered thanks to the woman whose company supports our diplomatic pouch program. If the pipes burst or the roof leaks, she will be looking for support from the woman whose firm holds the State Department contract for worldwide maintenance; and she will get it.

This Memorandum of Understanding builds on the good work women entrepreneurs are already doing at the Department of State. It reflects our conviction that supporting women's small businesses will help the Department do business better around the world. It will also promote one of our most cherished goals, which is to help women be full and equal participants in the economic and political life of this and every society.

This Memorandum commits us to awarding 5 percent of our federal procurement dollars to women-owned small businesses. We believe that we met that goal last year, and we intend to take this agreement as a challenge to do even better. That shouldn't be difficult. Women-owned small businesses are the fastest growing segment of the American economy, and they already hold some of the most critical contracts this Department awards.

Supporting them is clearly the smart thing to do, but it is also the right thing. It's right because when we encourage women to go into business, we are helping to create growth and dynamism for the economy as a whole. It's right because when we treat women as valued participants, they gain the confidence they need to be full and valuable partners. Or to put it better, we gain the confidence we need to be full and valuable partners.

It's right because when we show young women they can do anything they want to be, they will go out and help America be all the things that it needs to be.

So I'm proud that the State Department is among the first government agencies to make this commitment, and I'm grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to get us this far. I'm confident that the results will be good for women entrepreneurs, good for our diplomacy and good for America.

Thank you.

[End of Document]

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