File photo courtesy of VP Leni Robredo FB page.

Vice President Leni Robredo urged the international business community to strengthen its efforts for gender inclusivity, asserting that empowering women would contribute greatly to more robust, more equitable economies.

In a keynote address at the 13th Toronto Global Forum in Canada on Thursday night (Manila time), Robredo said business movers and other thought leaders must work harder to shatter “deep-seated cultural and societal biases” in order to create a bigger space for women.

She shared the work her office has been doing under its flagship anti-poverty program, Angat Buhay, and how it puts much emphasis on helping Filipinas become financially empowered—an advocacy inspired by Robredo’s experience as a lawyer for abused women.

Among these initiatives, done in collaboration with private sector partners, is the Angat Buhay Women: Workshop for Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs (WAWE), a capacity-building program that helps women from communities in need as they start and boost their own businesses.

“Whether you are talking about corporate boardrooms or politics, tech or traditional industries, global companies or small entrepreneurs, women are stronger when they are financially independent,” she said.

This, she said, calls on everyone—both men and women—“to do more and shine a spotlight, especially on the more subtle acts of discrimination.”

“[W]e need to commit to it because gender inclusion is not just about advancing women’s rights and empowering half of the world. Gender inclusion is, at its very core, about sustaining the whole world,” she said. “When women survive, and find their path to a truly great life, the world thrives. And the ultimate expression of that is how economies are strengthened when women are empowered.”

Robredo was among the leaders from government, finance, business, technology, and media who were invited to speak at the conference, organized by the International Economic Forum of the Americas (IEFA), which aims to cultivate a culture of information-sharing and promote open discussions on major economic issues.