Remarks at a White House Luncheon Marking the Observance of American Business Women's Day

September 22, 1983

Well, good afternoon, and since American Business Women's Day is your day, a heartfelt congratulations. Our thanks, as well, to Senator Jepsen and Congressman Tom Tauke who introduced the resolution calling for an American Business Women's Day and to the other Members of the Congress here today who supported their efforts. Connie Aden, president of the American Business Women's Association; Nancy Bruner, chairman of the Task Force for Business Women's Day; Mary Jo Jacobi, the first woman to be White House business liaison; and all of you who worked so hard to give us American Business Women's Day -- you deserve our gratitude.

In recent decades more and more American women have entered the work force until today, more than half of all women over 16 work outside the home. Workmen work in all sectors of the economy, at all kinds of jobs. And I would like to have you listen, for example, to the names of just a few of the organizations that were invited to send representatives here today: the American Council of Railroad Women, the Association of Women in Architecture, the Association for Women Veterinarians, the Society of Women Engineers, the International Association of Women Police, the National Association of Women in Construction, and American Women in Radio and TV.

Women entrepreneurs make up the fastest growing segment of the small business community. They own 22 percent of all sole proprietorships and take in gross receipts of over $40 billion a year. They own businesses from construction companies to clothing stores to coal mines. And today our nation honors you, American businesswomen, for your achievements in business, for your contributions to our nation's economic vitality, and for paving the way for future generations.

Besides extending my congratulations, I want you to know that our administration is supporting American businesswomen in the most important possible way -- by working to revive our economy so that all American business can prosper.

The economy was pretty sick when we came into office, and as the doctor on the case I'm pleased to report that the patient is not only out of bed but back on the job. [Laughter] And we couldn't do it just by saying take two aspirins and get a good night's sleep.

Inflation, which was running in double digits when George Bush and I were inaugurated, has dropped to 2.4 percent for the last 12 months, and that's the lowest annual 12-month rate in more than a decade and a half. And that translates into renewed consumer confidence and strong demand for your products and services. The prime interest rate is about half what it was. Businesses have easier access to funds for new investments, leading economic indicators have been on the rise for the past 11 months, and our gross national product is growing faster than most economists expected -- by a whopping 9.7 percent last quarter and at an estimated 7-percent rate this quarter.

You know sometimes -- having a degree in economics myself I can kid about them because I'm talking about our own group -- but I sometimes remind economists that they have a watch chain with a Phi Beta Kappa key on one end and no watch on the other. [Laughter]

Personal income is up, and so are auto sales, factory orders, retail sales, and housing starts. Since August a year ago, the stock market has gone up over 400 points, providing business with a rich flow of capital. You may remember Will Rogers' advice about the stock market. ``Don't gamble,'' he said. ``Buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up; then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it.'' [Laughter]

Well, these days people are having a lot less trouble with stocks that don't go up. Unemployment is still too high, but it's begun to drop and, as business continues to expand, it'll drop still further. You and other businesswomen helped create and shape this recovery. The number of self-employed women has been growing about five times faster than the number of self-employed men in recent years.

And many of those self-employed women have started small entrepreneurial businesses -- the kind that create the most new jobs. You know, if America already had the national industrial policy planned and supervised by the Federal Government, which some of our critics want, I have to wonder. Would the plan have allowed businesses owned by women to grow five times faster than businesses owned by men? It would probably have underestimated your potential. Women are doing far better in the marketplace than all the so-called experts could have predicted. I just have to believe that government intervention would never offer the same opportunity as economic freedom.

And if you women here who are members of the Women Executives in Government would permit me, I want to tell a little story that I told you the other day, and if you don't mind, to repeat it. I like it; it explains a lot of things. There was an accident. The victim stretched out; crowd had gathered around; a man elbowed his way through. There was a woman bending down over the victim, and the man shoved her aside and said, ``I have had training in first aid. Let me take care.'' She stepped meekly back, and he started. And he started doing all the things he had learned about. And then she tapped him on the shoulder and said, ``When you get to that part about calling the doctor, I'm right here.'' [Laughter]

Now, many Americans still face discrimination, and I want you to know that our administration is committed to making sure that all Americans, women and men, have opportunities to live their lives as they want. We're determined to rid our country of unjust discriminatory laws and to guarantee vigorous enforcement of codes that are now on the books.

Some of the contributions that I'm proudest of in this administration have been aimed at removing barriers to economic freedom. We've increased, almost doubled, the maximum child care credit for working parents. We've authorized larger IRA contributions for working women, and we're working to remedy discrimination in pension programs. We've also virtually eliminated estate taxes levied on surviving spouses, a tax that because of the longer life expectancy of women used to strike widows especially hard.

And our administration is moving to provide assistance to women entrepreneurs. The Small Business Administration has created a national initiatives program to conduct conferences across the country to advise and encourage women in business. In addition, we recently announced the formation of the first-ever President's Advisory Committee on Women's Business Ownership and of the Interagency Committee on Women's Business Enterprise.

The Advisory Committee will be made up of 15 outstanding business leaders, chaired by the former Treasurer of the United States, Angela Buchanan. It'll advise me and the Small Business Administration on the needs of women entrepreneurs. The Interagency Committee, chaired by Becky Norton Dunlop, will spur and coordinate Federal efforts to assist women business owners. These and other initiatives will help American women find the business opportunities they seek.

Today our nation faces a great transition, a time when new technology is working a dazzling revolution, a time when we can strengthen our economy and set for the world an economy of what free people are -- or an example, I should say, of what free people can do. Yet we can only find the strength we need by drawing on the energies and talents of all our people -- young and old, women and men. And I'm proud that today our nation is honoring the role of American businesswomen, women like you who are working to make American dreams come true.

I thank you, and God bless you. And now, if Senator Jepsen and Congressman Tauke would join me, I'm going to sign a proclamation, the proclamation that I mentioned.

[At this point, the President signed the proclamation.]

I think, now, that two of us in here are supposed to get ahead of all of you and get in the next room. And then we're going to have a chance to meet each one of you individually, and we'll have our pictures taken.

So, George? Let's go to the Red Room.

Note: The President spoke at 1:02 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.