Category Archives: Women’s Rights

President Obama Marks Equal Pay Day by Designating National Monument Honoring Women’s Equality

Women's Suffrage Rally at Alva Vanderbilt Belmont’s Marble House, Newport, Rhode Island, 1914 (credit: The Preservation Society of Newport County)
Women’s Suffrage Rally at Alva Vanderbilt Belmont’s Marble House, Newport, Rhode Island, 1914 (credit: The Preservation Society of Newport County)

On this year’s Equal Pay Day, April 12, President Obama is designating a new national monument at a historic location in Washington, D.C., to honor the movement for women’s equality. The new Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument will protect the iconic house that has served as the headquarters for the National Woman’s Party since 1929. From this house, known in recent years as the Sewall-Belmont House, members of the Party led the movement for women’s equality, authoring more than 600 pieces of federal, state and local legislation in support of equal rights.

The designation will permanently protect one of the oldest standing houses near the U.S. Capitol and help preserve an extensive archival collection that documents the history, strategies, tactics and accomplishments of the movement to secure women’s suffrage and equal rights in the United States and across the globe.

The new monument is named for former Party president, activist and suffragist Alva Belmont (known also as Alva Vanderbilt), who was a major benefactor of the National Woman’s Party, and Alice Paul, who founded the Party and was the chief strategist and leader in the Party’s ongoing fight for women’s political, social, and economic equality.

After playing an instrumental role in the passage and ratification of the 19thAmendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage, Paul led the Party’s advocacy work from the house, including drafting updated Equal Rights Amendment text, writing provisions that were later included in the Civil Rights Act to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender, and working to get women’s equality language incorporated in the U.N. Charter. A fierce advocate for women’s equality her entire life, Paul died in 1977 at the age of ninety-two.

Efforts to protect the site date back to the early 1970s, and more recent proposals to include the site in the National Park System have garnered Congressional support – including bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Mikulski – as well as strong support from local elected officials, community leaders, women’s organizations, conservation groups and historians. The National Park Foundation will announce that David Rubenstein is contributing $1 million dollars to support the site and address immediate restoration needs.

In 1997, the National Woman’s Party became an educational organization and today, seeks to educate the public about the ongoing women’s rights equality movement.

In addition to protecting more land and water than any President in history – more than 265 million acres – President Obama has sought to protect places that are diverse, culturally and historically significant, and that reflect the story of all Americans. By honoring the history and accomplishments of the movement for women’s equality, tomorrow’s designation will build on this effort towards a more inclusive National Park System and tell the story of women’s fight for equality for generations to come. Our national parks and other protected sites that represent America’s diverse history and culture will continue to be an important priority for the Administration as the country celebrates the National Park Service Centennial this year.

About Equal Pay Day 

Equal Pay Day is the date in the current year that represents the extra days a typical woman working full-time would have to work just to make the same as a typical man did in the previous year. Since taking office, President Obama has made equal pay a top priority and has taken a number of steps to fight for pay equity. In addition to signing his first piece of legislation as President, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, President Obama has created the National Equal Pay Task Force, called on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, issued an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees who discuss or inquire about their compensation, and worked with the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to better target enforcement of equal pay laws though enhanced employer reporting of pay data.

To highlight key gender equality issues and set the agenda for the future, next month, the White House will host a Summit on “The United State of Women” together with the Department of State, the Department of Labor, the Aspen Institute, and Civic Nation. The summit will create an opportunity to mark the progress made by and for women and girls domestically and internationally over the course of this Administration and to discuss solutions to the challenges they still face. The Summit is being held with additional cooperation from Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women, the Tory Burch Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Building on Steps to Help Women in the Workforce and Working Families 

President Obama has taken a number of actions to combat the pay gap, as well as other issues that affect women in the workforce, including:

  • Working with the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January 2016 to publish a proposal to annually collect summary pay data by gender, race, and ethnicity from businesses with 100 or more employees, potentially covering over 63 million employees.  This step will help focus public enforcement of our equal pay laws and provide better insight into discriminatory pay practices across industries and occupations. The Council of Economic Advisers also released an issue brief,“The Gender Pay Gap on the Anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,” that explores the state of the gender wage gap, the factors that influence it, and policies put forward by this Administration that can help address it.
  • Signing a Presidential Memorandum in May 2013 directing the Office of Personnel Management to develop a government-wide strategy to address the gender pay gap in the federal workforce, leading to a report in April 2014 and new guidance in July 2015—which cautioned against required reliance on a candidate’s existing salary to set pay, as it can potentially adversely affect women who may have taken time off from their careers or propagate gaps due to discriminatory pay practices by previous employers.
  • Issuing an Executive Order in April 2014 and publishing a Department of Labor rule in September 2015 prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees whodiscuss or inquire about their compensation.
  • Hosting the first-everWhite House Summit on Working Families in June 2014, highlighting the issues that women and families face, setting the agenda for a 21st century workplace, and announcing of a number of steps to help working families thrive.
  • Signing a Presidential Memorandum in January 2015 directing federal agencies to advance six weeks of paid sick leave to federal employees with new children, calling on Congress to grant another six weeks of paid leave for federal employees, and calling on Congress to pass legislation that gives all American families access to paid family and medical leave.
  • Issuing an Executive Order in September 2015 requiring federal contractors to provide employees working on federal contracts up to seven paid sick dayseach year—and urging Congress, states, cities, and other businesses to do the same.
  • Publishing a proposed Department of Labor rule in June 2015 updating outdated overtime regulations, which, if finalized, would expand overtime pay protections for nearly 5 million Americans, promoting higher take home pay, and allowing workers to better balance their work and family obligations.
  • Issuing an Executive Order in February 2014 requiring federal contractors to raise their minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and lift the tipped minimum wage (which disproportionately impacts women)—and urging Congress, states, cities, and businesses to do the same.
  • Issuing an Executive Order in July 2014 and publishing a Department of Labor rule in December 2014 prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating in employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Directing the Office of Personnel Management and federal agencies to enhance workplace flexibility for federal employees to the maximum extent practicable, including enshrining a right to request flexible work arrangements.
  • Calling on Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to workers who have limitations from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer). The legislation would also prohibit employers from forcing pregnant employees to take paid or unpaid leave if a reasonable accommodation would allow them to work.
  • Publishing a proposed Department of Labor rule that, if finalized, would update its sex discrimination guidelines for federal contractors for the first time since 1978, to align with current law and address barriers to equal opportunity and pay, such as pay discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environments, a lack of workplace accommodations for pregnant women, and gender identity and family caregiving discrimination.
  • Increasing investments to expand access to high-quality early care and education, including efforts under the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge program, Preschool Development Grants, Head Start and Early Head Start, and a landmark proposal that helps all eligible working families with young children afford high-quality child care.
  • Expanding access for women to higher-paying jobs through a proposed rule updating equal employment opportunity requirements in registered apprenticeships and through a Mega-Construction Projects (MCP) Initiative at the Department of Labor.

Additionally, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers has continued to spotlight the pay gap and other challenges women face in the workforce as well as policy solutions proposed by the Administration to address these persistent challenges. Those materials include:

See also:

Women of Newport: Alva Vanderbilt Belmont turns Marble House into weapon of feminism

Newport’s Gilded Age Mansions Provide Narrative to Women’s Rights Movement

Hillary Clinton’s Woman Trouble

Hillary Clinton greets Aleatha Williams, who introduced Clinton at the NYC rally saying, "She kept her promise to me, a young girl from the Bronx. That's the type of person we need in the Oval office." © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton greets Aleatha Williams, who introduced Clinton at the NYC rally saying, “She kept her promise to me, a young girl from the Bronx. That’s the type of person we need in the Oval office.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Barack Obama’s candidacy in 2008 got an extra dose of high-octane fuel by the history-making fact of becoming the first African-American president. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, seems more inclined to downplay her own history-making candidacy as the first woman to serve as President. Indeed, she’s gotten flack from younger women who are so liberated, they will vote against a woman just to show they can, asserting that they refuse to vote for a woman just because she is a woman (despite the fact that Hillary is the most skilled, experienced candidate who ever ran for the office). Running as a woman is a liability Hillary embraces at her peril, because her opponents will attempt to negate it as using the “gender card.”

Yet, at its core, her whole campaign is about the issues that are of concern to women, for as she says, she is running to break down the barriers that prevent every person from fulfilling their potential. The fact is women are part of each and every one of these marginalized groups.

And just as women’s reproductive rights are as much economic as they are about personal freedom, the long list of policies and agenda items Hillary is advocating for are as much women’s issues as they are matters of economic, social and political justice. But it takes a woman to prioritize them.

These issues include reproductive rights to be sure, but also universal health care, minimum wage, overtime pay, pay parity, paid family leave, access to quality, affordable child care and universal pre-K, student debt, protecting Social Security and Medicare, immigration reform and a path to legalization, gun violence prevention, clean air and water, climate change, clean energy. Add to this jobs creation and union rights, trade deals that protect American workers and the environment, investment in infrastructure, investment in Alzheimer’s research, medical research and innovation. Oh yes, and protecting voting rights, especially from Voter ID and other methods that disproportionately keep women from the polls.

As she said, at a Clinton Foundation “No Ceilings” event in 2015, “If we take bold steps to better the lives of women, we will be taking bold steps to better the lives of children and families too. Families rely on mothers and wives for emotional support and care. Families rely on women for labor in the home. And increasingly, everywhere, families rely on women for income needed to raise healthy children and care for other relatives.”

But 30 years of anti-Hillary propaganda have taken their toll, shaped an image and an argument. It is breathtaking that the question always posed to her – but not to the Republicans – has to do with “trust” and “honesty.” I am trying to figure out on what issue she has been less “trustworthy” or “honest”? Whitewater? Benghazi? Foster? A nurse in Florida told me that Hillary was responsible for 25 murders. I suggest that “dishonest” (or “shady”) is just a way around saying, “we can’t stand a woman who is competent and assertive” without admitting sexism.

Is she too cozy with Corporate America? In fact, that is the secret weapon to actually making progress. It is the strategy and the innovation that has been pursued since 2005 by the Clinton Global Initiative, which have forged partnerships among government entities, the private sector and NGOs that have funneled billions of dollars into 3400 constructive commitments that have benefited 430 million people around the globe. It’s a strategy that has been implemented by the Obama Administration in order to actually make social progress when Republicans just want to cancel programs aimed at uplifting people altogether.

But yes, the innovation that the Clintons have fashioned is to recruit as companies as allies, not enemies – getting Walmart, Coca Cola, The Hershey Corporation and others to invest in sustainable development, Goldman Sachs to create a new financing mechanism to save coral reefs, Proctor & Gamble to devise and distribute millions of packets that can purify water that saves millions of children from dying before the age of 5 from waterborne illnesses, and Monsanto Company to invest in revitalizing the honey bee population. CGI has fostered major cultural change within such massive multi-national organizations, and more than lip-service paid to social investing and economic sustainability. That’s not selling out, That’s converting the very entities that have the power to make real change.

Advancing rights and opportunities for women and girls has been a central focus of CGI and Hillary Clinton. There has been a recognition that if you improve education and family planning, create opportunities to be entrepreneurs or own businesses, you don’t just improve the lives of those women, you improve the lives of their children, their families, their villages and communities and their nations, with impacts far exceeding similar programs offered to men. That’s just fact.

When she was Senator, I recall Hillary Clinton sitting down with a woman’s panel that included the head of CARE, discussing how implementing micro-finance enabled a woman to borrow just $12 to buy a goat, so she could earn enough for school fees for her child.

“When more women enter the workforce, it spurs innovation, increases productivity, and grows economies,” Clinton said at CGI 2012. “Families then have more money to spend, businesses can expand their consumer base and increase their profits. In short, everyone benefits.”

She has brought on board the Buffet Foundation, the Gates Foundation, Nike Foundation, and a long, long list of powerhouses to address issues ranging from clean water and solar-powered lighting to training midwifes and creating the logistics to get vaccines to rural communities.

As Secretary of State, I recall Hillary Clinton’s commitment to CGI on behalf of the Obama Administration to sponsor millions of cooking stoves. Why was this so significant? Well it turns out that the method that women were using – burning carbon inside the house – was not only a leading cause of women dying, but also produced toxic, global-warming causing pollution.

In fact, First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” campaign uses the same CGI techniques of engaging important corporate partners to achieve a significant goal, including Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, JetBlue, Starwood Hotels.

It is stunning that Hillary is being held to account for policies from Bill Clinton’s presidency, when she was First Lady – DOMA, welfare reform, NAFTA and the Crime Bill (all of which were designed to fend off the incessant attacks from the right wing which were determined to undermine his presidency from Day One, just as they have to Obama. It didn’t work – they still impeach them.).

Indeed, she was pilloried for overstepping bounds of a wifely First Lady – how dare she! clearly forgetting how Eleanor Roosevelt was responsible for just about every progressive program FDR ever devised- in trying to achieve universal health care. Besides that, times are different than the mid-1990s, and certainly, we have learned from unintended consequences of legislation, even if initiated in good faith. More significantly, Hillary is not Bill Clinton. Hillary is her own person.

Overcoming the “woman’s issue” is also a factor in her more hawkish stance. She can’t afford to be seen as being a weak Commander-in-Chief. No such concern for Bernie Sanders.

Much like Obama had to downplay race, Hillary Clinton seems to have downplayed women’s issues in this campaign, lest she be attacked (as she already is, nonetheless), for playing the “gender card.

But she has been most constant in her sensitivity and advocacy of women’s rights and the plight of the marginalized.

On International Women’s Day, March 8, she issued a statement crystallizing “the unfinished work” toward insuring that women and girls achieve full equality:

“On International Women’s Day, we celebrate women around the world, in all stations of life — mothers, daughters, grandmothers, teachers, doctors, soldiers, artists, workers, employers, leaders of all kinds.  We celebrate their achievements and their humanity.  We celebrate the progress we’ve made to advance the full participation of women in economies and societies.  And most importantly, we recommit to finishing the unfinished work that remains, and ensuring that women and girls are treated as the full and equal human beings they are.

“Advancing the status of women is not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.  When women and girls participate fully, economies grow and nations are more secure.  When their rights are denied, the opposite happens. No country can get ahead if half its people are left behind.

“I’ve spent my career working to break down barriers that hold back women here at home and around the world.  As President, I will keep up the fight.  I’ll fight to close the pay gap; make paid family leave a reality; ensure families have access to quality, affordable child care; increase the minimum wage; protect women’s health and reproductive rights; confront violence against women; and promote women’s rights around the globe.  These issues ought to be core priorities of our government. They are not just “women’s issues”—they are family issues, economic issues, and they’re crucial to America’s competitiveness and security.

“This International Women’s Day, let’s take a page from the generations of women leaders around the world who never stopped working to make our world a better, more equitable place.  And let’s always remember that women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights, once and for all.”

Being a woman head of state is no longer an issue in places as diverse as Croatia and Pakistan to Germany and the United Kingdom.

As a woman, Hillary Clinton would prioritize and approach issues differently, even from Bernie Sanders who claims to be the great progressive. She has intimate knowledge of these issues from a grass roots level that even Bernie Sanders doesn’t have (while each one of the Republican candidates would certainly roll back progress to “take America back” to the halcyon days when white men ruled).

And if she does become President, she will become President Hillary Rodham Clinton, and hopefully, bring a woman’s touch to the most powerful position on earth.

See also:

Union workers rally for Hillary Clinton in NYC after Super Tuesday win and slideshow

Hillary Clinton proposes ‘New Bargain’ with American workers

________________________

© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go towww.news-photos-features.com,  email editor@news-photos-features.com. Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

International Women’s Day: Obamas Point to Progress on ‘Let Girls Learn’ Initiative

First Lady Michelle Obama, discussing her "Let Girls Learn" initiative © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
First Lady Michelle Obama, discussing her “Let Girls Learn” initiative © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Today, on International Women’s Day, we recommit ourselves to achieving a world in which every woman and girl enjoys the full range of rights and freedoms that is her birthright,” President Obama stated.

“Women and girls make extraordinary contributions every day across all fields of human endeavor, including in business, education, sports, art, science, agriculture, parenting, and governance.  Without these contributions, economies would collapse, communities would fail, and families would fall apart.  And yet, in too many places around the world, women still struggle to rise out of their status as second-class citizens.  They are denied opportunities for full economic and political participation.  Some are forced to marry and have children when they are still children themselves, while abusive practices, such female genital mutilation/cutting, still persist in too many places.  Moreover, secondary education-arguably the most powerful tool for helping girls escape cycles of poverty and abuse and take control of their lives–remains beyond the reach of tens of millions of girls around the world.

“That is why I am proud that my Administration launched the Let Girls Learn initiative, which is already helping adolescent girls around the world to surmount the barriers that stand between them and a quality education.   It is also why I am pleased to announce that, in the coming days, Secretary of State John Kerry will be releasing the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, which lays out a whole-of-government approach to provide the next generation of women the tools they need to pursue their aspirations.

“We know that when we invest in women and girls, we are not only helping them, we are helping the entire planet.  A future in which all women and girls around the world are allowed to rise and achieve their full potential will be a brighter, more peaceful, and more prosperous future for us all.”

Meanwhile, the White House issued a fact sheet on the progress made after one year of the “Let Girls Learn” initiative.

FACT SHEET: FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA CELEBRATES ONE YEAR OF LET GIRLS LEARN, AND ANNOUNCES NEW COMMITMENTS TO THE INITIATIVE

 In March 2015, the President and the First Lady launched Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government initiative aimed at helping adolescent girls attain a quality education that empowers them to reach their full potential. The recently released FY 2017 President’s Budget has requested more than $100 million in new funds for the initiative, building on the $250 million in funds requested in the FY 2016 President’s Budget to launch the initiative. Additionally, foreign governments, including JapanSouth Korea and the UK, have collectively pledged nearly $600 million towards global girls’ education programming. Domestically, the First Lady is galvanizing students to become global citizens, from launching the #62MillionGirls social media campaign last September, to releasing the Let Girls Learn toolkit at last summer’s Girl Up Summit, to talking directly to girls at the Apollo Theater at last fall’s The Power of an Educated Girl town hall with Glamour Magazine.  Another key approach to making Let Girls Learn a success is through public private partnerships.  The independent commitments described below build upon commitments announced at last year’s Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit.  For the latest update on Alex and Ani’s commitment, click HERE. 

Private Sector Commitments to Let Girls Learn:

JOHNSON & JOHNSON will support global fundraising efforts in support of the girls’ education through Global Moms Relay and Donate a Photo App, totaling more than $200,000 over two years.  In addition, Johnson & Johnson will contribute $50,000 to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund.

PROCTER & GAMBLE is making a $100,000 donation to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund to enable adolescent girls’ education programming with a focus on Africa and Asia.  For International Women’s Day, Always will promote Let Girls Learn by proposing girls’ education-emojis, including a Mrs. Obama Let Girls Learn emoji. In addition, P&G and Peace Corps will explore expanding Always Confidence Teaching Curriculum to help more girls build and maintain confidence through education.

STARWOOD HOTELS & RESORTS WORLDWIDE, INC. will produce original promotional video content to run on SPG TV, an in-hotel TV network reaching upwards of 12 million consumers a month, as well as distribution across its many social media channels. Starwood will also designate Let Girls Learn as an official SPG charity partner, designing a promotion which allows members to donate Starpoints® to benefit Let Girls Learn.

JETBLUE will produce an original seatback video about Let Girls Learn for all flights during a key amplification month, raising awareness and inspiring all around international girls’ education. Additionally, JetBlue will provide a financial donation to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund.

LYFT will drive donations to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund through their tip-matching program, which will match funds when passengers tip their drivers. Lyft will identify key moments to activate this collaboration throughout the year.

J.CREW will support Let Girls Learn through their Garments for Good initiative and will design specific items to be released later this year. Garments for Good is a J.Crew initiative to lend support by selling items in their stores and online, with all profits being donated to the selected charity.

CSOFT INTERNATIONAL will translate Let Girls Learn materials, including the Peace Corps training literature, from English into multiple languages.

THE GIRLS’ LOUNGE is helping raise awareness around Let Girls Learn by commissioning a Let Girls Learn mural at Union Market and bringing a Let Girls Learn bus to Washington, DC to celebrate International Women’s Day. The Girls’ Lounge, in collaboration with partner Rubicon Project will also provide digital media campaigns to drive awareness and messaging for Let Girls Learn throughout 2016.

SALESFORCE.ORG will financially support Room to Read’s expansion of girls’ education in Cambodia and Sri Lanka. This commitment will support the work the First Lady has done to shed light on the importance of girls’ education in Cambodia, where she visited Room to Read’s work as part of the Let Girls Learn launch.

Public Sector and NGO Commitments to Let Girls Learn: 

DINING FOR WOMEN is a global giving circle dedicated to transforming lives and eradicating poverty among women and girls in the developing world. They will support the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund with a $100,000 grant to fund community projects that address barriers to girls’ education and promote empowerment. 

RTI INTERNATIONAL, a nonprofit institute that provides research, development and technical services worldwide, will donate to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund.

CONNECTHER is raising awareness about access to education and schooling in the developing world through Girls Impact the World (GITW) Film Festival. Connecther is launching the GITW Global Chapters to screen short films from the Film Festival about the education of girls, economic independence for girls, redefining beauty and other critical issues.  Each screening will include a session about girls’ education.

AMY POEHLER’S SMART GIRLS, along with the Peace Corps, will share educational resources such as video and classroom correspondence activities to give “Smart Girls” the opportunity to learn about the world and connect with other “Smart Girls” eager to engage and support girls’ education.

See also:

First Lady Michelle Obama suggests will make ‘Let Girls Learn’ her work after WH and slideshow

White House Takes Steps to Advance Equality for Women, Girls of Color; Hosts Forum to Discuss Progress

 

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have worked to promote opportunities for women and girls © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have worked to promote opportunities for women and girls © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

FACT SHEET: Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color

Today, the White House Council on Women and Girls in collaboration with the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University will host a daylong forum on Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color, which will focus on empowering and increasing opportunity for women and girls of color and their peers. The forum will bring together a range of stakeholders from the academic, private, government and philanthropic sectors to discuss ways that we can break down barriers to success and create more ladders of opportunity for all Americans, including women and girls of color.  Forum participants will highlight a range of issues, including economic development, healthcare, criminal justice, vulnerability to violence, hip-hop, and images of women in the media. Today, the Council on Women and Girls will release a progress report, “Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color,” as a follow up to the 2014 report, and announce independent commitments to close opportunity gaps faced by women and girls, including women and girls of color.

As President Obama noted in his speech to the Congressional Black Caucus in September 2015, women and girls of color have made significant progress in recent years. The growth in the number of businesses owned by black women outpaces that of all women-owned firms. Teen births are down, and high school graduation and college enrollment rates are up.  However, opportunity gaps and structural barriers still remain. Today’s forum will address these challenges and ways to build on the progress we have already made as a country. You can watch the forum at www.whitehouse.gov/live.

Today the White House is announcing independent commitments which, include a $100 million, 5-year-funding initiative by Prosperity Together to improve economic prosperity for low-income women.  In addition, we are announcing an $18 million funding commitment by the Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research—an affiliation of American colleges, universities, research organizations, publishers and public interest institutions led by Wake Forest University—to support existing and new research efforts about women and girls of color. 

The Council on Women and Girls has identified five data-driven issue areas where interventions can promote opportunities for success at school, work, and in the community. Continuing research in these areas and exploration of new efforts can help advance equality for women and girls of color. Here are some initial steps that we are taking in collaboration with public and private stakeholders to address each:

#1: FOSTERNG SCHOOL SUCCESS AND REDUCING UNNECESSARY EXCLUSIONARY SCHOOL DISCIPLINE

Girls of color experience disproportionately high rates of school suspensions. Black girls are suspended at higher rates (12%) than girls of any other race or ethnicity and at higher rates than white boys (6%) and white girls (2%). American Indian/Alaska Native girls are also suspended at rates that exceed those of white students.  By adopting supportive school discipline practices, schools foster success for all students and increase the likelihood that students will stay engaged and stay in school. The Administration has taken the following steps to facilitate supportive school discipline policies:

Ø  Supporting school discipline practices that promote safe, inclusive and positive learning environments.

In order to create a positive learning environment the Administration has provided clear steps for school districts to follow to better support its students.

Ø  Enhancing public awareness about exclusionary school discipline, including how it disproportionately affects girls of color.

Until recently, scholarly research and public data on girls of color and school discipline was limited or difficult to access. The Obama Administration has been committed to making information generated by the Federal Government, including information on school discipline, accessible to the public.

  • In July 2015, ED launched a public awareness campaign, #RethinkDiscipline, which included story maps—disaggregated by race, gender, and disability status— aimed at making school discipline data comprehensible and easily accessible to the public.
  • In addition, ED has funded a $1 million data initiative, to be completed in the spring of 2016, which disaggregates K-12 data on school discipline, teacher equity, gifted and talented programs, and other metrics, broken down by gender and ethnicity/race. 

#2: MEETING THE NEEDS OF VULNERABLE AND STRIVING YOUTH

Girls and young women of color represent a growing share of juvenile arrests, delinquency petitions, detentions and post-adjudication placements.  Although African-American girls represent about 14 percent of the United States population, they constitute 32 percent of girls who are detained and committed. Native American girls are only one percent of the general population, but 3.5 percent of girls who are detained and committed. The most common infractions that girls are arrested for include running away and truancy— behaviors that are also symptoms or outcomes of trauma and abuse. Once in the system, girls may be treated as offenders rather than girls in need of support, perpetuating a vicious cycle that is increasingly known as the “sexual abuse to prison pipeline.”  The Administration has taken the following actions to improve outcomes in intervening public systems:

Ø  Enhancing programmatic responses by integrating evidence-based trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive perspectives into youth serving systems and organizations.

Addressing the root causes of pathways into those systems with sensitivity allows opportunities for meaningful second chances. To identify the issues and facilitate the development of new frameworks:

  • In October 2015, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a rule to clarify protections for victims of harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status or disability under the Fair Housing Act. The proposed rule would provide for uniform treatment of quid pro quo harassment and hostile environment harassment claims under the Fair Housing Act.
  • In October 2015, DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) released new guidance “Girls and the Juvenile Justice System.” Recognizing that many girls experience violence and/or bias leading to their involvement with the juvenile justice system, the guidance calls for a developmentally informed approach that acknowledges intersectional disparities and calls for the reduction or elimination of the arrest and detention for status offenses, technical violations of probation, simple assault, family-based offenses, running away, and prostitution-related charges.

Ø  Expanding disaggregated data initiatives.

In order to design interventions that address the needs of girls and young women, particularly those who have experienced trauma, we need to better understand the population of those affected, through research and through the release of data disaggregated by race, gender, and other variables.

  • In October 2015, the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) released Juvenile Court Statistics 2013, a report that describes delinquency cases and petitioned status offense cases processed by courts with juvenile jurisdiction in 2013. Summaries are available from 1985 to present for more than 25 offense categories, and include separate presentations by gender, age, and race. 

#3: INCLUSIVE STEM EDUCATION

Significant opportunity gaps exist in STEM education and careers for women, especially for women and girls of color.  Although more women graduate from college and participate in graduate programs than men, women’s participation in science and engineering significantly differs by field of study, at both the undergraduate and graduate level. In 2012, for example, underrepresented minority womenreceived only 11.2% of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering, 8.2% of master’s degrees in science and engineering, and 4.1% of doctorate degrees in science and engineering. The Administration recognizes implicit biases and stereotypes may play a prominent, if still often unrecognized, role in STEM and other disparities, and has committed to the following actions:

Ø  Enhancing pathways that engage underrepresented women in quality STEM programs and education.

STEM jobs are expected to outpace non-STEM jobs over the next ten years.  Engaging underrepresented girls and young women in STEM opens additional economic opportunity. Career and technical training opens access to high skilled, high demand careers, which provide a route to the middle-class.

  • In January 2015, at a White House convening on bringing marginalized girls into STEM and CTE careers, the National Girls Collaborative created a new STEM/CTE portal which centralizes resources on expanding girls’ access to STEM and CTE, including curriculum, research, and promising practices. The portal will include EmpowerHer—a new interactive map that will make it easier to locate STEM enrichment activities in underserved areas. Additionally, Time Warner Cable and local partners have committed $100,000 towards a small grants competition to link community STEM mentors and girls, which will launch in December of 2015.
  • In September 2015, The Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology (CGEST) at Arizona State University announced theNational Academic STEM Collaborative at a White House roundtable. This collaborative is a network of 10 academic partners and nine organizational partners who are identifying and scaling effective, evidence-based strategies to improve STEM diversity in the nation’s colleges and universities, with a focus on women and girls from underrepresented communities. Building on the finding that women are more likely to enter into STEM careers if exposed to entrepreneurial activity, the Collaborative will co-host a “Women of Color and STEM Entrepreneurship Conference” in the spring of 2016 in partnership with Arizona State University and the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Ø  Encouraging STEM participation by highlighting accomplishments of girls and women from diverse communities and by encouraging academic institutions and programs to recruit and retain diverse talent in STEM fields.

Research indicates that diverse teams and organizationsoutperform those that are less diverse on a number of financial metrics.  Diversity makes good economic sense for America. The White House has been able to use its public platform to showcase opportunities for women and girls in STEM in the following ways:

  • In August of 2015, President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Demo Day, where entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, including women of color, showcased innovations. The President also issued a call to action to advance inclusive entrepreneurship, and highlighted independent actions by groups like Sabiola, who established a Women of Color Fellowship Fund that will give at least 100 women access to a 12-week coding bootcamp, job-interview prep, and ongoing professional development after completion of the program, and IBM, who expanded Girls Who Code to introduce the next generation of women software developers to cloud computing innovation.
  • In March 2015, the White House Science Fair had a specific focus on diversity and included students from underrepresented backgrounds who are excelling in STEM. This year’s participants included a record number of girls and young women from diverse communities.
  • To help address the lack of visible role models in STEM, the White House launched a website that highlights some of theuntold history of women in science and technology. The website uses the voices of prominent women to tell the stories of some of their female scientific heroes who have changed history. 

#4: SUSTAINING REDUCED RATES OF TEEN PREGNANCY AND BUILDING ON SUCCESS

Despite the steady decline of U.S. teen births over the past two decades, minority communities continue to have disproportionately high rates. Black and Latina girls remain more than twice as likely as white girls to become pregnant during adolescence, and American Indian/Alaska Native teen birth rates are one and a half times higher than the white teen birth rate.  We know that opportunity shrinks for teen parents and their children. Only half of all teen mothers receive a high school diploma by age 22. In the aggregate, the children of teen mothers are less likely to complete school and have higher rates of health problems and unemployment. Research by the Brookings Institution also shows that when teens delay birth, the average family income of their offspring increases.  The longer a teen birth is delayed, the larger the average family income of the offspring. The Administration has engaged the following strategies to work to end unplanned teen pregnancy and thus increase both educational and economic opportunity:

Ø  Ensuring that evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs reach communities with the greatest need.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) administers the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program, an evidence-based teen pregnancy program, which enables grantees to replicate evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs in communities with the greatest need.

  • In July 2015, OAH awarded 81 new grants, totaling more than $86 million to programs across the country. The grants are focused on reaching young people in communities where high teen pregnancy rates persist. Programs grants were awarded in four categories: (1) community capacity building to support replication of evidence-based TPP programs (especially for populations serving youth in juvenile detention and foster care, homeless youth or young parents); (2) scaling evidence-based TPP programs in communities with the greatest need (including programs that focus on reaching especially vulnerable youth); (3) supporting early innovation to advance adolescent health and prevent teen pregnancy (including technology-based innovations and one grant focused on program innovations) and (4) evaluation of new or innovative approaches to prevent teen pregnancy.

Ø  Ensuring that developmentally appropriate information about pregnancy prevention reaches all teens, including in high-need communities.

The Administration recognizes that if information is provided to communities it must be effective for the intended audience.

  • In September 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Reproductive Health committed $9.75 million to enhance the capacity of publicly-funded health centers’ to provide youth-appropriate sexual and reproductive health services.  CDC has funded a $1 million innovation contractto finalize the development of a mobile app, Crush, which supports pregnancy prevention. 

#5: ECONOMIC PROSPERITY

Despite their driving growth in the workforce, women of color face persistent challenges to full participation in the economy. Although women in general face a continuing pay gap compared to their male counterparts, the gap is even larger for women of color. Additionally, black women face the highest rates of poverty for those 65 years and older (21 percent), followed by Hispanic women (20 percent), and Asian women (13 percent). Increasing the economic opportunity of women of color will also give more opportunity to their children and continue to increase opportunity for generations to come.  The Administration has been working to increase opportunities for economic prosperity in the following ways:

Ø  Lifting Families Out of Poverty by Making Permanent Key Provisions of Tax Credits for Working Americans.

Supporting tax credits that encourage work, boost incomes, and reduce poverty, thus helping working families make ends meet and improve opportunity for their children.

  • The President continues to push to make permanent key provisions to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), which are scheduled to expire after 2017. These tax credits boost income for 16 million families with 30 million children each year, including about 2 million African American families and about 5 million Latino families. The provisions allow more low-income working parents to access the CTC and provide a larger EITC for families with three or more children and married families.  They reduce the extent or severity of poverty for more than 16 million people – including about 8 million children. A growing body of research shows that helping low-wage working families through the EITC and CTC not only boosts parents’ employment rates and reduce poverty, but will also have positive immediate and long-term effects on children, including improved health and educational outcomes.
  • The President’s Budget proposes expanding the EITC for “childless” workers and non-custodial parents, who currently receive only a very small EITC and, as a result, are the only group the Federal tax code taxes into – or deeper into – poverty.  The President’s proposal would benefit more than 13 million low-income workers, including 2 million African American workers and 3.3 million Latino workers.
  • The President’s Budget proposes to triple the maximum Child and Dependent Tax Credit (CDCTC) for families with children under the age of five and makes the full CDCTC available to families with incomes up to $120,000, benefitting families with young children, older children and dependents who are elderly or have disabilities. The childcare tax reforms would benefit 6.2 million families. 

Ø  Encouraging outside stakeholders to commit to working in their communities to create opportunities for women and girls of color.

Today the Ms. Foundation and Prosperity Together, a consortium of 20 women’s foundations are announcing a $100 million, 5-year-funding commitment to improve economic prosperity for low-income women. Prosperity Together partners will use their respective experience and knowledge to fund programs that are proven effective in their communities and states, including job training programs that are customized to (1) address the cultural and educational needs of low-income women in order to secure a higher-wage job in a stable work environment and (2) enhance access for low-income women to culturally appropriate, affordable, high-quality childcare.

Ø  Investing in improvements to compensation, paid and sick leaveand other policies, which support working families: 

Approximately 40 percent of private-      sector employees work at a company that does not offer sick pay for their own illness or injury.  Low- and middle-income workers are much less likely to have access to paid sick leave than other workers. The Administration believes that working to improve baseline rates of compensation and expand access to leave, will expand economic opportunity for women and for families. Because of this we have taken the following approaches to increase economic prosperity:

  • Since President Obama called on cities and states to raise their minimum wages in 2013, 17 states have raised their minimum wage, resulting in higher wages for an estimated 360,000 Black women, 1.2 million Hispanic women, and 320,000 AAPI and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
  • In January 2015, DOL extended minimum wage and overtime protections to most of those who provide home care assistance. Nearly two million direct care workers, such as home health aides, personal care aides, and certified nursing assistants who provide home and personal care services – nearly 50 percent of whom are women of color – will have minimum wage and overtime protections to ensure they are paid fairly for their work.
  • In July 2015, DOL proposed a rule that would extend overtime protections to nearly 5 million workers—the majority of whom are women—within the first year of its implementation.
  • In January 2015, The President issued a memorandum directing agencies to offer six weeks of advanced paid sick leave to federal workers to take care of a new child or an ill family member, and in September 2015 he signed an Executive Order providing for employees on covered federal contracts to receive up to seven days of paid sick leave each year.
  • President Obama has sponsored unprecedented levels of openness in government. In keeping with this, DOL issued a final rule in September 2015 supporting pay transparency and prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees who choose to discuss their compensation. 

Ø  Increasing access to federal contracting opportunities including for minority women-owned businesses:

Women and minority businesses that contract with the U.S. government are more likely than their non-contracting colleagues to exceed $1 million in revenue and more likely to own larger firms than their non-contracting peers. Policies that link women of color-owned businesses to government contracts support entrepreneurs and enhance their capacity to expand employment within the communities in which they operate.

  • In September 2015, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced a new rule that authorizes federal agencies to award sole source contracts to women-owned small businesses eligible for the Woman-Owned Small Business Federal Grant Program or the Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses. 

Ø  Increasing the diverse participation in career and technical training, especially in areas of high growth demand:

Currently, most apprenticeships are in building and construction trades. However, fewer than seven percent of apprentices are women—and even fewer are women of color.

  • In September 2015, President Obama announced that DOL’sAmerican Apprenticeship Grant Program awarded $175 million in grants to 46 awardees. The American Apprenticeship grants increase opportunity by investing in innovations and strategies to scale apprenticeships — including by marketing to women and other Americans who have been underrepresented.
  • DOL will also open grant solicitations to fund programs that address childcare barriers that low skilled and unemployed workers face when accessing training opportunities for well-paying, high growth jobs in industries like healthcare, financial services, and other in-demand sectors. 

RESEARCH TO LEAD THE WAY 

Knowing what is necessary to create pathways for women and girls of color and their peers to achieve success is only strengthened when the proper research and data is available. We are encouraged that academic institutions are not only creating a space for people of all backgrounds to learn, but also studying and writing about these critical issues. With an initial funding commitment of $18 million, the Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research will play a key role in supporting this effort.

Creating opportunities for young women of color is also necessary to generate curiosity in the next generation of women.  In March, The Smithsonian Institution will theme its March 12, 2016 “Museum Day Live!” to “inspire women and girls of color.” Museum Day Live! includes 1,300 museums and attracts 250,000 visitors to museums and cultural centers across the United States. The National Endowment for the Humanities will fund a small grants competition to facilitate museums and other cultural centers to develop programming to create new bridges between communities and cultural institutions as centers of informal learning.

As President Obama has emphasized, America cannot afford to leave anyone behind if we are to maintain our competitive advantage globally. Our success in the years to come will depend in large part on ensuring that all our children, students, and workers have the chance to reach their full potential. The Council on Women and Girls will continue to work to ensure government policies appropriately consider these kinds of challenges and persistent opportunity gaps faced by too many disadvantaged, marginalized, or underrepresented girls—and inspire the private sector to do the same—to ensure that everyone who aspires to get ahead has a chance to succeed.