Obama’s White House Women’s and Girls’ Council Is Coming

Amie Newman

President Obama will officially create a White House Council on Women and Girls tomorrow, Wednesday, March 11. But don't call it a symbolic gesture - this has the potential to be way more than that.

President Obama will sign an executive order tomorrow establishing the White House Women’s and Girls’ Council.

The council will address a range of issues affecting women and girls in the United States and will be chaired by Valerie Jarrett, an advisor to Obama. 

President Obama today signed an Executive Order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls.

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According to a memo obtained by the Washington Post

"The mission of the Council will be to provide a coordinated federal response to the challenges confronted by women and girls to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and families…"

These challenges include pay equity and, as CNN.com put it, "the balancing act working mothers face." The office is Obama’s attempt to ensure that key issues affecting women and girls in this country remain front and center in the White House. 

And while The Washington Post’s take is that since Obama has two daughters and a wife and was elected with a large percentage of the overall female vote he has both personal and political reasons to create this office, I’m banking on less political/cynical reasoning for doing what he did. 

Clearly, establishing this office is the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for women and girls in this country, sure, but more than that it’s the right thing to do for this country. The issues that affect women and girls primarily, affect everyone ultimately. Pay equity? Pay discrimination is harmful not just to women but to the families that rely on that paycheck regardless of whether it’s a single or two parent family. Work-life balance for working women? We’ve certainly set up a society in which there is no balance – unsupportive professional environments for mothers  who want to return to work after the birth of a child, lack of support for nursing mothers, unaffordable child care, and more. These challenges create a ripple effect where we all end up paying for our country’s refusal to address these so-called "women’s issues."

Hopefully, this is not, as Chris Cillizza writes in The Fix, simply a "symbolic" gesture for those close to the President and for the women who voted for him but a concrete manifestation of Obama’s understanding that, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, inequality anywhere is a threat to equality everywhere. The establishment of a White House Council for Women and Girls signals, to me, a new approach to understanding how to remedy the inequities that exist, still, for women and girls in this country. 

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