Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • Launching the Equal Futures Partnership to Expand Women’s Political and Economic Participation

    It is no secret that the world has yet to achieve the simple yet profound goal of ensuring equal futures for our daughters and our sons. Today, less than five percent of the world’s heads of state are women, and women make up just nineteen percent of representatives in parliaments worldwide. Despite producing more than forty percent of the world’s food, women own less than one percent of the world’s farmland. 

    Recognizing these disparities, one year ago in a speech before the UN General Assembly, President Obama challenged heads of state to break down political and economic barriers to women’s equality.  Last week, Secretary Clinton launched a groundbreaking response to the President’s challenge: the Equal Futures Partnership. The United States was joined by twelve other founding members (Australia, Bangladesh, Benin, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, the Netherlands, Peru, Senegal and Tunisia, along with the EU) each of whom made national commitments to policy, legal, and regulatory reforms that would promote two mutually reinforcing goals: expanded economic opportunity for women; and, increased political and civic participation by women at local, state and national levels. Around 250 guests -- including Senator Patrick Leahy, President Jahjaga of Kosovo, Prime Minister Simpson-Miller of Jamaica, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, academic leaders, CEOs of major companies, and representatives from civil society organizations -- attended the standing-room only event.

  • White House Equal Futures App Challenge to Promote Civic Education and Public Leadership for Girls

    “This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands.”

     President Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2011

    Building on President Obama’s challenge at the UN General Assembly in September 2011, the United States will be working with various country partners in a new international effort – the Equal Futures Partnership – to break down barriers to women’s political participation and economic empowerment. The goal of the Equal Futures Partnership is for each member country to expand opportunities for women and girls to fully participate in public life and to drive more inclusive economic growth.

    As part of these efforts, the White House Council on Women and Girls is launching an app challenge: to create an app that promotes civic education and/or inspires girls to serve as leaders in our democracy.  Notable apps will be highlighted on the White House website and in the White House blog.

    Apps should accomplish one or more of the following:

    1. Educate girls about the gender gap in public leadership using existing, publicly-available information (e.g. properly attributed data from websites such as that of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, etc.) 
    2. Connect girls with role models by highlighting women in public leadership positions 
    3. Teach girls about what it means to be an effective leader 
    4. Empower girls to engage with their elected representatives 
    5. Prepare girls to serve in government and run for office themselves

    Individuals can learn more about the challenge and submit their apps on equalfutures.challenge.gov between September 25, 2012 at 12:00am EDT and January 12, 2013 at 12:00am EDT. 

  • African American Women's Forum

    Today, the White House hosted an African American Women’s Forum, bringing women from across the nation together for an opportunity to discuss issues that are important to women in the African American community.  First Lady Michelle Obama surprised guests to provide some of her thoughts on the theme, “Mother, Sister, Daughter, Leader,” an idea she fully embodies.

    Many topics were discussed including education and college affordability.  One of the panels at the forum focused on the Affordable Care Act and how it will affect African American women. The Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, discussed the importance of prevention for women and emphasized this point by leading the group in an exercise activity! Jocelyn Frye, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Policy and Projects for the First Lady, provided insight on current and future projects Mrs. Obama is working on, and Deputy Adminstrator Marie Johns led a panel on the economy and education. Gene Sperling, Assistant to the President and Director of the National Economic Council, analyzed the current economic status of African American Women in the United States and shared his plan to enact more meaningful fiscal change in the community as a whole.

    Heather Foster is an Associate Director for the Office of Public Engagement.

  • Join the Conversation: STEM Master Teacher Corps

    This Thursday, July 26th, at 1 p.m. EDT, Obama Administration officials will host a conversation on the creation of a new national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Master Teacher Corps – a networked community of talented educators serving as a national resource committed to advancing STEM teaching and learning.

    Launched last week, the STEM Master Teacher Corps initiative will strengthen the quality of STEM education nation-wide and help meet the President’s goal of moving U.S. students from the middle to the top of the pack in math and science.

    Starting with 50 teachers in each of 50 sites, the STEM Master Teacher Corps will eventually expand to 10,000 educators across the country, who will make a multi-year commitment to deepening their subject matter expertise, mentoring other teachers, and building a community of practice where they live and teach.  In exchange, Master Teachers will receive recognition and rewards, including additional compensation, for their work as a Corps member.

  • Honoring Title IX Every Day

    A little over two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights went to court to mark the 40th anniversary of Title IX: the basketball court. 

    Title IX is the landmark legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal funds.  The law has since helped pave the way for millions of girls throughout the country to live their dreams of becoming scientists, business owners, athletes, or whatever else they might dream of being. 

    One of the law’s most notable effects has been to increase opportunities for women and girls in sports, and we celebrated this by playing a little pick-up basketball at the Department of Interior.  Energetic senior officials throughout the Obama Administration -- Secretary Duncan, Secretary Salazar, Secretary Sebelius, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling, and Special Assistant to the President Samantha Power – joined  coaches and players from Howard University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, and the WNBA to play basketball alongside students from District of Columbia public schools. Together, they reminded us that when women are afforded equal opportunities, everybody wins.  

    As we celebrate Title IX’s successes, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education also works to ensure its vigorous enforcement.  Case in point: On July 2, OCR announced resolution agreements with four school districts located in Arizona, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas that will ensure that girls get the equal athletic opportunities they deserve. 

  • @TechGirls: Brilliant, Fearless and Passionate

    Ed note: this post originally appeared on DipNote, the U.S. Department of State’s official blog

    Our inaugural class of 25 TechGirls arrived in New York City late on the evening of Monday, June 25. For almost all of them, it was the first time they had set foot in the United States from their home countries in the Middle East and North Africa. We could immediately see what an amazing, talented, and passionate group of young women we would have the privilege of working with.

    In July 2011, Secretary Clinton announced the launch of TechGirls -- a three-week, intensive youth exchange -- "to encourage innovation and promote the spread of new technologies to give women and girls the support that they need to become leaders in this field." Our Embassies ran a very competitive selection process, identifying the best and brightest young women with high achievements and aptitude in mathematics, science, and technology. There was no better example than Mai, a young woman from Alexandria, Egypt, who is a self-described “computer freak” who wants to be a cardiologist when she grows up. Mai believes that technology can provide better services for citizens based on her experience during last year's protests in Tahrir Square. Back in February 2011, Mai witnessed how Egyptians used social media to bring food and medical supplies to those who needed it most. She is inspired by this example and wants to replicate and extend it among a wider community in her home country.

    Our TechGirls kicked off their adventure with three days in New York City, organized by Legacy International whose mission is to strengthen civil society and foster peace-building and conflict resolution worldwide. During that time, they had the opportunity to connect with Rachel Sterne, Chief Digital Officer for New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg; Global Kids, which works to develop youth leaders for the global stage; DoSomething.org, an organization which encourages young people to create their own vision for making a difference in their community; Souktel, which designs and delivers mobile phone services that link people with jobs and connect aid agencies with communities who need help; and an amazing team of female engineers and business development leaders at Google offices in NYC. Through these discussions, the TechGirls were able to see a variety of ways in which women can becomes leaders in the science and technology space.

    The TechGirls came down to Washington, D.C., at the end of last week. On their first full day in the District, they spent the afternoon meeting many women in senior leadership positions at the White House, including the Office of Digital Strategy, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

    The TechGirls were joined at the White House by young women from West Potomac High School in Alexandria, Virginia. The TechGirls and the American students had meaningful discussions, sharing their enthusiasm for science and technology and experiences in science fairs around the world -- after just a couple of hours together, they walked out of the room promising to stay in touch and continue the conversation.

    For their remaining time in the United States, the TechGirls will participate in the Wonder Space Tech Camp, hosted on American University's campus. The girls will have the chance to develop hands-on skills, such as programming, robotics, mobile application building, web design, video graphics, and 3D game design. They'll also connect with many players in the growing D.C. tech community, and develop the community projects they'll carry out when they return home.

    It has been an absolute blast getting to know our inaugural group of TechGirls. The Department of State, like the great team behind Girls Who Code, recognizes the importance of inspiring young women to pursue educational and professional opportunities in the science and technology sphere. TechGirls is proving to be a fantastic exchange program for these young women, providing emerging talent with the skills and resources to pursue their dreams.

    Stay engaged with TechGirls on Twitter and Facebook.

    Suzanne Philion serves as the Senior Advisor for Innovation in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.