Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • @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;, 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.


  • Celebrating 40 Years of Title IX: Getting Girls & Women in the Game!

    When I was growing up in Long Beach, California in the 1950s and ‘60s, it never occurred to me that I would not be treated equal to my brother, Randy, and would not have the same opportunities as boys to succeed. I learned to play tennis on public courts and became a playground instructor and student-athlete at California State College in Los Angeles. I am a pre-Title IX athlete and did not receive any financial assistance for college. I had two jobs and thought I was living the good life. But nearby my male counterparts, Stan Smith and Arthur Ashe, had full athletic scholarships to play tennis at USC and UCLA.

    Four decades ago on June 23rd, the academic, athletic and professional fields of America were forever changed with the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  This was a critical moment in our Nation’s history that I, and millions of girls and women like me, will remember and celebrate.

    “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Those 37 words not only gave girls and women millions more opportunities to compete on an equal playing field in sports, they also empowered us to compete in any field throughout the course of our lives.

  • Observing 40 Years of Title IX

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation that changed the playing field for girls across the nation. With its 37 simple words, Title IX opened up a world of new opportunities ranging from athletic participation to access to education in science, technology, engineering, and math. In the years since the enactment of Title IX, athletic participation has increased over 1000%, creating more confident, empowered, and inspiring women to fuel the innovation and advancement of America. The Obama Administration is dedicated to furthering the 40 years of progress that Title IX has paved for us, from the $4.25 billion Race to the Top competition to close the STEM gap for girls, to honoring hardworking student-athletes like the Texas A&M University Women’s Basketball Team at the White House.

    This Wednesday, June 20, the Council on Women and Girls will be hosting an event to mark the 40th Anniversary of Title IX. Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama & Chair of the Council on Women & Girls, and Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to the First Lady and Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls, will be joined by a group of notable advocates and leaders in the field to discuss the past, present, and future effects of Title IX.

    To gear up for our celebration, we’ll be hosting a Twitter forum with the National Women’s Law Center on Tuesday, June 19 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Use the hashtag #WHTitleIX to share your thoughts and stories about Title IX.

    You can also tune in on Wednesday, June 20 at 2:00 p.m. to to participate in our event and join the discussion live on Twitter at #WHTitleIX!

     Avra Siegel is the Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

  • Women Chart a New Course Onboard U.S. Navy Submarines

    In 2009, U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that for the first time in Navy history, women would be assigned to serve aboard Navy submarines.

    Yesterday, the first contingent of 24 women who completed the Navy’s nuclear submarine program met with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. They were joined by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mark Ferguson.

    Women Submariners Visit the White House 5 29 12

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet the U.S. Navy’s first contingent of women submariners to be assigned to the Navy’s operational submarine force, in the Blue Room of the White House, May 28, 2012. The 24 women were accepted into the Navy’s nuclear submarine program after completing an intensive training program and serve on ballistic and guided missile submarines throughout the Navy. Also attending were ADM Mark Ferguson, left, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, right. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) May 28, 2012.

    The commitment by the Navy to put women on submarines has gone from idea to reality in just a few short years -- these women are now serving in a variety of important jobs aboard ballistic and guided missile submarines in the Navy's Atlantic and Pacific Fleets.

  • President Obama Adds Historic Focus on Women’s Rights at G-8 and NATO Summits

    This week, under President Obama’s leadership, the Group of 8 (G-8) and NATO each made history by placing women’s rights squarely on the agenda. Recognizing women as drivers of economic growth and as essential actors for strengthening global peace and security, G-8 and NATO leaders not only put efforts to protect women’s rights and advance women’s participation front and center, but also recognized women as agents of change, and committed their countries to expanding efforts to empower women worldwide.

    President Obama first invited fellow G-8 leaders to Camp David for talks on a wide range of economic, political and security issues. The President then welcomed NATO allies and partners to his hometown of Chicago for the NATO Summit, where leaders took steps to build the NATO-Afghanistan partnership while responsibly ending the war, and ensure that NATO remains the most successful alliance in history.  At each of these events, world leaders also discussed the importance of ensuring protection for women’s rights and the full participation of women in countries experiencing political transition.

    President Obama introduced the topic of women’s rights at the G-8 leader’s dinner on May18th, and in his remarks the next morning described the outcome of that conversation:

    We agreed that both, when it comes to economic development and when it comes to peace and security issues, empowering women to have a seat at the table and get more engaged and more involved in these processes can be extraordinarily fruitful.  And this is something that we will also be introducing during the G20.

  • Join the Conversation: #VetsTownHall

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Work in Progress

    Join the Department of Labor (DOL) for a Women Veterans Twitter Town Hall on Tuesday, May 22 at 12 pm EDT.

    You’ll have the chance to ask questions about resources and services available to women veterans as they return home from active duty. Officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will take part in the discussion, as well as special guests from John 14:2, Inc., Women Veterans Interactive, and Business and Professional Women’s Foundation.

    During the chat, DOL will discuss the department’s efforts to assist servicewomen with the resources necessary to successfully reintegrate back into civilian life. Below are some additional topics that we can cover Tuesday via the hashtag #VetsTownHall:

    Department of Labor (@USDOL):

    • Send the Women’s Bureau questions about the “Trauma-Informed Care for Women Veterans Experiencing Homelessness: A Guide for Service Providers,” an organizational self-assessment tool for service providers to assist them in serving women veterans. Latifa Lyles, acting director of the Women’s Bureau, will be on Twitter to answer questions about what her agency is doing to assist women veterans experiencing homelessness with community based resources.
    • Turn to Junior Ortiz, DOL’s deputy assistant secretary for veterans’ employment and training. You’ll have the chance to ask him about resources to assist and prepare women veterans to obtain meaningful careers, maximize their employment opportunities, and protect their employment rights.
    • Chat with Pamela Langley, DOL VETS division chief for employment and training programs and a veteran who recently returned from Afghanistan. She’ll join the conversation to answer your questions about where to go for assistance in looking for a new career and how to convert your military experience into civilian jobs.
    • Ask DOL’s Gerri Fiala, deputy assistant secretary for employment and training, questions about the Employment and Training Administration’s veterans’ programs and initiatives, such as the Gold Card, priority of service, and pilot with Microsoft to provide training for veterans.