Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • The Affordable Care Act Protects Women’s Health

    Almost two years ago, the president signed the Affordable Care Act. Today the new law is giving millions of families the security that comes with knowing their health care will be there for them when they need it. And the law is helping women address many of the challenges they have faced getting the care they need.  

    Some of these benefits will take effect over the next few years, but many of them are already helping women lead healthier lives. Senior citizens like Norma Byrne of Vineland, N.J., have already seen that the new Affordable Care Act makes prescription drugs more affordable. Norma used to have to dip into her food budget to help pay for her medications because of the so-called donut hole. In 2010, just like other senior citizens with high drug spending, she received a $250 rebate check, which helped defray those costs. In 2011, thanks to the new law, she was one of nearly 2 million women who received a 50 percent discount on their brand-name prescription drugs. 

    Read the full post at The Daily Beast

    Valerie B. Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. She is also the Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

  • Got Questions about Women in Science, Tech, Engineering, or Math (STEM)? Tweet Us!

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from

    Jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields are high-paying, innovation-driven, and mission-essential. Yet while women have half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, 76 percent of STEM jobs are held by men. This gap has been seen throughout the past decade. We need to take a close look at the gender disparity in these fields that are so critical to completing the mission of the Department of Energy, and encourage and support women to take part in STEM positions. 

    Join us for a conversation about women in STEM on Twitter on Thursday, March 22 at 2:30pm EDT by following the hashtag #STEM.  

    You'll be able to ask experts how we can advance women's education and empowerment to bring women into STEM careers. 

  • Ask Your Question: National Equal Pay Task Force

    Since his first days in office, President Obama has pushed for pay equality between women and men in the work force.  It was just over three years ago when the President signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help combat pay discrimination by extending the period in which to make a claim.  The President is committed to securing equal pay for equal work because American families and the health of our nation’s economy depends up on it. 

    On average, women make 23 cents less on each dollar earned by their male counterpart, and this disparity grows further for women of color and women with disabilities.  This reduced salary results in lesser benefits for women and their families at a time when nearly two thirds of families depend on a female breadwinner.  The President wants to close this pay gap once and for all.

    In 2010, the President created the National Equal Pay Task Force, which brings together the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to identify and address challenges to gender pay disparities. The Task Force has worked diligently and has made significant gains.  Task Force members have increased enforcement of equal pay laws, improved efficiency and efficacy by enhancing federal inter-agency collaboration and ensured that workers are better educated on their right to equal pay while employers are better educated on how to provide it.

    We want to provide you with the opportunity to meet our Equal Pay Task Force members and ask them questions about their efforts in connection to and involvement with the Task Force. Please visit the webform and submit your question on or before March 19th, 2012 at 5pm. 

    We will share your questions with Task Force members who will answer a selection of them via video responses that will be available here on We look forward to hearing from you.

    To be sure you find out when we issue our video responses, sign up to receive email updates from the White House Council on Women and Girls.

  • Let’s Stop Counting: A Word on Women at the Treasury Department

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Treasury Notes.

    While the fields of economics and finance continue to be heavily represented by men, Treasury’s history reminds us that women have been, and continue to be, important leaders in shaping economic policy. This is particularly noteworthy at a moment in U.S. history when the rules of the financial sector are being rewritten and technology is changing the way our economy functions.

    Women’s History Month is a time to recognize these achievements and to consider how far we have come from an era when women were not afforded the training or opportunities to serve their nation in this capacity. President Obama’s Administration has set the record for the most women serving in Senate-confirmed positions at the Treasury Department since its establishment in 1789.

    Today, seven key positions at Treasury are held by women, including:

    • Lael Brainard, the Under Secretary for International Affairs, and the first woman in Treasury’s history to hold this position. In the 1990s, Brainard served as the first woman U.S. Sherpa to the Group of Eight. At Secretary Geithner’s direction, Brainard has been leading U.S. efforts to encourage Europe to strengthen its crisis response.
    • Mary Miller, the Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets, who has been nominated by President Obama to be Under Secretary for Domestic Finance. Miller currently manages the world’s largest securities market and oversees all U.S. borrowing.
    • Janice Eberly, the Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy, and only the second woman to serve in this role. As Treasury’s Chief Economist, Eberly is responsible for assisting in the determination of appropriate economic policies and has played an important role in reframing the debate around economic uncertainty.
    • Leslie Ireland, the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence & Analysis. Ireland is responsible for the analysis of intelligence used to safeguard the international financial system from abuse and to combat threats to U.S. national security. Prior to her role at Treasury, Ireland was the Daily Intelligence Briefer to the President.
    • Marisa Lago, the Assistant Secretary for International Markets & Development. Lago represents the U.S. in a number of international fora that oversee global financial regulatory reform and multilateral development.
    • Jenni LeCompte, the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. For the past three years, LeCompte has been advising the Secretary and the Department on how to communicate with, and engage the public on, issues that include fiscal policy, the global recovery from the crisis and the drive for financial reform.
    • Rosie Rios, the Treasurer of the United States, a position which has been held by a woman since 1949. Rios has direct oversight over currency and coin production and advises the Secretary on issues of community development and public engagement.

  • Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Highlights Administration’s Gender Equality Efforts on Trip to Switzerland

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from The Commerce Blog

    It is tradition in March to celebrate Women’s History Month, a time to reflect on the changing role of women in society and their social, economic and political achievements. From the ballot box to the boardroom, today’s American women have paved the way for future generations by overcoming obstacles on their path to equality and empowerment.

    It was with this message that President Obama commemorated March Women’s History Month last week, saying, “We cannot rest until our mothers, sisters, and daughters assume their rightful place as full participants in a secure, prosperous, and just society.”

    The Obama administration is dedicated to helping blaze this trail. This week, I had the opportunity to speak about the administration’s work to support women–and particularly the evolving economic role of women in American society–during a visit to Bern, Switzerland. President Obama has fought for American women by leading the administration’s fight to combat discrimination in the workplace and supporting women-owned businesses. The president has also taken concrete steps to ensure that women’s voices are heard throughout government and society, appointing two women to the U.S. Supreme Court and a strong team of women leaders to the Cabinet and White House staff.

    I began my trip by helping unveil a study by the George Washington University Global Women’s Initiative titled, “Gender Equality in Employment: Policies and Practices in Switzerland and the US,” which features a comparative analysis of Swiss and U.S. gender workplace issues. The study echoes findings from a report (PDF) I worked on for the White House Council on Women and Girls last year. Designed to help inform Washington policy decisions, it was the first comprehensive Federal report on the status of American women in almost 50 years. President Obama created the Council in 2009 to coordinate Federal efforts to support women in America.

  • Happy 101st Anniversary of International Women’s Day!

    Yesterday I was excited to return to the International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony at the State Department here in Washington, D.C. These awards honor the critical role women are playing in growing economies and in contributing to peace and stability. Recipients included “Women of Courage” from across the globe who have overcome adversity, and in turn stood up and fought for social justice, human rights and the advancement of women. There was an incredible level of energy and support in the room, and I was humbled to be among these phenomenal women. I was also joined by women I admire deeply: First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, First Lady Ernestina Naadu Mills of Ghana, and First Lady Vanda Pignato of El Salvador.

    Two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, spoke at the ceremony, and their words captivated the room. Gbowee realized during Liberia’s second civil war that it is women who bear the greatest burden in prolonged conflicts. She was a pivotal activist in the peace movement, organizing Christian and Muslim women to demonstrate together, and organizing for the Liberian Mass Action for Peace.  Known as the “iron woman” and the “mother of the revolution,” Karman is a journalist and human rights activist who has long championed democracy and women’s rights in Yemen, co-founding “Women Journalists Without Chains.” She was among the first to participate and help organize the opposition protests in Yemen. Together, Gbowee and Karmanchallenged everyone to continue to work for women’s rights around the world.