Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • Securing Equal Pay? There (Should Be) an App for That!

    “An economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country. That means women should earn equal pay for equal work.“ - President Barack Obama, 2012 State of the Union Address

    Last week, the Obama Administration launched the Equal Pay App Challenge. We’re inviting software developers to help women ensure that they’re being paid fairly – which in turn will help restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. 

    Right now, if you’re a woman in the workforce, it can be surprisingly difficult to answer basic questions about equal pay: what’s the typical salary for someone in your position? Should you be asking for more at the negotiating table? What are your fundamental legal rights?

    When the Equal Pay App Challenge is over, you’ll have information that helps you answer these questions, available right on your smartphone or computer. We believe that the same types of innovations that help you find movie times or get a great deal at a restaurant can help you protect your rights in the workforce.

    The App Challenge is just the latest in a series of steps the Obama Administration has taken to secure a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work. From the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the very first bill President Obama signed into law, to the creation of the National Equal Pay Task Force, to his continued support of the Paycheck Fairness Act, the President has helped address a gender pay gap that remains far too high.

    He has taken these steps because he knows that they help all Americans – both women and men. Today, mothers are the primary- or co-breadwinners in over two-thirds of American families. When women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn, as they do today, entire families suffer.

    But the opposite is also true. When women have a fair shot to see their hard work pay off, families benefit. When women succeed, America succeeds.

    President Obama envisions an America where his daughters are never limited by their gender. That vision is not yet a reality, and we still have a long way to go. But if we work together – and we invite America’s most creative innovators to join us in tackling this challenge – then I am confident that we will get there.

    Valerie Jarrett is Senior White House Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison. She is also the Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

  • Raising Awareness About Stalking

    January is Stalking Awareness Month, and it’s an important to highlight a crime that is often invisible. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men will be stalked in their lifetimes. Young women ages 18-19 experience the highest rates of stalking. The fears, threats and intimidation endured by victims is often felt by family members as well.

    To mark this important month, this week we hosted the first ever White House stalking roundtable with survivors, law enforcement officers, victim advocates, and researchers. We learned from law enforcement experts that while many victims are stalked by ex-partners, others can be stalked by acquaintances and even strangers. Stalkers often track their victims’ daily lives and make themselves known in ways that are scary and unpredictable. Stalking can force victims to change everything about their lives in order to be safe.

    I commend the bravery of two survivors who shared their stories. One woman was stalked by an ex-husband while another was stalked over a long period of time by someone she barely knew. Both were terrorized through cyber stalking and a range of strategies designed to keep them on constant edge and make them feel afraid every day. The stalking extended to family members and children, making it even more terrifying. Their stories put a human face on the statistics and helped us understand the true personal cost of stalking.

  • A Shining Example from the Sunshine State

    Editor's Note: This blog has been cross-posted from the Council on Environmental Quality Blog.

    This week, CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley joined Mayor Jeri Muoio in West Palm Beach to tour Northboro Elementary School – a recently modernized LEED Gold certified school that's gaining attention as a model for smart investment in sustainability. Northboro is a great example of how investing in modernization helps schools direct money to their classrooms instead of their energy bills. The elementary school has saved more than 16 percent in energy costs -- enough to pay for at least one teacher each year -- through upgrades including advanced lighting and ventilation systems. 

    Schools spend more than $6 billion annually on their energy bills -- more than they spend on computers and textbooks combined. The average public school building in the United States is more than 40 years old, and many struggle with old, inefficient, or broken heating and cooling systems and a host of other challenges, from crumbling roofs to outdated textbooks. As the President said: "We can't expect American kids to do their best in places that are falling apart. This is America. Every kid deserves a great school -- and we can give it to them."  That's why, in the American Jobs Act, the President proposed a $25 billion investment in school infrastructure to modernize at least 35,000 public schools across the country. The funds would provide for a range of emergency repair and renovation projects, energy efficiency upgrades, asbestos abatement and removal, new science and computer labs, and internet-ready classrooms – and put 16,000 Americans back to work making those upgrades.

    Modernizing our schools makes sense for American students, and makes sense for schools' bottom lines. Northboro Elementary is a clear example of how this investment would create jobs, improve classrooms, and bring our schools into the 21st century. 

    Northboro Elementary School

    Chair Nancy Sutley meets with school leadership at Northboro Elementary School in West Palm Beach, Florida.

     
    Taryn Tuss is Acting Communications Director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • A “Shining” Example of American Innovation

    On December 8th, the President hosted first board meeting of the Startup America Partnership at the White House. The Startup America Partnership is a nonprofit alliance of entrepreneurs, major corporations, and service providers committing private-sector resources to accelerate the growth of new companies. The Partnership, led by iconic entrepreneurs like Steve Case (AOL) and Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), was launched earlier this year in response to the President’s call to action to dramatically increase the success of America’s high-growth entrepreneurs. New startup businesses create most of the net new jobs each year, in every industry and all across the country.

    Startup America Partnership Board Member Lynn Jurich, President and Co-Founder of Sunrun Inc., reflects on her experience as an entrepreneur:

    On December 8th I was honored to attend a meeting with President Obama and fellow members of the Founding Board of the Startup American Partnership.  Aligned with Obama’s Startup America initiative, the Startup America Partnership’s mission is to help entrepreneurs start and scale their companies to accelerate job growth in the U.S.  I have vivid memories of what it’s like to be in the early stages of starting a company and value the opportunity to help other entrepreneurs succeed through my participation on the Board.  Also, as a woman entrepreneur in an industry where most executives and founders are males, I welcome the opportunity to mentor other females.  Successful women entrepreneurs are still less common in the business world and I hope my work at SunRun serves as an inspiring and educational example.

    My entrepreneurial story is rooted in a quest to shake up the energy industry: SunRun co-founder Edward Fenster and I invented a way for Americans to go solar without spending $30,000 or more on panels.  SunRun owns, installs and maintains the panels and homeowners make low, fixed monthly payments for clean energy.  In California this solar power service concept is becoming the most popular way to go solar – about 60 percent of families choose this option over purchasing a system for cash.  This model didn’t even exist before 2007 so it’s exciting for me to see the success we’ve achieved in such a short time.   For example, our partner network now employs over 3,000 workers across ten states and SunRun invested over $200 million in labor this year. 

  • Mentorship: A Key to Success

    On December 8th, the President hosted first board meeting of the Startup America Partnership at the White House. The Startup America Partnership is a nonprofit alliance of entrepreneurs, major corporations, and service providers committing private-sector resources to accelerate the growth of new companies. The Partnership, led by iconic entrepreneurs like Steve Case (AOL) and Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), was launched earlier this year in response to the President’s call to action to dramatically increase the success of America’s high-growth entrepreneurs. New startup businesses create most of the net new jobs each year, in every industry and all across the country.

    Startup America Partnership Board Member Pamela Contag, CEO of Cygnet Biofuels and the CSO of Origen Therapeutics,reflects on her experience as an entrepreneur and the impact mentorship has had on her company’s success:

    I recently joined the founding board of the Startup America Partnership, a private-sector alliance that has now mobilized over $1 billion in resources for U.S. entrepreneurs. On Dec. 8, the board met at the White House with President Obama to discuss several issues of huge importance to entrepreneurs, including access to capital, our ability to import talent and export finished goods, and mentorship.

    In a later conversation with a friend about the meeting, he made a comment I’ve heard before:  “People who start companies must not anticipate the hardship involved, because if they did they wouldn’t ever get started.”

  • Women in Public Service

    Editor's Note: This Blog was cross-posted from the Department of State Blog. Corina DuBois, a Presidential Management Fellow, shares her experience as a public servant after reflecting on the Women in Public Service Project colloquium that took place December 15, 2011.

    It's a good time to be in public service -- especially if you are a woman. We have a culture focused on solutions to global challenges: ask questions, seek training, explore creative solutions, engage in a dialog; and keep the momentum going.

    Today, at the Women in Public Service Project colloquium, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton underscored the importance of service to others and diplomacy through our work. In her remarks, she said, "So you don't have to be a president or a prime minister or a party leader to serve. We need women at all levels of government from executive mansions and foreign ministries to municipal halls and planning commissions; from negotiating international disarmament treaties to debating town ordinances. ...If you're trying to solve a problem, whether it is fighting corruption or strengthening the rule of law or sparking economic growth, you are more likely to succeed if you widen the circle to include a broader range of expertise, experience, and ideas. So as we work to solve our problems, we need more women at the table and in the halls of parliament and government ministries where these debates are occurring."

    As a first year Presidential Management Fellow (PMF), my jump into government service ushered in knowledge, experience and insights into how American women truly serve on a global level. I am empowered in my role because someone before me paved the way, broke gender barriers, and unrelentingly demanded an equitable exchange of ideas. This led to development of policy and women active in diplomacy -- women who became icons in our society, our world -- women who decided we can change the way we approach global issues.

    Those political leaders -- those women -- have paved the way for continued and open dialog. Today I was in a place where global icons, international political leaders -- really, my icons, my leaders -- charged me with the same global tasking.

    I entered public service from the private sector, a Navy Veteran who had served as one of the first women onboard combat ships. At the time, Madeline Albright was Secretary of State. Her infamous quote from an interview with TIME Magazine inspired me to let loose the natural desire to take on leadership roles and share my knowledge with other women.

    Albright had said, "Women have to be active listeners and interrupters -- but when you interrupt, you have to know what you are talking about. I also think it is important for women to help one another. I have a saying: There is a special place in hell for women who don't."

    At the time, I didn't realize I was making my own history; I thought I was just doing my job. I didn't quite grasp the complexity of what it meant to grit my teeth and press forward so others would have a smoother road. I re-entered public service, this time as a PMF, with a deeper understanding of this task. Being at the State Department in a culture where (as we laughed with the Secretary today) there are now 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, I have the tools, support and mentoring needed to be an effective public servant.

    Today was transformative. I am no longer a fresh-faced public servant, but one of many women committed to the future of public service. There is no better place to be, than in concert with the women who paved the way for me to be right here, right now.

    Learn more at www.womeninpublicservice.org and follow @WPSProject on Twitter.

    Corina DuBois is a Presidential Management Fellow, serving as a Public Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.