Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • A Good Day

    I’ve been working in the field of combating trafficking in persons (C-TIP) for over a decade. In this arena, where people are bought and sold as chattel, there are a lot of bad days. Still, over the past ten years, I’ve seen brave shelter directors take on traffickers, despite threats of violence. I’ve seen trafficking victims overcome incredible hardship and go on to help other survivors. I’ve seen diplomats take a stand and say, enough, we are not going to look the other way. And I’ve seen NGOs, together with policy makers, fight to get laws adopted that literally change the lives of people.

    Those are the good days, where we need to take stock and celebrate.  Today is one of those days.

    This morning, the Administrator of USAID, Dr. Rajiv Shah, launched the Agency’s new Counter-Trafficking in Persons Policy.

  • Career-Life Balance Fair continues to promote flexible workplaces for America’s Scientists and engineers

    In order to maintain global leadership in science and engineering (S&E), as well as promote economic prosperity and national security, America must develop its own domestic scientific talent at a pace similar to other nations worldwide.

    In science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, women are earning an ever-larger share of doctoral degrees- 41 percent in 2009, compared to 38 percent in 2004. Yet, their representation in full-time tenured faculty positions - only 29 percent in 2008 - is not keeping pace. For women of color, the proportion is even lower, constituting only 6 percent of tenured faculty. Family characteristics – including marital status and presence of children – are directly related to this diminished chance of earning tenure, with unmarried women making significant gains over their married female colleagues throughout the last four decades.

  • Love is Respect: February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

    Editor's Note: This blog has been cross-posted from the Department of Justice blog.

    Regardless of the day or month, many teens – including college students – often find themselves in unhealthy, sometimes abusive relationships that affect their quality of life, cause pain and concern among their families and friends, and interfere with school and community activities. Now is the time to learn about ways to recognize and prevent this violence.

    During February, designated as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, we join President Obama to call for a focused effort to break the cycle of violence by providing support and services to the victims, their families and their communities. As President Obama stated:

    The consequences of dating violence — spanning impaired development to physical harm — pose a threat to the health and well-being of teens across our Nation, and it is essential we come together to break the cycle of violence that burdens too many of our sons and daughters. This month, we recommit to providing critical support and services for victims of dating violence and empowering teens with the tools to cultivate healthy, respectful relationships.

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Violence Against Women Act

    On February 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Even though VAWA has a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, the eight Republicans on the committee voted against this critical piece of legislation. Now the Act goes to the full Senate for consideration. 

    First authored by then Senator Biden in 1994, VAWA provides funding to states and local communities to improve the criminal justice response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  VAWA supports specialized law enforcement units to investigate these crimes and helps prosecutors get dangerous offenders off the streets. VAWA also protects victims living in subsidized housing from being evicted after suffering domestic violence, supports training for health care providers, and brings help to victims in rural areas of the country.  The hallmark of VAWA is the coordinated community response, bringing different agencies together to create a seamless approach to combating violence. 

    One day’s look at the headlines tells us why we still need VAWA. Domestic violence often spills into streets, workplaces, and communities, and is estimated to cost our nation 8 billion dollars a year in lost productivity and health care costs. This violence causes more than two million injuries each year, three deaths each day, and untold amounts of suffering to women. The hidden crime of stalking affects 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men, and sexual assault remains the most underreported violent crime in the country. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been sexually assaulted at some time in their lives, most before the age of 18. 

    It's fitting that the Senate Judiciary Committee took up VAWA during Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month, because teens and young adults are at THE highest risk for this violence. The proposed legislation provides funding to schools, youth groups, and victim service agencies to develop new strategies to intervene in and prevent dating violence and sexual assault. If we can stop violence in this generation, some day we won’t need these services. But today, the need is still urgent. We need the full Senate to approve VAWA reauthorization and for Congress to send this legislation to President Obama to sign into law this year.

  • Women and Girls Council and the 2013 Budget

    President Obama laid out a blueprint in his State of the Union address for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.  The President released a budget that illustrates how we put that blueprint to work.  

    Yesterday in his message to Congress, the President explained that we are in a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get there. The Budget targets scarce federal resources to the areas critical to growing the economy and restoring middle-class security: education and skills for American workers, innovation and manufacturing, clean energy, and infrastructure. It is built around the idea that our country does best when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.

    To construct an economy that is built to last and provide security for women and girls, the 2013 Budget will:

    • Support Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention.
    • Strengthen Efforts to Combat Violence Against Women.
    • Strengthen Anti-Discrimination Enforcement
    • Improve Health Care Services for Women Veterans.
    • Give Every American a Fair Shot at Success by Improving and Reforming K-12 Education.
    • Expand Access to College.
    • Support Women-Owned Businesses.
    • Help States Provide Paid Family Leave to Workers.
    • Prevent Hunger and Improve Nutrition.
    • Ensure that Workers Receive the Pay and Benefits to which they are Entitled
    • Promote Affordable Homeownership
    • Support Responsible Homeowners and Help Them Stay in Their Homes
    • Extend Expanded Tax Cuts for Working Families
    • Maintain Affordable High-Quality Primary and Preventive Care
    • Revitalize Distressed Urban Neighborhoods
    • Invest in Regional and Community Planning Efforts for Sustainable Development.

    Read more about how the President’s 2013 budget will help women and girls HERE.

  • 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.