Council on Women and Girls Blog
- Posted byon September 13, 2011 at 3:50 PM EDT
Marking the 17th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) helps us both appreciate the great strides that have been made in addressing all types of violence against women and recognize the fact that more needs to be done to create a society free from domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) remains committed to addressing these crimes in a broad and comprehensive manner.
The concept of a coordinated community response is one of the most critical and visible achievements of VAWA. In the years since VAWA’s enactment by Congress in 1994, we have witnessed a sea-change in the ways that communities respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence. VAWA encourages communities to bring together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to share information and to use their distinct roles to improve our responses to and prevention of violence against women. These groups include, but are not limited to: victim advocates, police officers, prosecutors, judges, probation and corrections officials, health care professionals, leaders within faith communities, and survivors of violence. New programs and amendments have strengthened the law and enhanced our work.
- Posted byon September 9, 2011 at 12:11 PM EDT
Last night, President Obama presented Congress with a plan for economic action. For many unemployed Americans, the American Jobs Act could be the difference between finding a job, and remaining unemployed. For those who are employed, it would put more money in their pocket. For small business owners, it would remove barriers to growth, cut taxes, incentivize investment and create new demand.
Every element in this plan has been supported by members of both parties in the past. It would not add a single dime to our deficit. As the President said last night, Congress should pass this plan right away.
Those in Congress who haven’t yet decided to support the President’s plan should consider how much it will help America’s women and girls. We’ve put together a factsheet (pdf) that shows what the programs in the American Jobs Act would do for women. I’ll highlight just a few of those programs below.
- Posted byon September 2, 2011 at 6:04 PM EDT
Welcome to the Council on Women and Girls Weekly Highlights! If you have friends or family who would like to support the efforts of the Council on Women and Girls, please visit our website and share this link with others on Facebook and Twitter.
With Labor Day (and President Obama's Jobs Package Announcement) fast approaching, our focus is on women and jobs. As Sara Manzano-Diaz, Director of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor reminds us, the Economic Recovery has been slower for women and the Council on Women and Girls is working hard to assure help in supporting populations in need. A comprehensive approach includes the soon to be announced jobs package as well as our other efforts to ensure economic security and jobs for America’s women. The strategy includes things like: ensuring pay equity, supporting women-owned small businesses, improving workplace flexibility policies, attracting and retaining women and girls to STEM fields, and helping to train women for growing industries and non-traditional jobs.
President Obama announced a commitment to double engineering internships in 2012 promising measures toward a more successful future. These commitments will add over 6,000 additional opportunities for hands-on, technical job training for future engineers.
In addition, as millions of people along the East Coast began to recover from the damage of Hurricane Irene, the President reflected on the six year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
We wish you and yours a safe and happy Labor Day weekend.
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Avra Siegel is the Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
- Posted byon September 2, 2011 at 5:21 PM EDT
As America celebrates Labor Day 2011, the Women’s Bureau honors and respects the many contributions of women workers and our women veterans; yet, the broader story of women in this country is a story of both unyielding progress and limitless potential.
Today, women comprise nearly half of our country’s workforce.They are serving our country at every level, from caring for our elderly, to teaching our children to serving at the highest levels of government. And women are breaking barriers in every field, from science to business to the Armed Forces.
Not only are women contributing to existing infrastructures, but creating opportunities for themselves. The number of women-owned businesses is growing at four times the rate of businesses owned by men. While young women are making strides in the education arena – the majority of students in our colleges and our law schools are women .
Think about that for a minute and the sea of change it represents for women in American society. Today, we celebrate the immeasurable contributions that all women workers have made, and continue to make, to our great nation.
Although much progress has been made for women workers; there is still much to be done. We can ensure that women workers prosper in the 21st century economy with the support of leaders like Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis and the courageous efforts of other trailblazing women, including:
- Lilly Ledbetter who for nearly two decades was paid less than her male colleagues for doing the very same work. She fought for what she deserved and lead the way for other women in getting what they deserve, resulting in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill President Obama signed into law in January 2009.
- Geraldine Doyle, the inspiration for the popular World War II era poster, “Rosie the Riveter,” which still inspires women and girls today to pursue nontraditional jobs. One of our top priorities in the Women’s Bureau.
- Mae Jemison, the first African American woman ever admitted into NASA’s astronaut training program, and in 1992, aboard the space shuttle Endeavor, becoming the first African-American woman in space.
- Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina and third woman on the United States Supreme Court.
We’ve also come a long way in closing the pay gap but we’re not there yet. When the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, women made 59 cents on the dollar compared to men. Today, we make approximately 80 cents on the dollar. We’re moving closer and closer to the kind of true equality that our heroines—women like Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul—imagined for us when they waged the fight for suffrage generations ago.
This Labor Day and everyday, Secretary Solis and I are committed in our vigorous support of policies that strive for equal pay for equal work and we stand firmly for the education and advancement of all women. The continued prosperity of our country must ensure that women are part of growing sectors such as science, math, and clean and new green industries. In addition, we must continue to empower women by supporting policies that guarantee their rights in the workplace, such as the enforcement of the Family Medical Leave Act, flexible workplace initiatives, and training services that help women move up the career ladder.
Learn more about the Department of Labor’s actions and commitment to improving working conditions and increasing employment opportunities for all Americans by visiting the Labor Day 2011 Web Site at http://www.dol.gov/laborday/.
To find out more about the Women’s Bureau and our priorities, visit www.dol.gov/wb.
Sara Manzano-Diaz is the Director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau.
- Posted byon September 2, 2011 at 11:41 AM EDT
Human trafficking -- the equivalent of modern day slavery -- is an affront to human dignity, and goes against everything our country stands for. And yet, it occurs in so many communities; workers are exploited for labor behind closed doors, hidden from the public eye. This includes horrific incidents of sex trafficking, where women and girls are forced into prostitution, often after being lured from other countries with promises of legitimate employment and better lives.
This week, I had the opportunity to discuss the Justice Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking at the Hispanic National Bar Association’s annual convention in Dallas, where I was honored to receive the Latino Lawyer of the Year award, and I wanted to share with you information about this important work.
The Justice Department is committed to the aggressive prosecution of human trafficking cases. In the last full fiscal year, we prosecuted more human trafficking cases than ever before. Those 52 cases charged 99 defendants with crimes related to labor and sex trafficking. Many of these cases target complex international cartels and involve many victims.
Last spring, for example, defendant Amador Cortes-Meza was sentenced to 40 years in prison on sex trafficking charges. Cortes-Meza was the ring leader of an organization that brought 10 victims, including four juveniles, from Mexico to the United States and forced them into prostitution. Once in the United States, many of the victims were beaten and threatened or their families in Mexico were threatened in order to force them to work as prostitutes against their will.
The Justice Department’s aggressive prosecution of cases like this one should send a signal to other would-be traffickers that their actions will not be tolerated in America.
Trafficking prosecutions are just one area where the Civil Rights Division is working to protect the rights of women and girls.
- Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the United States has filed seven cases under the Fair Housing Act alleging that a landlord or a landlord’s agent has engaged in a pattern or practice of sexually harassing female tenants. We have found the similarities in these cases are striking; thevictims are typically low-income women with few housing options who are subjected to what the Department of Justice has found are repeated sexual advances and, in some cases, sexual assault by landlords, property managers, and maintenance workers.
- Our pattern or practice investigation of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) marked the first time ever that the Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that a police department had engaged in a pattern or practice of gender-biased policing. Among other things, the Division found that NOPD systematically misclassified large numbers of possible sexual assaults, resulting in a sweeping failure to properly investigate many potential cases of rape, attempted rape, and other sex crimes.
- We have stepped up enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, protecting the right to access and provide reproductive health services without interference. Since 2009, the Civil Rights Division has filed eight civil FACE complaints, which have already resulted in three consent decrees. Comparatively, in 2007, one civil FACE case was filed, and in the preceding eight years, the Department did not file a single civil FACE cases.
- The Division has stepped up enforcement of employment discrimination. For example, last spring, we reached a consent decree with the Hertford County, North Carolina, Public Health Authority to resolve a claim that the Health Authority rescinded an offer of employment and refused to hire a woman for a Health Educator Specialist position after learning she was pregnant.
- The Division has also looked for opportunities to weigh in on Title IX cases. In 2009, we filed an amicus brief in a case against the Florida High School Athletics Association, which had reduced the maximum number of competitions that a school could schedule while exempting 36,000 boys who played football and only 4,300 girls and 201 boys who participated in competitive cheerleading. After the court accepted the Division’s brief, the association voted unanimously to rescind its policy.
Protecting women’s rights is a top priority for the Justice Department, and for the entire Obama Administration. The Civil Rights Division will continue its efforts to aggressively enforce civil rights laws to give meaning to the promise of equal opportunity.
Tom Perez is the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the US Department of Justice
- Posted byon August 26, 2011 at 11:07 AM EDT
As we commemorate Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, it is fitting to celebrate the many strides our Nation has made towards equality over the past 91 years. It is a day to remember those iron-jawed angels, who marched and stood vigil, who fasted and were imprisoned for that basic right—the right to vote. It is a time to recommit ourselves to continuing the struggle for full equality for women—for our mothers, grandmothers, daughters and for ourselves. And for me personally it is a time to reflect on how much I have benefited from this legacy of sacrifice and leadership to enjoy the great honor I have today of serving in the Obama Administration.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with community organizers, business leaders, faith leaders, and elected officials at Congressman Steny Hoyer’s 9th Annual Women’s Equality Day Luncheon in Clinton, Maryland. I was proud to highlight that the rights, freedoms, and welfare of women and girls has been a priority of the Obama Administration from day one.
From creating the White House Council on Women and Girls, to appointing a strong team of women leaders to his Cabinet and White House staff, President Obama has ushered in a new era of leadership. He nominated two women to the Supreme Court and nearly half of his confirmed nominees to the lower courts are women—far surpassing the previous high watermark of around 30 percent.
President Obama understands that supporting women translates into stronger families and a stronger economy. That is why over the past two and a half years, the Obama Administration has placed an emphasis on implementing policies that empower women to realize their full economic potential. The Administration has looked at issues from workplace flexibility to wage inequality, and expanded small business lending to women businesses owners though the Small Business Administration.
The Obama Administration has also made strides in women’s health. The landmark Affordable Care Act prevents insurers from charging women higher premiums than they charge men, and makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to women based on pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, being a victim of domestic violence, or pregnancy. For the first time, new insurance plans must cover preventive care for women, including: mammograms, STD/HIV testing and counseling, domestic violence counseling, contraception, and gestational diabetes screening with no deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance. Additionally, starting in 2014 all health plans will be required to cover the cost of a pregnancy — a monumental win for women. This Administration is also working to reduce teen pregnancy, improve medical care for women veterans, and end violence against women though increased funding and innovative programs.
Supporting our Nation’s families and working to improve their health is also a cornerstone of the First Lady’s agenda. From Let’s Move!, the initiative that aims to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation, to Joining Forces, the initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to support and honor our service members, veterans, and their families, the First Lady is committed to improving the lives of women and children.
The President and the First Lady are deeply committed to ensuring all women and girls can reach their highest potential, but each of us has a role to play in this fight for equality. So in honor of Women’s Equality Day I hope you will get involved in our efforts by:
- Learning more about Let’s Move!, and what you and your community can do battling childhood obesity.
- Finding ways to give back to our courageous service members, veterans and their families, and getting involved with Joining Forces.
- Visiting the Council on Women and Girls web site and staying connected with our efforts.
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