Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • Girls Scouting Science: A Roundtable Discussion

    Ed. Note:  The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Council on Women and Girls recently launched the "Women in STEM Speakers Bureau," where top Administration female STEM specialists participate in roundtables with girls in grades 6-12 across the country. The National Science Foundation’s Cora Marrett met with students from the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri.

    Earlier this month in St. Louis I had the chance to visit with Girl Scouts from the Eastern Missouri Council to talk about science. This was a group of middle school girls, so I thought it might be difficult to engage them in conversation.  But I was wrong!  They shared their aspirations with me, and I was excited to hear about specific fields they were interested in like materials engineering and environmental design.

  • Council on Women and Girls Weekly Highlights

    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.

    This has been an important week for women, and we’ve got a lot of good information to share! In case you missed it, on Wednesday November 9th, President Obama delivered powerful remarks about the women in America at the National Women’s Law Center annual awards dinner. The dinner honored the Women Freedom Riders who valiantly fought segregation in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. Additionally, make sure to check-out Valerie Jarrett’s Op-ed in the Huffington Post from Friday, November 11, entitled “Women's Issues are America's Issues.”

    Last week, we proudly commemorated Veteran’s Day. Women make up 7.5 percent of Veterans in America, (1.8 million women), and that number is expected to grow to 10 percent by 2020. We continue our work to honor our promise to women veterans. In addition, on November 10th, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about what private companies are doing to help military families and the President launched the Veteran’s Job Bank.

    On Saturday, November 12, the President and the First Lady traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers and Economic Leaders’ Meeting to discuss an agenda for growth in the Asia Pacific region. Earlier this fall, as you will remember, the U.S. hosted the APEC Women and the Economy Summit in San Francisco where the leaders adopted the San Francisco Declaration on Women and the Economy and Valerie Jarrett opened the Summit. It is important to note that the Leader’s Statement, the Foreign and Trade Ministers’ Statement and the Finance Ministers’ statement all pledge to adopt and implement the San Francisco Declaration, fully recognizing and endorsing the fact that the economic empowerment of women is a strategy for growth in the region and around the world. Additionally, Secretary Clinton delivered remarks with Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine at the APEC CEO Summit on women and the economy that you can view here.

  • Regional Town Hall Meetings Focus on Engaging Men in Ending Violence Against Women

    In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development collaborated to hold ten town hall events throughout the country on the topic of Engaging Men and Boys in Ending Violence Against Women.

    These town halls provided a unique opportunity for federal and community partners to participate in important discussions regarding the inclusion of men in ending violence against women and helped to further the efforts of those working tirelessly for this cause in local and regional communities across the nation.

  • Domestic Violence Awareness Month Around the Country

    Lynn Rosenthal DV

    In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Lynn Rosenthal, left, moderates a 'Champions of Change' event to honor 14 individuals and organizations, from across the country, that are focused on ending domestic violence in their communities. (Photo by Riana Lynn) October 20, 2011.

    This October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month took me around the country to participate in a variety of listening sessions, conferences, and local events. In many of the communities I visited, I hosted roundtable meetings with local domestic violence advocates to hear about their successes in the field as well as the challenges they are facing every day.

     In early October, I traveled to Radnor, Pennsylvania to give an address at the Cabrini College Domestic Violence Symposium. The Symposium was part of Cabrini College’s broader initiatives on domestic violence education. While passing through Philadelphia, I had the chance to meet with local advocates who serve the Philadelphia community and bring their concerns back to the White House.

    Later that week, I returned to Washington D.C.  to participate in a panel at the Center for American Progress (CAP) on domestic violence safety and services in communities of color, discuss violence against women efforts at the World Bank, and participate in an Interagency Meeting and Listening Session for Tribal Leaders at the White House.

  • Women's Issues Are America's Issues

    Ed note: This Op-ed was featured in the Huffington Post on Friday, November 11, 2011.

    On Wednesday, November 9, 2011, President Obama addressed a dinner hosted by the National Women’s Law Center, and delivered a powerful speech on the importance of continuing the fight for equality for women and girls. The dinner honored women Freedom Riders, who put their own lives in jeopardy in order to fight for the end of segregation in the South.

    It was an honor to spend an evening with these courageous women, and it was a moment when our nation’s past and present were truly woven together. One Freedom Rider whispered to the President Obama that on the day he was born, August 4, 1961, she was in jail in Mississippi.

    The Freedom Riders’ stories should remind us all that change is hard. Very hard. It takes time. But with conviction, determination, and sacrifice, change is always possible. And when it comes to securing equal rights and opportunities for America’s women and girls, our country has made great progress in just a few short years.

    Change is the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the very first bill President Obama signed into law, which strengthens a woman’s right to equal pay.

    Change is health care reform that makes it illegal to deny coverage for women with pre-existing conditions such as breast cancer or being a victim of domestic violence, and requires insurance companies to cover preventive care, including mammograms and contraception.

    Change is investing in STEM education for girls, so that America’s women can be equally represented in the next generation of scientists, researchers, and engineers.

    Change is nominating two women to the Supreme Court, so that for the first time in American history, three of the nine justices are women. 

    Change is creating the White House Council on Women and Girls, which focuses every federal department and agency on working together to improve the lives of women and girls, recognizing that the issues that primarily affect women are not just women’s issues. When a woman is paid equally for equal work, her family is better off, her community is healthier, and our economy grows. When women succeed, America succeeds.

  • Honoring Women Veterans: A Message from Under Secretary Alison Hickey

    Secretary Shinseki Hands Out a Challenge Coin

    Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki hands out challenge coins after meeting with Veterans Affairs workers at the Fort Harrison VA Regional Office in Helena, Mont., July 6, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    A woman whom I have always respected and admired is Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a leader amongst men. She was generations ahead of her time and she had an uncanny ability to move women to act.  In 1942, as this country was engrossed in a war like we had never seen, she said, “This is not a time when women should be patient. We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability and every weapon possible. Women pilots, in this case, are a weapon waiting to be used.”

    Her words became a rally cry in my life when I joined the Air Force and entered the first class of women to enroll at the Air Force Academy. It was my rally cry then, it was my rally cry throughout my career, and it still motivates me today as I lead the Veterans Benefits Administration within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Eleanor’s words appealed to a young woman in 1976 about to embark on an adventure I could only imagine because they reminded me that women can make a difference in military service to this nation. I knew this because the women who had served in the military before me had made the difference – their service had made the difference to me: they broke barriers that allowed me to enroll in the Academy and eventually achieve the rank of brigadier general.

    Today, women serve in the US military in unprecedented numbers – 12 percent of those who have served since September 11 are women. Women are the fastest growing population within the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Women have the honor of wearing the uniform – something that only 10 percent of the entire U.S. population can claim – because of the women who served before us and broke down barriers.

    During the Revolutionary War, women had to disguise themselves as men to serve. The most famous woman credited with doing this is Deborah Sampson of Plympton, Massachusetts. She was only discovered after she was wounded for the third time. She received an honorable discharge and war pension.

    Sampson made a difference to Dr. Mary Walker who did not have to disguise herself to serve. Dr. Mary Walker became the first woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for casualty care she provided to Civil War soldiers. She also wrote legislation that created a permanent nurse corps. Walker made the difference to more than 33,000 Army and Navy nurses who served during World War I The Military nurses made the difference to countless service members whose lives they saved.

    During World War II, women flew airplanes in the Women Airforce Service Pilots – WASP. They flew stateside as ferries, test pilots and anti-aircraft artillery trainers. The Navy created WAVES -- Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service – women reservists who defended America.The Marine Corps created the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, and the Coast Guard established the Women’s Reserve.The women who served in these units made the difference. Their dedication to our country showed that women are as capable as men, and in 1948 women were granted permanent status in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and the newly created Air Force.

    In Korea, 500 Army nurses served in combat zones healing our injured. In the 1960s, about 7,000 military women served in Southwest Asia. In the 1970s the academies and ROTC opened to women.

    In 1983, the Army named a woman, Galen Grant, the first “Drill Sergeant of the Year.” I am sure Galen Grant’s service made the difference to Army Sgt. Major Teresa King, who in 2009 became the first woman commandant of the Army Drill School at Ft. Jackson SC. where she still currently serves. I can only imagine how future generations of service women Sgt. Maj. King will impact.

    In the 1990s women continued breaking barriers and impacting future generations. My Air Force Academy classmate, Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, became the fist U.S. military woman in space aboard the Shuttle endeavor. In 2005, Army National Guard Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester of Kentucky became the first woman since World War II to receive the Silver Star for combat action.

    Today, women serve multiple rotations performing security patrols in war zones even though the ban on combat has not officially been lifted. They fly jets, serve aboard ships, gather our intelligence, provide security, patrol dangerous environments, and execute their military duties flawlessly.

    At the Department of Veterans Affairs, we honor the service of all Veterans -- all 23 million alive today. We honor their families who support them throughout their service, and we honor their survivors who make unimaginable sacrifices everyday in the absence of their loved ones.

    We are working harder than ever to reach out to women Veterans, many of whom do not embrace their identities as Veterans. We want them to know about the programs they have earned with their service. We want each woman who has served in uniform to proudly call themselves Veterans.

    The VA Center for Women Veterans is focused on women Veterans’ issues and advocates for Women Veterans by helping to shape for VA, our partners, and policy makers, what it means to treat women Veterans with dignity and respect.

    The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has Women Veterans Program Managers at all VA medical centers and at outpatient clinics in the community. VHA has built a program that helps women Veterans navigate the VA medical system and utilize our women-specific wellness and comprehensive medical programs.

    At the Veterans Benefits Administration, we’re expanding our numbers of full-time Women Veterans Benefits Coordinators, who are trained and focused on helping women.These coordinators will advocate for women Veterans in every one of our 57 regional offices.

    Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has formed a VA Task Force on Women Veterans to identify gaps in services and opportunities to better serve women Veterans, and develop results-oriented recommendations to advance VA's efforts to address women Veterans' needs. He is committed to breaking down all barriers in VA to better serve our women Veterans.

    The efforts include championing our Homeless Women Veterans Pilot Project, which was created to provide a safe environment for homeless women Veterans to obtain the services they need.

    We also are devoting resources to help women Veterans find jobs. These women have extraordinary skills, abilities and commitment that I know employers want in their employees.

    “This is not a time when women should be patient,” Eleanor said. Generations of military women have heard that call and taken it to heart. I am proud of their legacy and I am proud to be a part of it. I am honored to serve all Veterans, their families and their survivors. I am a Veteran!

    Thank you for your service and happy Veterans Day.

    Allison A. Hickey is the Under Secretary for Benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs.