Council on Women and Girls Blog
- Posted byon August 19, 2011 at 5:24 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.
This week President Obama traveled to the Midwest where he met with Americans in rural towns and communities in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. The purpose of his trip, dubbed the Economic Rural Tour 2011, was to talk to people from different walks of life about what is happening in our country right now.
In addition, President Obama signed an executive order extending the Federal Government’s commitment to equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion is critical for the Federal Government as an employer:
Avra Siegel is the Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
- Posted byon August 12, 2011 at 9:36 PM EDT
Washington, DC is home to a large population of underprivileged and impoverished women and girls. This generation of young women is facing obstacles far greater than most can imagine. These hardships range from generational poverty, peer pressure, early pregnancy, and gang violence.
In response to this issue, members of the Council on Women & Girls and other White House staff held a briefing on the importance of mentorship in the lives of young girls. This briefing featured a dialogue between six female Administration staffers and a local DC area youth mentoring group, the Lovely Ladies of Laurel Mentoring Group (LLOL Mentoring).
LLOL Mentoring was created by Eisenhower Middle School special education teacher, Celeste Hill. In 2009, Hill wanted to build a safe space for teenage girls to thrive after a troubled student she taught committed suicide at the age of 13. LLOL has since changed the lives of over 138 girls from low-income areas and underperforming schools. This program provides after-school mentoring and tutoring to girls in addition to preparing students for college.
Mentorship affords young girls the opportunity to create a brighter future for themselves and their peers. When a child is given the chance to succeed academically and socially, they begin to thrive in a remarkable manner. As a mentor, I’ve learned that when you give a young girl the tools to shape her future through public service, she then begins to believe that she can change the world.
The LLOL Mentoring Program continues to teach youth that they too can change the world around them. Angel Tillery, an LLOL mentee and student at Laurel High School stated, “[The LLOL Mentoring Program] means a lot to me because it changed my life. I was headed on the path of destruction just like the other girls in my community. Now, I look at them and say that could have been me. I'm glad I have a mentor to guide me on the correct path and all girls need someone like that.”
As Angel began to tell us about her journey to success, White House staffers began to join the LLOL mentees in sharing their stories of personal triumph is in the face of adversity. This dialogue served as a platform for speakers to inspire youth leaders by sharing their path to achieving success in their respective fields.
In 2009, President Obama created the Council on Women & Girls. The purpose of the Council is "to ensure that each of the agencies in which they're charged takes into account the needs of women and girls in the policies they draft, the programs they create, the legislation they support" and that the true purpose of our government is "to ensure that in America, all things are still possible for all people." As leaders, we can ensure the needs of women and girls are met by supporting America’s greatest natural resource, our youth.
Avra Siegel, the Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls reflected on yesterday’s briefing: “The benefits of mentoring cannot be underestimated, both for the mentee and the mentor. The young women I met yesterday were truly inspirational and made me feel even more passionate about the work that the White House Council on Women and Girls does to help the women and girls of America. These women are the future of America.”
The success of LLOL Mentoring proves that we must begin investing in community driven programs. These initiatives hold the ability to alter the lives of girls by showing them even thought they are might be facing the impossible, it doesn’t mean they can’t do the unimaginable.
As human beings, we hold within our hand the opportunity to change the lives of others through mentorship. We all hold the capability to inspire others with our life experiences, guidance, and wisdom. It is up to us to take this opportunity to invest in our communities.
Take this time to mentor. Get involved. Become active. Be the change you wish to see in your community by joining the efforts of the White House Council on Women & Girls.
Ola Ojewumi is an Intern in the White House Office of Public Engagement & Intergovernmental Affairs.
- Posted byon August 12, 2011 at 8:48 PM EDT
Welcome to the Council on Women and Girls Weekly Highlights! This week, Dr. Biden traveled to Kenya where relief operations are underway to help the thousands of refugees affected by the devastating famine in Somalia. Visiting with women and children at the Dadaab Refugee Complex, Dr. Biden – joined by former U.S. Senator Bill Frist, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz, and Special Assistant to the President Gayle Smith– witnessed firsthand the effects of one of worst droughts in 60 years and the resulting famine in Somalia. 29,000 children under the age of five have died in the past three months and more than 12 million people across the Horn of Africa are in urgent need of care.
President Obama visited an advanced battery manufacturing plant in Holland, MI to highlight the key role that innovative technologies will play in the future of the U.S. auto industry. He sympathized with the frustration Americans are feeling over the inaction in Washington, and acknowledged that partisan politics are getting in the way of our nation’s ability to create jobs and erase the legacy of debt that is hanging over the economy. “President Obama urged Americans to use the current Congressional break as an opportunity to talk to their Representatives and tell them to take the necessary steps to grow our economy.
Remember, 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.
Avra Siegel is the Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
- Posted byon August 4, 2011 at 2:36 PM EDT
The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) today issued the second in a series of reports on science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM – jobs and higher education.
As expected, the report, Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation, finds there are fewer women than men in STEM jobs and attaining degrees in STEM fields. While women make up 48 percent of the U.S. workforce, they hold only 24 percent of STEM jobs.
Yet more women attend college than men. More women graduate from college than men. And more women attend post-college programs than men. As women have steadily caught up and surpassed men in several measures of educational attainment over the past several decades, their underrepresentation in STEM fields has nevertheless remained fairly constant.
- Posted byon August 3, 2011 at 5:54 PM EDT
Bringing a new child into a family and buying a house are two momentous and happy occasions for any family. When HUD’s Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity (FHEO) learned that some mortgage lenders had policies or practices that make qualifying for a mortgage more difficult for pregnant women or parents on parental leave, we leapt into action. We knew that treating pregnant women and parents differently when issuing a mortgage could be a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender or family status, amongst other categories.
With the help of Moms Rising, a 1.1 million member strong virtual community, we are uncovering cases around the country. Our partners at Moms Rising describe the stories of mortgage discrimination their members report as “heartbreaking and infuriating.” I would add one more word: “Illegal.”
I got to know Dr. Elizabeth Budde, an Asian American immigrant who has become a top cancer researcher in Seattle. Dr. Budde initially received approval for a mortgage while she was pregnant, but the offer was rescinded when she took maternity leave after the birth of her child. Dr. Budde stepped forward to bring this issue to light, and inspired others to bring forward their own stories of discrimination. A dedicated team in our FHEO office is leading the way to provide relief to Dr. Budde and other victims of discriminatory mortgage policies and to foster industry changes so that families will no longer face roadblocks to qualifying for a mortgage.
This week, I accepted a Superhero Award from Moms Rising on behalf of our team, who did the real work. Together, all of us will continue to make progress for women and their families because fair treatment when getting a home loan is a real family value. Housing discrimination based on gender or against families with children was not covered when President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law in 1968, but has since been added to the list of protected groups. These types of discrimination, along with disability, race, religious and national origin discrimination, constitute important parts of our work today.
For more information and HUD help on housing discrimination, call 1-800-669-9777 or visit www.hud.gov/fairhousing.
John Trasvina is Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Posted byon August 1, 2011 at 5:34 PM EDT
On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) announced historic new guidelines that will allow women to access important preventive health services as part of the Affordable Care Act. This afternoon, I joined Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, on a conference call with several women’s, youth and health organizations where we discussed the new ruling and its impact on America’s women, girls and families.
We all know that women and men face different sets of health risks, which require different systems of care and coverage. Before Friday’s ruling, however, preventive services for women had been only been recommended one-by-one, or as part of guidelines targeted toward men as well.
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