Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • Women in Silicon Valley Leading the Way

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from The Commerce Blog

    Yesterday, I met with women who are fostering entrepreneurship and innovation in our economy through their leadership at top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley.

    We discussed the need for more girls and women to be able to find opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, where women comprise less than one-fourth of the workforce. We also discussed how women are investing in and leading startups and businesses in key areas that support U.S. competitiveness, such as clean energy, healthcare, telecommunications, bioscience, and other fast-growing fields.

    It's clear that women investors play a crucial role in helping ensure that the best private-sector ideas - including those coming from women entrepreneurs - get the resources they need to help build companies and create jobs.

    Strengthening the role of women in business and technology is an important goal of the Obama Administration, supported by the White House Council on Women and Girls. The Commerce Department, for its part, offers post-doctoral research opportunities, scholarships, and unique experiences aimed at encouraging girls to consider fulfilling and rewarding careers in STEM fields. 

  • Announcing AAPI Women Champions of Change

    We know that the American people are the source of some of the best ideas and most innovative solutions. That’s why the White House Champions of Change series spotlights ordinary citizens who are demonstrating extraordinary commitment to their community, their country, and their fellow citizens.

    Across the country, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women are doing extraordinary things to create a more equal, safe, and prosperous future.  In business, the arts, civil rights, health, and so many other fields, AAPI women are helping to improve the lives of their fellow Americans.

    This May, on the occasion of AAPI Heritage Month, the White House Office of Public Engagement, White House Council on Women and Girls, and White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will honor a small group of AAPI women as Champions of Change. And we want your help! Members of the public are invited to submit nominations online until Friday, March 29, 2013. A small group of AAPI women who represent diverse experiences and backgrounds will be honored as Champions of Change and invited to the White House for an event in early May.

    Click here to nominate an AAPI woman as a Champion of Change before Friday, March 29, 2013 (Note: Under “Theme of Service” please choose “AAPI Women Leaders”)

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact For the latest news on this and other efforts by the Obama Administration to engage the AAPI community, please sign up for updates.

    Tina Tchen is Chief of Staff to the First Lady and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. 

    Ruchi Bhowmik is Deputy Cabinet Secretary.

  • Working Toward a Tech Sector that Reflects America

    Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Technology Inclusion Summit, hosted by Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Level Playing Field Institute. It was an amazing gathering of private and public partners who are united in their efforts to expand opportunities for training, education and jobs in technology.

    President Obama has always believed that technology is an essential part of growing our economy, creating jobs and remaining globally competitive. The President continues to be committed to encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit in our country, starting with setting a goal of 1 million Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) graduates over the next decade. This effort also means that we need to collectively act to knock down any barriers that stand in the way.

    Last August, during the Tech Inclusion Roundtable, participants came up with some great private-sector initiatives to help drive innovation across every community. Whether it was pioneering new educational tools for students of all ages, bringing technical training to underrepresented communities, or mobilizing tech company CEOs to establish mentoring programs for young people, every one of these initiatives and ideas has the potential to shape America’s future.

  • National Freedom Day: A Commitment to End Modern Slavery

    Today is National Freedom Day, commemorating President Lincoln’s signing of the joint resolution that led to the Constitution’s 13th Amendment banning slavery in the United States. It is a day when freedom for all Americans is celebrated. Yet, almost 150 years later, while one form of slavery has been abolished in our country, another has quietly flourished around the world.

    From forced labor to sex trafficking to child soldiers, modern slavery entails the use of force, fraud, or coercion of another for the purposes of exploitation. An estimated 20 million men, women and children around the world, including thousands in the United States, are living in bondage, confirming that the fight to end slavery is far from over. Today we reflect on what we’ve accomplished and recommit ourselves to what President Obama called “one of the great human rights causes of our time.”

    USAID has been committed to combating human trafficking for over a decade, programming more than $180 million in nearly 70 countries since 2001. Our efforts are part of a larger government-wide approach that has involved nearly every federal department and agency. Today, we are expanding our commitment, answering President Obama’s call to end this barbaric human rights offense.  

    A year ago at the White House, we launched a new Counter-Trafficking in Persons Policy (C-TIP), focusing on concrete, measurable principles and objectives that include increasing institutional accountability within USAID and leveraging innovation, 21st century technology, and partnerships to combat trafficking. 

  • Encouraging Women to Lead in Public Service

    We recently had the privilege at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to welcome our fellow Americans to a series of open house events here at our headquarters in Washington, D.C. This was part of a larger effort by Federal agencies to host activities for members of the public visiting our nation’s capital ahead of the Presidential Inauguration. Along with showcasing the important work of our own employees, the open house events also allowed us to solicit new ideas from leaders and citizens across the nation on important issues that face our country.

    OPM Women's Roundtable

    Moderator Eleanor Clift (pictured at left) guided the discussion featuring (from left to right) Representative Kyrsten Sinema, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at DOI Rhea Suh, Policy Director to First Lady Jocelyn Frye, and Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez. (Photo from Office of Personnel Management)

    One of my favorite events here at OPM was our “Women in Public Service” roundtable which featured Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Director of Policy and Special Projects for the First Lady Jocelyn Frye, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at DOI Rhea Suh, and Girl Scouts Chief Executive Officer Anna Maria Chávez. The panel event tackled how we might encourage and sustain more women taking leadership tracks within public service – whether that means government service, elected office, the non-profit world, or volunteering with their communities.

    At the beginning of the President’s term, women made up 29 percent of the Federal government’s senior executive service positions. That is now up to 34 percent. That’s a tremendous improvement and a great start, but we’ve got more work to do. That’s why it was so thrilling to hear this panel and our public guests discuss how we reduce the barriers women still often face within their tracks to positions of leadership.

    We were also glad to help job-seekers navigate the Federal hiring process with our find and apply workshop and our Veterans employment training. A tour of our Innovation Lab, and a short session with our facilitators let us showcase the efforts we’re making to spur innovations that get better, more efficient government. And discussions on disability employment and Hispanic employment issues brought together leaders from the public and private sectors to share ideas about what we can continue to do and what we can do better to boost recruitment among these two underrepresented groups. Apart from discussing our work and gathering great ideas, the dialogue with participants at each event reinforced the continued importance of our efforts to look beyond the Washington Beltway for best practices which can serve the American public. 

    Liz Montoya is the Chief of Staff at the Office of Personnel Management

  • Codeathons Expand to Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Boston in Support of the White House Equal Futures App Challenge

    Back in September of 2011, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama issued a call to action to countries around the world to “break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls.”  As part of America’s answer to this call, the White House launched the Equal Futures App Challenge – to create apps that inspire girls and young women to become leaders in our democracy.

    Following on the first-ever White House Codeathon this past December, tech companies, non-profits and youth and education organizations across the country joined together to support this challenge by hosting a series of codeathons that took place simultaneously in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Boston earlier this month.

    Altogether, around 125 seasoned technologists and girls of all ages spent the day brainstorming and building apps to submit to the challenge. And we were excited to join all three of the codeathons via video conference and see so many eager and inspired coders ready to tackle such an important issue.

    As a result of these codeathons, teams are hard at work designing and developing their way to new apps that inspire girls to run for office and serve as leaders in their communities and our government.