Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • White House Announces Girl emPower as Equal Futures Challenge Notable App

    At the UN General Assembly in September 2011, President Obama issued the following challenge:

    “This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands.”

    In response, the United States is working with countries around the world as part of a new international effort – the Equal Futures Partnership – to politically and economically empower women in each of our countries. As part of this effort, the White House launched the Equal Futures App Challenge to spur the creation of apps that inspire girls to become leaders in our democracy. Check out this video message about the challenge from President Obama:

    After a rigorous round of review from our panel of distinguished judges – including Jack Dorsey, Creator and Co-Founder of Twitter, and Academy Award-winning actor and advocate, Geena Davis – we’re thrilled to announce our notable app: Girl emPower, created by Laura Phelps and Andrew Cavanagh.

    This free iPad app includes the following features designed to inspire girls to serve as leaders in our government:

    • A map highlighting women members of Congress all across the country that allows users to immediately learn about their biographies, read their latest tweets about the issues they’re focusing on, review their websites, and more. 
    • Inspiring videos of distinguished women leaders talking about their diverse career paths.
    • A collection of fun facts about how our government works and a quiz game that allows users to test their knowledge of what they’ve learned.

    This app is ready to download – spread the word and help us inspire the civic leaders of tomorrow!

    Sarah Hurwitz is the Senior Advisor to the White House Council on Women and Girls

    Brian Forde is the Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer for Mobile and Data Innovation 

  • Students Invent the Future

    A rocket that launched raw eggs. A device that improves vision without glasses. And a mobile application for parents, created by a babysitter. Yesterday, I heard about and saw these amazing projects and more, at one of the liveliest events of the year—the third annual White House Science Fair. We welcomed 100 students from more than 40 states, representing 45 different STEM competitions and organizations.

    The White House Science Fair is a key commitment in the President’s Educate to Innovate campaign to inspire more girls and boys to excel in STEM subjects. As the President has noted, “If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you're a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too.”

    I had the opportunity to visit several of the 30 exhibits, and met students like Jessika Baral, from Fremont, California, who created a device to strengthen eye muscles and improve peripheral vision in children and adults by as much as 87%. And Shaquiesha Davis, from Chicago, who created a mobile application, Baby B 4 Me, to help give parents a sense of comfort while their children are in the care of a babysitter or nanny. She drew upon her own babysitting experience to create this technology, and wants to one day write books to teach children how to code. And a trio of high school girls, Isabella Marie Leighton, Dalia Ivon Castillo, and Ruth Marie Moltz Long, from San Antonio, who made and launched a rocket full of eggs to a precise altitude and landed the rocket in a specific time window. 

    I also visited with Cassidy Wright, from Boston, who created a light-up banner made with LED lights to encourage teens to be themselves, as well as Chevanne Binns-Wallace from Baltimore, who built a underwater robot.

    These young women and men are an inspiration for our efforts to encourage STEM careers, especially for girls. Throughout the Administration, including the White House Council on Women and Girls and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, we are launching initiatives that include STEM mentoring and education.

    President Obama also visited several exhibits. He concluded by giving remarks to the group, and noted that yesterday was Earth Day, when the world comes together to reflect on how we can better preserve the world for future generations. Fittingly, several of the exhibits focused on energy technology. 

    President Obama also announced new commitments for STEM education and innovation, such as a new AmeriCorps track for STEM and new mentoring campaigns.

    In his remarks yesterday to the students, President Obama said, “We’re here to celebrate these young scientists and visionaries who dream, and create, and innovate; who ask the question, why not?  Why not try something better? Something that’s faster; something that helps more people. And that drive, that refusal to give up, that focus on the future is part of what makes America great.”

    I was incredibly inspired and excited by all the students I met yesterday. Combined with hard work and persistence, the students showed us that the future is as limitless as their imagination.

    Valerie B. Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. She is also the Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls and oversees the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.

  • Women in Foreign Policy and Politics

    How to find a mentor. How to face a difficult challenge.  The definition of success. These were just a few of the topics covered during the two events we held yesterday in honor of Women’s History Month. Here at the White House, we’ve had a whirlwind Women’s History Month, which has been full of discussions, events, and even a film screening.

    In just the past two weeks, we’ve welcomed guests to a mentoring panel event and an East Room celebration with President Obama and the First Lady, highlighting President Obama’s commitment to supporting women and girls. Just yesterday, we hosted a group of students at a panel and screening of the “Makers: Women Who Make America” documentary. We closed out the month with two great events focused on career development.

    Women in Foreign Policy

    First, the East Room was transformed into a foreign policy classroom as we welcomed college and graduate students from across Washington DC for a discussion on Women in Foreign Policy. Our panel of seasoned practitioners shared stories and advice about breaking into foreign policy and national security careers. The panelists included:

    • Linda Etim, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa for USAID. In this capacity, she oversees the Office of Sudan and South Sudan Programs and the Office of West African Affairs. Prior to joining USAID, Linda served as the White House Director for Sudan, South Sudan, and East African Affairs.
    • Caitlin Hayden, Spokesperson for the National Security Council here at the White House. Caitlin also has spent time at State, focusing on press, speechwriting and South and Central Asia policy. She also has worked as the spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
    • Michele Flournoy, Former Undersecretary for Defense for Policy.  In that role, she was the principal adviser to the Secretary of Defense in the formulation of national security and defense policy, oversight of military plans and operations, and in National Security Council deliberations.
    • Maria Otero, Former Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, U.S. State Department. In her position, Maria oversaw U.S. foreign policy issues of democracy and human rights, trafficking, rule of law, crisis prevention and response, global criminal justice, countering violent extremism and much more.

    Nia-Malika Henderson, a national political reporter for The Washington Post, moderated the panel. The panelists offered some bits of advice for the young women in the audience:

    Learn languages. Don’t be afraid to take the unbeaten path. And travel to another country, in order to be the global citizen you need to be to represent the United States.

    See below for the full video.

    African American Women on the Hill Panel

    Later in the afternoon, we hosted an African American Women on the Hill panel.  African American women working in Capitol Hill or other political and policy organizations for a lively discussion with a panel of White House staffers, who shared their stories about how they became passionate about public service, how they ended up at the White House, and how they define success. The panelists, which included Danielle Crutchfield, Assistant to the President and Director of Scheduling and Advance, Racquel Russell, Deputy Assistant to the President on Economic Mobility and Urban Affairs, Tonya Williams, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Legislative Affairs for the Vice President, encouraged the audience to stay true to themselves, to reach out and help others as they professionally advance, and to learn from every opportunity.

    It is our hope that the events provided guidance, encouragement, and perspective for all who attended. If their energy and enthusiasm is any indication, our next generation of leaders is ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st century and change the world. 

    Avra Siegel is the Deputy Executive Director of the White House  Council on Women and Girls

  • 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.