Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • 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.

  • This Is Our Future: Attracting Women and Minorities to the Wind Industry

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from

    This past Wednesday, the Energy Department livestreamed  a conversation between Energy Secretary Steven Chu and U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), two leaders and champions of renewable energy innovation. The topic at hand – the future of the U.S. wind industry – was driven by questions from a live audience and participants online using Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and email to ask Energy about wind technology, policy, and careers.

    The last question of this important discussion asked how we can ensure that women and minorities are involved in wind energy jobs. As the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has reported, there is a large interest and achievement gap in many STEM jobs in United States, resulting in serious underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM.

    Senator Mark Udall spoke about the need to invest in community college, land grant, and state University STEM programs, which are training students to be part of the future and current clean energy economy. “This is happening, this is our future,” Senator Mark Udall said. “It’s so important for America to invest in its people, its human capital.”

  • White House Announces Judges for Equal Futures App Challenge

    (Picture drawn by Abigail Dabu, Age 14)

    “…I would like to run for some political office when I grow up.  Why?  Because there are so many changes that need to be made regarding important issues that are not happening.  And we need more women making decisions in our country!” --  Meera Kota, Age 15

    “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.” -- President Barack Obama,  September 21, 2011

    Building on President Obama’s challenge at the UN General Assembly in September 2011, the United States will be 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.   

    Among the United States’ commitments through this partnership are new efforts to promote civic education and public leadership for girls, including the launch of an Equal Futures App Challenge earlier this year: to create an app that promotes civic education and/or inspires girls to serve as leaders in our democracy.

    Today we are pleased to announce that the following leaders have signed on to act as judges:

    ·      Representative Barbara Ballard
    ·      Anna Maria Chavez, CEO, Girl Scouts
    ·      Geena Davis, Academy Award-Winning Actor; Founder, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
    ·      Jack Dorsey, Creator and Co-Founder, Twitter; Founder and CEO, Square
    ·      Tiffany Dufu, President, the White House Project
    ·      Jocelyn Goldfein, Director of Engineering, Facebook
    ·      Mayor Elizabeth Kautz
    ·      Senator Lisa Murkowski
    ·      Andrew Shue, Co-Founder,; Co-Founder,
    ·      Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis
    ·      Judy Vredenburgh, President and CEO, Girls Inc.

  • An Inclusive Vision Of Entrepreneurship

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from

    Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the National Association of Women Business Owner’s (NAWBO) conference in Louisville. It was a chance to talk about the issues and the opportunities that women business owners and entrepreneurs face as they build innovative and successful companies across the United States.

    Forty years ago, women owned just 5 percent of all small businesses. Today, women own 30 percent, which equals a total of 7.8 million companies generating $1.2 trillion a year in sales.

    These are entrepreneurs like Rachel Carson, whose company Helicopter Tech, Inc., is selling aviation products and equipment to over 23 countries. Rachel is using SBA’s export loan products to expand her business into lucrative markets around the world. Another example is Ms. Jenny’s Pickles in North Carolina. After the market turned, Jenny Fulton partnered with her assistant, Ashlee Furr, to start their pickle business. They worked with an SBA counselor and now their products are sold in grocery stores all over the US. 

    That’s what we are focused on across the SBA. Ensuring that more small business owners and entrepreneurs have the access and opportunity they need to turn great business ideas into viable and successful businesses. And we are continuing to look for new ways to support and strengthen women small business owners and entrepreneurs. 

  • Launching the Equal Futures Partnership to Expand Women’s Political and Economic Participation

    It is no secret that the world has yet to achieve the simple yet profound goal of ensuring equal futures for our daughters and our sons. Today, less than five percent of the world’s heads of state are women, and women make up just nineteen percent of representatives in parliaments worldwide. Despite producing more than forty percent of the world’s food, women own less than one percent of the world’s farmland. 

    Recognizing these disparities, one year ago in a speech before the UN General Assembly, President Obama challenged heads of state to break down political and economic barriers to women’s equality.  Last week, Secretary Clinton launched a groundbreaking response to the President’s challenge: the Equal Futures Partnership. The United States was joined by twelve other founding members (Australia, Bangladesh, Benin, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, the Netherlands, Peru, Senegal and Tunisia, along with the EU) each of whom made national commitments to policy, legal, and regulatory reforms that would promote two mutually reinforcing goals: expanded economic opportunity for women; and, increased political and civic participation by women at local, state and national levels. Around 250 guests -- including Senator Patrick Leahy, President Jahjaga of Kosovo, Prime Minister Simpson-Miller of Jamaica, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, academic leaders, CEOs of major companies, and representatives from civil society organizations -- attended the standing-room only event.