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A little while ago the President signed an Executive Order
to ensure there is always an eye kept on how every government agency is addressing the challenges confronted by women of all ages. The White House Council on Women and Girls will be chaired by Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, with Director of Public Liaison Tina Tchen serving as Executive Director, and will made up of Cabinet Secretaries and other top White House staff. It will begin its work immediately by asking each agency to analyze their current status and ensure that they are focused internally and externally on women.
During its first year, the Council will also focus on formulating comprehensive, coordinated policies in the following areas:
- Improving women’s economic security by ensuring that each of the agencies is working to directly improve the economic status of women.
- Working with each agency to ensure that the administration evaluates and develops policies that establish a balance between work and family.
- Working hand-in-hand with the Vice President, the Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women and other government officials to find new ways to prevent violence against women, at home and abroad.
- Finally, the critical work of the Council will be to help build healthy families and improve women’s health care.
President Obama opened his remarks speaking about the women in his life, before signing the Executive Order to put it all in motion:
I sign this order not just as a President, but as a son, a grandson, a husband, and a father, because growing up, I saw my mother put herself through school and follow her passion for helping others. But I also saw how she struggled to raise me and my sister on her own, worrying about how she'd pay the bills and educate herself and provide for us.
I saw my grandmother work her way up to become one of the first women bank vice presidents in the state of Hawaii, but I also saw how she hit a glass ceiling -- how men no more qualified than she was kept moving up the corporate ladder ahead of her.
I've seen Michelle, the rock of the Obama family -- (laughter) -- juggling work and parenting with more skill and grace than anybody that I know. But I also saw how it tore at her at times, how sometimes when she was with the girls she was worrying about work, and when she was at work she was worrying about the girls. It's a feeling that I share every day.
And he closed his remarks on the same note:
So now it's up to us to carry that work forward, to ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements -- and that they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers never dreamed of. That's the purpose of this Council. Those are the priorities of my presidency. And I look forward to working with all of you to fulfill them in the months and years to come.
All right, so I'm going to go sign this thing. Thank you very much.
First Lady Michelle Obama joins in the applause at the Executive Order signing ceremony Wednesday, March 11, 2009 in the East Room of the White House, creating the White House Council on Women and Girls. White House Photo/Pete Souza)