A Celebration of Women Business Owners

Yesterday, I attended a luncheon hosted by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP). WIPP has been a key partner of the Obama Administration on a range of issues from the Affordable Care Act, to business issues, and the federal budget. WIPP has also steadfastly worked with the Administration in promoting women owned small businesses.

At the WIPP luncheon, we celebrated the launch of President Obama’s Women Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program.  The Program identifies 83 industries in which women owned businesses are under-represented and sets a goal of 5% of all federal contracts be awarded to women owned small businesses in those industries.

Since his first day in office, President Obama has proposed and implemented policies that form a comprehensive plan to support women at all stages of their careers. The Administration’s policies promote economic expansion and job growth for women and support their efforts to acquire and maintain equal jobs and incomes in all fields. The President believes that the success of women and girls is encouraged by programs such as the Women Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program. These programs are vital to winning the future.

This month we honor the tradition of women’s accomplishments throughout history that have set the stage for the achievements of tomorrow. To kick-off Women’s History Month, the White House just released a new report – Women in America– which is a statistical portrait showing how women are faring in the United States today and how their lives have changed over time. The information in this report is vitally important to inform the efforts of the White House Council on Women and Girls – and in providing facts to a broad range of other stakeholders who are concerned with the well-being of women and girls in our nation.

This is the first comprehensive federal report on women since 1963, when the Commission on the Status of Women, established by President Kennedy and chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, produced a report on the conditions of women. Based on Federal data collected by the Department of Commerce and the Office of Management and Budget, the report focuses on five critical areas: people, families and income, education, employment, health, and crime and violence.  The Administration will be honoring Women’s History Month throughout March and will highlight a different section of the report every week.

The report serves as a reminder that the issues facing women today are not just women’s issues.  When women make less than men for the same work, it impacts families who then find themselves with less income and often increased challenges in making ends meet.  When a job does not offer family leave, it impacts both parents and often the entire family. When there's no affordable child care, it hurts children who wind up in second-rate care or spending afternoons alone in front of the television set. And when women owned small businesses struggle to gain federal contracts and equitable access to capital, it hinders our ability to promote a fair distribution of work.

Understanding these facts is deeply important in helping to paint a picture of the changing lives and circumstances of American women over time. But reading facts alone can never substitute for taking actions that directly address the challenges faced by women and girls of all ages and backgrounds.

Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls

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