At Home and Abroad, Breaking Down Barriers for Women and Girls

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, at an event addressing women’s political participation.

As a woman who discovered a true passion for public service, this topic is one for which I care very deeply. My parents raised me to believe that if I worked hard and focused on my goals, there were no limits to what I could accomplish. My responsibility as the Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls is to help ensure that all women and girls have that same opportunity.

I’m proud to say that President Obama shares this goal. His dream is for his daughters to grow up in a world where they can compete on an even playing field. A world where women have access to equal education, equal pay, and equal opportunity.

The President is determined that America will do its part to help empower women around the world.  Under the new U.S. National Action Plan for Women, Peace, and Security, all U.S. government personnel who serve in conflict-affected areas will be responsible for making that sure women are part of the peacemaking process. At the UN last year, Secretary Clinton signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. And during President Obama’s address to the 2011 UN General Assembly, he reaffirmed his commitment to increasing women’s participation, and called upon member states to announce the steps they are taking to break down economic and political barriers for women and girls. 

President Obama also intends to lead by example here in the United States, by harnessing the extraordinary talent of women and girls as we create an America that’s built to last. 

That is why the very first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps protect a woman’s right to equal pay. It’s why he has invested in science and math education for girls, so that more women have the ability to compete for the jobs of the future. And it’s why he’s promoted workplace flexibility so that parents can successfully balance their careers and their families.

It’s why he has committed his Administration to ending domestic violence and human trafficking.  And it’s why he signed the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against women, and requires them to provide women with preventive care without co-pays so we do not allow cost or access to healthcare to get in the way of taking care of ourselves.

President Obama has also taken historic steps to bring more women into senior levels of public service, placing women in many of the highest positions within his administration. Nearly 50 percent of his appointees to district courts are women, by far the highest percentage of any President in American history. He has already appointed two women to the Supreme Court, including the first Latina. And he recently nominated the first woman to be a four-star general in the history of the Air Force.

The President knows that empowering women is key to the competitiveness of our country. When women succeed, we all succeed.

There is much work left to do, but if we remain dedicated to our goal, we will continue to make progress. We will strive to give women and girls opportunities that were out of reach for their mothers and grandmothers. And we can leave behind a world that is more fair, more just, more safe, and more prosperous than the one we inherited.

Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls
Related Topics: Foreign Policy, Women
JUMP TO: