Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • Watch and Engage: Girls in STEM

    Women and girls continue to be significantly underrepresented in the STEM fields – a trend that starts early and comes at a serious cost to both the career prospects of our young women and the success of our economy. By ensuring women and girls receive the exposure, encouragement, and support they need to enter and succeed in STEM fields, this country can benefit from the full range and diversity of its talent. 

    The White House Council on Women and Girls is excited to announce a White House event that features a panel of trailblazing women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields who will share their experiences and encourage young women to follow in their footsteps – or blaze a trail of their own. Watch the event live at tomorrow, Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 10:30am ET. During the event, panelists will answer questions from a live audience and also take questions submitted online. Ask your questions here or on Twitter using the hashtag #GirlsInSTEM.

    This event will also include the very first public screening of “Girls in STEM,” a video on girls in STEM, featuring footage from girls who participated in the 2012 White House Science Fair.

  • Commerce Deputy Secretary Blank Speaks on the Role of Innovation in the U.S. Economy

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from

    I recently had the honor of addressing an annual conference on innovation, sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. Today’s event, entitled “Innovation Policy and the Economy,” provided an opportunity to discuss one of the most important contributors to America’s long-term competitiveness: innovation.

    America’s entrepreneurs, businesses, and workers are the primary source of new ideas that drive innovation. Patents, trademarks, and copyrights – the main protections in our intellectual property (IP) system – are critical tools that help commercialize game-changing ideas. By creating a better environment for our private sector to capitalize on those ideas, IP protections help foster the innovation and creativity that lead to a stronger economy and the creation of more, good-paying jobs. Last week, I helped release a report co-produced with my colleagues in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the role of IP in the economy. The report shows that nearly 35 percent of our GDP – more than $5 trillion – comes from IP-intensive industries. We also found that IP-intensive industries support a total of about 40 million jobs. These findings demonstrate that IP protections aren’t just important for businesses and entrepreneurs; they are important for working families. Clearly, making sure that we adequately protect intellectual property is vital to maintaining America’s competitive edge and driving our overall prosperity.

    But while private citizens and businesses are the primary source of new ideas, the government plays a key role in the effort to support innovation. At the Commerce Department, we work to support innovation and protect intellectual property on many fronts, including through the implementation of the America Invents Act, which is designed to modernize and streamline the U.S. patent process.

  • Securing Equal Pay

    Today – Tuesday, April 17 – is Equal Pay Day, which marks the fact that, nearly 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the average woman still has to work well into the calendar year to earn what the average man earned last year. According to the latest U.S. Census statistics, on average, full-time working women earned 77 cents to every dollar earned by men, and the gap is significantly more for women of color. This substantial gap is more than a mere statistic.  It has real-life consequences.  Women, who compose nearly half of the workforce, are bringing home 23 percent less than their male counterparts – which means less for families’ everyday needs, less for investments in our children’s futures, and, when added up over a lifetime of work, substantially less for retirement. 

    President Obama understands how much this issue impacts our nation’s economic well-being, and that’s why, from his earliest days in office, he has been committed to closing the pay gap.  Today, in conjunction with Equal Pay Day, we are proud to announce the following additional initiatives: 

    • First, the White House released the Equal Pay Task Force Accomplishments Report:  Fighting for Fair Pay in the Workplace. The Equal Pay Task Force (“Task Force”), which the President established in 2010, brings together the best expertise of professionals at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor and the Office of Personnel Management, who work daily to combat pay discrimination in the workplace. Since the Task Force’s creation, enforcement actions have increased; the government has recovered unprecedented monetary recoveries for women seeking their fair share for performing the same work as men; and investments in outreach to both employers and employees are paying big dividends. The report details the significant progress that the Task Force has made to fight pay discrimination – including improving inter-agency coordination and collaboration to ensure that the full weight of the federal government is focused on closing the gender pay gap once and for all.  I commend the professionals who represent the member agencies on the Task Force for the extraordinary work they and their teams undertake each day to realize the President’s directive. 
    • Second, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today announced the winners of the “Equal Pay App Challenge.”  In January of this year, the Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Equal Pay Task Force, launched this challenge – inviting software developers to use publicly available data and resources to create applications that provide greater access to pay data organized by gender, race, and ethnicity; provide interactive tools for early career coaching or online mentoring; or provide data to help inform pay negotiations.  A solution to the pay gap has been elusive, in part because access to basic information – e.g., typical salary ranges and skill level requirements for particular positions, advice on how to negotiate appropriate pay – is limited.  Because of the enthusiastic response to the “Equal Pay App Challenge” and the creative apps that were developed, anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer can access answers to these basic, but important, questions.  This challenge represents just one more way that women can empower themselves with the tools they need to make sure they get equal pay for equal work.   
    • Finally, in our ongoing effort to educate employees and employers about their rights and responsibilities under our nation’s equal pay laws, the Department of Labor today published two brochures that will educate employees regarding their rights under the existing equal pay laws and enable employers to understand their obligations.

  • White House Forum on Women and the Economy

    President Obama Delivers Remarks at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the “White House Forum on Women and the Economy” in Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, April 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    This morning, I had the privilege of attending the White House Forum on Women and the Economy. We hosted nearly 200 women from all over the country to join in a conversation about the critical role that women play in driving our economic progress. We also released a report that details a wide range of policies, programs, and legislative initiatives under the Obama Administration that are supporting women and girls at all stages of their lives and careers. President Obama also attended the forum, and he said, “When it comes to our efforts on behalf of women and girls, I’m proud of the accomplishments we can point to. Yes, we’ve got more to do.  But there’s no doubt we have begun to make progress.” I am also proud of our accomplishments and look forward to continuing the important work we are doing to promote the interests of women and girls across the country and around the world.

    My remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.

    Good morning.

    It is my pleasure to welcome you to our White House Forum on Women and the Economy.  I am delighted to see so many familiar faces in the audience. We have an extraordinary array of accomplished women and a few good and brave men. You represent a wide range of stakeholders from all across our country.  You are the trailblazers and innovators that drive our country, and you have the insight and vision that we need to create an economy that’s built to last. A number of you have worked closely with us throughout the last few years and deserve a lot of credit for many of our accomplishments. I’d also like to thank members of the President’s Cabinet for joining us today, and for your exceptional service. And finally, welcome to those of you who are watching online. We will stream today’s whole forum, including breakout sessions.

    I am so proud to be the chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls and to join Tina in leading this important initiative.

    When President Obama created the Council in early 2009, he said, and I quote, “It is up to us to ensure that our daughters and grand-daughters have no limits on their dreams, and no obstacles to their achievements.” His executive order ensured that the Council would include representatives of every single government agency. A first for any president. I’d like to ask all of the members of the Council who are here to stand and be recognized.

  • Watch and Engage: White House Forum on Women and the Economy

    Today, more than ever before, women are a driving force behind the success of the American economy. Expanding economic opportunities for women and ending discriminatory practices is critical to building an economy that restores security for middle class families, one where hard work and responsibility are rewarded, and where everyone who wants to can find a good job.

    This Friday, April 6th, the White House Council on Women and Girls is hosting a Forum on Women and the Economy. President Obama will deliver remarks at the Forum to highlight ways the Administration has helped create economic security for women and recognizes that women are key to economic growth and competitiveness. Starting at 8:30 a.m. EDT, the half-day forum will also include a panel discussion with Senior Administration officials, followed by breakout sessions on: Women at Work, Education, Health, Women’s Entrepreneurship, and Violence Against Women and Girls (check out the complete Forum schedule below).

    People from across the country can watch the event live at During the Forum, Administration officials will answer questions from a live audience and also take questions submitted through a form on and via Twitter with the hashtag #WomenEconForum.

    Here's how you can participate:

    • Right now, you can ask the White House your questions about women and the economy through a web form or on Twitter with the hashtag #WomenEconForum
    • On Friday, April 6th from 8:45 a.m. EDT to 12:30 p.m. EDT watch the forum live at President Obama will deliver remarks at 10:15 a.m. EDT.
    • Join the discussion live on Twitter and follow what others are saying with the hashtag #WomenEconForum
    • If you miss the live event, the full video will be posted on

    We hope you can join us. Here's the full schedule:

  • The Next Step in Combatting the Spread of HIV/AIDS Among Women and Girls

    As the Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, it is my honor to join Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy and Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, in announcing the next step in President Obama’s commitment to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst women and girls. Please read on for more details.

    There are approximately 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, including more than 290,000 women.   Black and Hispanic  women account for nearly three-quarters of new HIV infections among women.  In July 2010, President Obama launched the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy to provide a coordinated national response to fight the epidemic, with the goals of reducing new infections, improving health outcomes, and decreasing HIV-related health disparities.  This past World AIDS Day, the President said that “When black women feel forgotten, even though they account for most of the new cases among women, then we’ve got to do more."  President Obama was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a call to our partners—including government stakeholders at all levels, healthcare professionals, and HIV/AIDS service providers—to unite in an effort to usher in an “AIDS-free generation.” To reach this goal, it is clear we must address HIV among women, particularly among women of color.

    As directed in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, Federal agencies are collaborating in new ways.  We are embracing scientific findings to implement evidenced-based prevention methods in order to be more effective at preventing new HIV infections, and we are exploring new approaches to integrate prevention and care. As part of this ongoing collaborative approach, President Obama has issued a presidential memorandum establishing an inter-agency working group on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities. The President has asked Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Womenand Dr. Grant Colfax, the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, to serve as co-chairs.