Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Violence Against Women Act

    On February 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Even though VAWA has a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, the eight Republicans on the committee voted against this critical piece of legislation. Now the Act goes to the full Senate for consideration. 

    First authored by then Senator Biden in 1994, VAWA provides funding to states and local communities to improve the criminal justice response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  VAWA supports specialized law enforcement units to investigate these crimes and helps prosecutors get dangerous offenders off the streets. VAWA also protects victims living in subsidized housing from being evicted after suffering domestic violence, supports training for health care providers, and brings help to victims in rural areas of the country.  The hallmark of VAWA is the coordinated community response, bringing different agencies together to create a seamless approach to combating violence. 

    One day’s look at the headlines tells us why we still need VAWA. Domestic violence often spills into streets, workplaces, and communities, and is estimated to cost our nation 8 billion dollars a year in lost productivity and health care costs. This violence causes more than two million injuries each year, three deaths each day, and untold amounts of suffering to women. The hidden crime of stalking affects 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men, and sexual assault remains the most underreported violent crime in the country. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been sexually assaulted at some time in their lives, most before the age of 18. 

    It's fitting that the Senate Judiciary Committee took up VAWA during Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month, because teens and young adults are at THE highest risk for this violence. The proposed legislation provides funding to schools, youth groups, and victim service agencies to develop new strategies to intervene in and prevent dating violence and sexual assault. If we can stop violence in this generation, some day we won’t need these services. But today, the need is still urgent. We need the full Senate to approve VAWA reauthorization and for Congress to send this legislation to President Obama to sign into law this year.

  • Women and Girls Council and the 2013 Budget

    President Obama laid out a blueprint in his State of the Union address for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.  The President released a budget that illustrates how we put that blueprint to work.  

    Yesterday in his message to Congress, the President explained that we are in a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get there. The Budget targets scarce federal resources to the areas critical to growing the economy and restoring middle-class security: education and skills for American workers, innovation and manufacturing, clean energy, and infrastructure. It is built around the idea that our country does best when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.

    To construct an economy that is built to last and provide security for women and girls, the 2013 Budget will:

    • Support Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention.
    • Strengthen Efforts to Combat Violence Against Women.
    • Strengthen Anti-Discrimination Enforcement
    • Improve Health Care Services for Women Veterans.
    • Give Every American a Fair Shot at Success by Improving and Reforming K-12 Education.
    • Expand Access to College.
    • Support Women-Owned Businesses.
    • Help States Provide Paid Family Leave to Workers.
    • Prevent Hunger and Improve Nutrition.
    • Ensure that Workers Receive the Pay and Benefits to which they are Entitled
    • Promote Affordable Homeownership
    • Support Responsible Homeowners and Help Them Stay in Their Homes
    • Extend Expanded Tax Cuts for Working Families
    • Maintain Affordable High-Quality Primary and Preventive Care
    • Revitalize Distressed Urban Neighborhoods
    • Invest in Regional and Community Planning Efforts for Sustainable Development.

    Read more about how the President’s 2013 budget will help women and girls HERE.

  • Securing Equal Pay? There (Should Be) an App for That!

    “An economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country. That means women should earn equal pay for equal work.“ - President Barack Obama, 2012 State of the Union Address

    Last week, the Obama Administration launched the Equal Pay App Challenge. We’re inviting software developers to help women ensure that they’re being paid fairly – which in turn will help restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. 

    Right now, if you’re a woman in the workforce, it can be surprisingly difficult to answer basic questions about equal pay: what’s the typical salary for someone in your position? Should you be asking for more at the negotiating table? What are your fundamental legal rights?

    When the Equal Pay App Challenge is over, you’ll have information that helps you answer these questions, available right on your smartphone or computer. We believe that the same types of innovations that help you find movie times or get a great deal at a restaurant can help you protect your rights in the workforce.

    The App Challenge is just the latest in a series of steps the Obama Administration has taken to secure a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work. From the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the very first bill President Obama signed into law, to the creation of the National Equal Pay Task Force, to his continued support of the Paycheck Fairness Act, the President has helped address a gender pay gap that remains far too high.

    He has taken these steps because he knows that they help all Americans – both women and men. Today, mothers are the primary- or co-breadwinners in over two-thirds of American families. When women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn, as they do today, entire families suffer.

    But the opposite is also true. When women have a fair shot to see their hard work pay off, families benefit. When women succeed, America succeeds.

    President Obama envisions an America where his daughters are never limited by their gender. That vision is not yet a reality, and we still have a long way to go. But if we work together – and we invite America’s most creative innovators to join us in tackling this challenge – then I am confident that we will get there.

    Valerie Jarrett is Senior White House Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison. She is also the Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

  • Raising Awareness About Stalking

    January is Stalking Awareness Month, and it’s an important to highlight a crime that is often invisible. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men will be stalked in their lifetimes. Young women ages 18-19 experience the highest rates of stalking. The fears, threats and intimidation endured by victims is often felt by family members as well.

    To mark this important month, this week we hosted the first ever White House stalking roundtable with survivors, law enforcement officers, victim advocates, and researchers. We learned from law enforcement experts that while many victims are stalked by ex-partners, others can be stalked by acquaintances and even strangers. Stalkers often track their victims’ daily lives and make themselves known in ways that are scary and unpredictable. Stalking can force victims to change everything about their lives in order to be safe.

    I commend the bravery of two survivors who shared their stories. One woman was stalked by an ex-husband while another was stalked over a long period of time by someone she barely knew. Both were terrorized through cyber stalking and a range of strategies designed to keep them on constant edge and make them feel afraid every day. The stalking extended to family members and children, making it even more terrifying. Their stories put a human face on the statistics and helped us understand the true personal cost of stalking.

  • A Shining Example from the Sunshine State

    Editor's Note: This blog has been cross-posted from the Council on Environmental Quality Blog.

    This week, CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley joined Mayor Jeri Muoio in West Palm Beach to tour Northboro Elementary School – a recently modernized LEED Gold certified school that's gaining attention as a model for smart investment in sustainability. Northboro is a great example of how investing in modernization helps schools direct money to their classrooms instead of their energy bills. The elementary school has saved more than 16 percent in energy costs -- enough to pay for at least one teacher each year -- through upgrades including advanced lighting and ventilation systems. 

    Schools spend more than $6 billion annually on their energy bills -- more than they spend on computers and textbooks combined. The average public school building in the United States is more than 40 years old, and many struggle with old, inefficient, or broken heating and cooling systems and a host of other challenges, from crumbling roofs to outdated textbooks. As the President said: "We can't expect American kids to do their best in places that are falling apart. This is America. Every kid deserves a great school -- and we can give it to them."  That's why, in the American Jobs Act, the President proposed a $25 billion investment in school infrastructure to modernize at least 35,000 public schools across the country. The funds would provide for a range of emergency repair and renovation projects, energy efficiency upgrades, asbestos abatement and removal, new science and computer labs, and internet-ready classrooms – and put 16,000 Americans back to work making those upgrades.

    Modernizing our schools makes sense for American students, and makes sense for schools' bottom lines. Northboro Elementary is a clear example of how this investment would create jobs, improve classrooms, and bring our schools into the 21st century. 

    Northboro Elementary School

    Chair Nancy Sutley meets with school leadership at Northboro Elementary School in West Palm Beach, Florida.

    Taryn Tuss is Acting Communications Director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • A “Shining” Example of American Innovation

    On December 8th, the President hosted first board meeting of the Startup America Partnership at the White House. The Startup America Partnership is a nonprofit alliance of entrepreneurs, major corporations, and service providers committing private-sector resources to accelerate the growth of new companies. The Partnership, led by iconic entrepreneurs like Steve Case (AOL) and Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), was launched earlier this year in response to the President’s call to action to dramatically increase the success of America’s high-growth entrepreneurs. New startup businesses create most of the net new jobs each year, in every industry and all across the country.

    Startup America Partnership Board Member Lynn Jurich, President and Co-Founder of Sunrun Inc., reflects on her experience as an entrepreneur:

    On December 8th I was honored to attend a meeting with President Obama and fellow members of the Founding Board of the Startup American Partnership.  Aligned with Obama’s Startup America initiative, the Startup America Partnership’s mission is to help entrepreneurs start and scale their companies to accelerate job growth in the U.S.  I have vivid memories of what it’s like to be in the early stages of starting a company and value the opportunity to help other entrepreneurs succeed through my participation on the Board.  Also, as a woman entrepreneur in an industry where most executives and founders are males, I welcome the opportunity to mentor other females.  Successful women entrepreneurs are still less common in the business world and I hope my work at SunRun serves as an inspiring and educational example.

    My entrepreneurial story is rooted in a quest to shake up the energy industry: SunRun co-founder Edward Fenster and I invented a way for Americans to go solar without spending $30,000 or more on panels.  SunRun owns, installs and maintains the panels and homeowners make low, fixed monthly payments for clean energy.  In California this solar power service concept is becoming the most popular way to go solar – about 60 percent of families choose this option over purchasing a system for cash.  This model didn’t even exist before 2007 so it’s exciting for me to see the success we’ve achieved in such a short time.   For example, our partner network now employs over 3,000 workers across ten states and SunRun invested over $200 million in labor this year.