The White House will host a day long summit on Tuesday to bring together leaders from the public and private sectors to discuss the “United State of Women.”
The Summit has an overwhelming amount of ground to cover. Women, for the record, represent a little over half of the American population. They're the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of American homes; 63% of those women are single. One in four women is obese and one in five is sexually assaulted while attending college. Women are underrepresented in a bevy of fields and underpaid for our work—Black women, specifically, make about 63% of what their white male counterparts make. But on Tuesday, June 14, the Obama administration will attempt to address the progress and work that lie ahead for the American woman via a massive convening at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
“I often say that there is no better time to be alive than right now and there is no better place to live than the United States of America,” White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett said ahead of the summit. “We should celebrate our great success but we should be honest about the roles and work left to do.”
Jarrett, who also chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls, says since the early days of the Obama Administration, women’s issues have been on the table. President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act within his first 100 days in office, ensuring women could bring lawsuits when they experience pay discrimination in the workplace. The president’s signature healthcare law made preventative screening free for women. Through executive orders, the White House has expanded family leave policies for federal workers and raised the minimum wage for contractors. And the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign has kept conversations about sexual assault on college campuses at the forefront of national conversations. The White House also launched the Council on Women and Girls as what Tina Tchen described as a “whole-of-government effort” to engage the various federal agencies on the issues facing women and girls.
“On June 14th, we’re expanding that whole-of-government effort to an all-of-country effort,” Tchen said on a conference call previewing the summit. “Rather than roll out new policy, for the first time we’re going to bring together everyone working across the government on these issues, both domestic and international, and the leading voices at every level of society who move this forward every day.”
The summit will address six major issue topics: health and wellness, education, economic opportunity, civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Thought leaders and celebrities will sit on panel discussions throughout the day including Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Actors Connie Britton and Kerry Washington, Marley Davis, the founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks, television writer and producer Shonda Rhimes, Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, as well as the President, Vice President, and First Lady. Though the summit comes at an interesting political moment—just one week after the president endorsed Hillary Clinton, who could become the first female president in our nation’s history—Jarrett says the goals of the summit transcend politics.
“Our goal for the summit is not a political goal at all. Our goal is to identify and focus on six key areas that we know affect the lives of women and girls and to use this as an opportunity to share what works and challenge ourselves for the work that lies ahead,” she said.
The White House has previously faced backlash for failing to engage on the issues facing young girls of color in their My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, which the administration sought to address during a summit on women and girls of color last fall. Jarrett says there will also be an effort to address the issues facing women and girls of color specifically at Tuesday’s summit.
“We know that there are some unique challenges and barriers that have to be tackled in order for every young black or brown girl to be able to grow up into a successful, healthy woman,” she said. “We will have a panel focused on those unique challenges and opportunities. And describe the research that’s been done as well as what’s underway.”
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