In celebration of the first day of Women’s History Month, the White House Tuesday cheered the release of the “first comprehensive federal report on the status of American women in almost 50 years.”
“The Obama administration has been focused on addressing the challenges faced by women and girls from day one because we understand the success of women and girls is vital to our future,” chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, Valerie Jarrett, said in a conference call with reporters.
The report, entitled “Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being,” is comprised of information largely aggregated from previously published data out of the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Commerce. It addresses five areas of women’s lives: people, families and income; education; employment; health; and crime and violence. The White House plans to recognize each of these categories every week for the entire month of March.
“We must carry forward the work of the women who came before us and ensure our daughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements, and no remaining ceilings to shatter,” President Obama said in February, when he proclaimed March Women’s History Month.
While women appear to be doing quite well in America — seeing reductions in crime against them and outpacing men in educational achievement and life span — they remain victims in the eyes of the administration. Among the highlighted points of concern is the fact that women make on average 75 percent of what men make (not accounting for profession, experience, etc.), spend more time doing household activities, and are more likely “to face certain health problems.”
One of the most frustrating elements to Jarrett and her cohorts regarding the plight of women in America is the fact that few women enter science, technology, engineering or math fields (often referred to as STEM fields), which tend to be higher paying than “pink collar jobs” such as counseling or social work.
“Women are preparing themselves in a set of fields that tend to be lower wage skills and that is a concern. President Obama has done a number of things trying to increase interest in the so-called STEM areas…I think that is of particular concern – trying to bring more women into those areas,” said Becky Blank, deputy secretary at the Commerce Department.
Women advocates such as Amy Siskind, co-founder of The New Agenda, have been frustrated, however, at the White House Council on Women and Girls’ failure to do anything of substance.
“This Council has yet to accomplish anything for women…I defended his choice of Valerie Jarrett in 2009, I caught a lot of backfire for that. I wrote later that I was wrong, she has done nothing to advance women and she is in a position where she actually could,” said Siskind, lamenting that the administration did not push hard enough for what she said could have really made a difference, the Pay Check Fairness Act.
Carrie Lukas, of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, told TheDC that women are obviously important to the future of the country, but men and boys are as well.
“It is ridiculous, this continued focus on women as if women are a victim class. I think a lot of the statistics are always reported in that way. You know the tired reporting of this 75 cents on the dollar with out any contexts is just irresponsible, it is not a statistic that illuminates anything it is a misleading statistic,” she said in reference to the supposed wage gap between men and women.
Some women’s groups have been disappointed with Obama’s failure to appoint women to his cabinet. Siskind pointed out that one of the easy ways Obama could advance the cause of women would be to put more women in positions of power.
“Here is where the administration could help. Obama has surrounded himself with less women than Bill Clinton did, by some measures less than George W. Bush. And it send the message to corporate America that it is not necessary to have women in leadership roles,” Siskind said.