Wednesday, March 11, 2009

At the establishment of the White House Council for Women and Girls today, the remarks of the President included the following:-

Well, today, as we continue our celebration of International Women's History Month, I'm proud to sign this executive order establishing the women's -- the White House Council on Women and Girls. It's a Council with a mission that dates back to our founding: to fulfill the promise of our democracy for all our people.

I sign this order not just as a President, but as a son, a grandson, a husband, and a father, because growing up, I saw my mother put herself through school and follow her passion for helping others. But I also saw how she struggled to raise me and my sister on her own, worrying about how she'd pay the bills and educate herself and provide for us.

In so many ways, the stories of the women in my life reflect the broader story of women in this country -- a story of both unyielding progress and also untapped potential.

But at the same time, when women still earn just 78 cents for every dollar men make; when one in four women still experiences domestic violence in their lifetimes; when women are more than half of our population, but just 17 percent of our Congress; when women are 49 percent of the workforce, but only 3 percent of our Fortune 500 CEOs -- when these inequalities stubbornly persist in this country, in this century, then I think we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. I think we need to take a hard look at where we're falling short, and who we're leaving out, and what that means for the prosperity and the vitality of our nation.

He pointed out that these issues are not just "women's issues":
When women make less than men for the same work, it hurts families who find themselves with less income, and have to work harder just to get by. When a job doesn't offer family leave, that also hurts men who want to help care for a new baby or an ailing parent. When there's no affordable child care, that hurts children who wind up in second-rate care, or spending afternoons alone in front of the television set.

In the end, while many of the challenges women and girls face are new, the work of this Council is not -- it's been with us for generations. Frances Perkins, who was President Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor, and the first woman to serve in the Cabinet -- a great hero of the New Deal -- described it well when she said, "I had a kind of duty to other women to walk in and sit down on the chair that was offered, and so establish the rights of others long hence and far distant in geography to sit in the high seats." To sit in the high seats.

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