Obama: Women’s Issues ‘Impact All of Us’

Posted April 6th, 2012 at 12:30 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

U.S. President Barack Obama used a White House conference on women Friday to highlight steps his administration has taken to improve opportunities and access for women in areas such as education, business and health care.

Addressing Friday's Forum on Women and the Economy, President Obama said women are not some monolithic bloc or “interest group” and should not be treated that way. He said the challenges women face affect everyone.

“When we talk about these issues that primarily impact women, we've got to realize they are not just women's issues. They are family issues. They are economic issues. They are growth issues. They are issues about American competitiveness. They are issues that impact all of us.”

The president said his administration has worked to close the pay gap between women and men, along with extending more than 16,000 new loans to women-owned businesses and helping more than two million more young women afford college with increased federal grants. He also outlined ways women have been helped under his health care reform law, which the Supreme Court is currently deciding whether to uphold.

Friday's conference comes at a key time for the president as he campaigns for re-election. Recent public opinion polls have shown women supporting Mr. Obama over Republican front-runner Mitt Romney.

Asked Thursday about the political implications of staging an event focused on women during an election year, White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the idea that the forum is political.

“This administration has engaged in a number of policy approaches designed to address women in the economy, including the very first bill that the President signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Act — Fair Pay Act — and there are a variety of initiatives that this administration has put forward that deal with issues of concern to women in particular. There is the Violence Against Women Act. We have an office overseen by the Vice President's office that deals with that legislation. So these are important policy initiatives; that's why we're having the conference.”

Valerie Jarrett, chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, opened Friday's forum. She said President Obama has taken “historic steps” to appoint more women to key positions and empowered them to drive policy promoting the interests of women and girls both at home and abroad.

“Now, we all understand that so-called women's issues do not only affect women. Women make up a majority of students in our colleges and an even larger percentage in graduate schools. They are nearly half of the workforce, and they're the breadwinners for a growing number of families. So it's clear that the success of women in America is critical to the success and sustainability of our families, of our communities and of the national economy.”

As part of the forum, the White House released a report Friday on the ways “the administration has worked to ensure women's economic security.”

The president created the White House Council on Women and Girls in March of 2009. The council's stated mission is to provide a coordinated federal response to the challenges facing women and ensure federal agencies pay attention to the way their policies impact women and families. Mr. Obama said its purpose is to ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy.