March 12, 2009

This is good news, because public policy is far too often made by men who are oblivious of the effect on women:

In his latest gesture on women's issues, President Obama signed an executive order this afternoon creating a White House Council on Women and Girls.

“The purpose of this council is to ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy,” Obama said in a statement. “My administration has already made important progress toward that goal. I am proud that the first bill I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. But I want to be clear that issues like equal pay, family leave, child care and others are not just women’s issues, they are family issues and economic issues. Our progress in these areas is an important measure of whether we are truly fulfilling the promise of our democracy for all our people. I am confident that Valerie Jarrett and Tina Tchen will guide the Council wisely as its members address these important issues.”

The council, the White House says, "will provide a coordinated federal response to the challenges confronted by women and girls and to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and families."

It will be led by close Obama adviser and friend Valerie Jarrett.

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

He said he signed the order (read it here) to honor all the women who came before him, such as his grandmother who was a bank vice president but was denied promotions because of her gender. He and said the fight for gender equality is far from over, citing pay disparities, domestic violence, and the relatively few women in Congress and in the executive offices of major companies.

"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," said Obama, who as part of International Women's History Month also last week with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton jointly announced a new post of ambassador at large for women's issues around the world.

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