I’ve questioned before whether a White House Council on Women and Girls, or Commission, could really be an effective tool for change or whether it would just be another piece of window dressing. Speeches, like the one President Obama made to announce the Council this week, always sound nice:
Today, women make up a growing share of our workforce and the majority of students in our colleges and our law schools. Women are breaking barriers in every field, from science and business to athletics and the Armed Forces. Women are serving at the highest levels of my administration. And we have Madam Speaker presiding over our House of Representatives. I had the privilege of participating in a historic campaign with a historic candidate, who we now have the privilege of calling Madam Secretary.
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.
The purpose of the Council is “is to ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy.” In the past, inspiring and hopeful words faded quickly and nothing happened to change the status quo. But when it was announced who was going to be working on these new plans, I decided that President Obama just might be putting his money where his mouth is.
Senior Presidential adviser and longtime Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett was named to head the Council. At the same time, Melanne Verveer, former Assistant to President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff, was announced to be the State Department’s Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues. Verveer is also the co-founder of Vital Voices, an organization that invests in emerging women leaders around the globe.
In another era, I would say this was more for show than anything else. But it’s no secret that these two women are key players in the world of politics. Plus, I might be a little crazy, but did Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton look particularly chummy this week while these announcements were being made? With this power line-up of Michelle, Hillary, Valerie & Melanne, we just might have the start of something big.
But it’s just a start. The next step is to make sure that more women are actually in positions of power inside the agencies making decisions that impact women and children around the world. We need efforts from the inside out as well as from the outside looking in to have any impact on violence against women, malnutrition, and better education and health care for all women around the globe.
Some still wonder whether this is just an attempt to pander to and assuage those of us who were the critical component in putting President Obama into office so we’ll stay loyal through the 2102 election. I guess we’ll have to wait to see what comes next, but it’s good to know that women who really have the ear of the president are in charge of this effort.
Maybe to make it really official, and less forgettable, we need some superhero outfits for this League of Women’s Justice!
Cross-posted from BlogHer, where PunditMom is a Contributing Editor for News & Politics.