Do We Really Need a Presidential Commission on Women?

Thu, February 19, 2009


So far American women are doing pretty well since President Barack Obama took office. He’s only been President for a month, and already he’s signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which will hopefully go a long way toward getting women equal pay for equal work in this country.

But many are calling on the new president to create a Presidential Commission on Women, to bring together advocates of women’s issues to see what else should be done. Many are advocating for it, but I have to wonder whether such a commission will be helpful. The last time we had one John Kennedy was president and the goals of his commission focused on equal treatment of women in the workplace and creating more equal opportunities for women in the workforce.

That was in the early 1960s and we know how things have changed, or not, in the decades since then. Women are still only getting paid 78 cents for every dollar a man makes for similar work. I would have hoped we would be closer to parity at this stage of the game.

So why should we think that a new Commission for Women would bring us anything this time?

We know what needs to be done, so why not just do it? Isn’t it time to write the legislation that we all know needs to be written to put women on a level playing field with men and get our lawmakers to vote on it?

Some who advocate for a commission say we need it because our voices must be part of the discussion. For example, WomenCount has an online petition calling for such a Commission which would supposedly bring together lots of big thinkers to weigh in on where we should go from here.

Linda Tarr-Whelan, at the blog of National Women’s Editorial Forum, believes we should have such a political panel:

In the Clinton administration, as the CEO of a nonprofit, I worked closely with Betsy Myers, later head of Women for Obama, and others who headed the Office of Women’s Outreach. All of us found it difficult to deliver the president’s agenda for women without Cabinet status. …

All of these offices were cut out by the Bush administration — … President [Obama] will face a clean slate and a pressing need. [President] Obama — and all of us — will be well-served by taking on board the full recommendation of an integrated approach on women led by a Cabinet-level Office on Women.

Now THAT would be getting us somewhere.

Yes we, as women, were the key to the outcome of the 2008 election and we should not be ignored in terms of the new administration’s agenda. I just wonder if there isn’t a more direct way to move us forward other than creating another commission.

If it would do some good, I’m all for it. But I really would hate to see another commission formed to talk about issues when we know we should just put our noses to the grindstone and get things done.

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4 Responses to “Do We Really Need a Presidential Commission on Women?”

  1. anniegirl1138 Says:

    Should we feel special or patronized? I think I will go with the latter because I am a cynic on this topic.

    This is like being thrown a bone.

  2. Gina Chen Says:

    Pundit Mom,

    I agree with you. We don’t need a commission. We need to just do it, as you say.

    Too often, government (and busines) for that matter forms commissions to study thing or figure things out.

    We know what we need. We need to stop stalling.

    And if women aren’t at the table — put them there, not off on some commission.

  3. Shawn K. Says:


    I appreciate the thoughtful questions your blog poses. However, you make two very BIG assumptions. One, you assume that nothing has changed or improved based off of the dialogue born from JFK’s Commission on the Status of Women. Two, you assume that we ALL know what needs to be done.

    We need much more than just legislation. Lilly Ledbetter was a great victory, but just one small step towards a bigger goal. We need to change the way our country collectively thinks about women. A Presidential Commission would create a much needed, public dialogue on the issues that women face and the steps we need to take to address those issues.

  4. Becky Says:

    Thanks for this post!

    I got an invite on Facebook to join a group supporting a commission. I let it sit there for a while because I wasn’t sure … then I realized that the reason I didn’t join right away was because I didn’t think it was necessary.

    Thanks for putting it into words for me.

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