Can I just say that I am SO. FREAKING. EXCITED. to host a panel on Revolutionizing Gender Norms at the first ever United State of Women Summit. The experts, thought-leaders, movers and shapers of our culture will all be there – and I will be recording a special episode of Talk To Jess so be sure to tune in!
Assembled by the White House, this Summit serves to bring together key leaders in the movement for gender equality to celebrate what we’ve achieved and discuss how we’re going to take action moving forward. Change is a WE thing, and together, we’ll make a powerful difference in the future of our country and the world!
Here are 5 (of the many) ways that the Obama Administration has helped to make progress on behalf of gender equality:
- Establishing the White House Council on Women and Girls
President Obama implemented the White House Council on Women and Girls almost immediately after he took office. Their mission is to ensure that the needs of women and girls are incorporated across programs and legislation, because women’s needs shouldn’t be an afterthought. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with the amazing people on the Council when hosting the White House Summit on Gender Equality, and trust me, they’re the real deal!
- Empowering Women Economically
The FIRST (yes, absolute FIRST) piece of legislation that Barack Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which protects people against gender-based pay discrimination. But Obama didn’t stop there! The federal government is working to empower and support women-owned and led businesses with programs like the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract. This program levels the playing field by guaranteeing that a portion of the government’s contracts (the U.S. government awards approximately $500 billion in contracts every year) are signed to women-owned businesses!
- Taking a More Equitable Approach to Education
The Obama administration placed emphasis on ensuring access to quality education, especially for low-income African American, American Indian, and Native Alaskan girls. In an effort to level the educational playing field for children before they begin kindergarten, they expanded childcare and early childhood education programs like Head Start. They also introduced the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, which explores the best way to keep schools safe and students enrolled in an effort to halt the school-to-prison-pipeline.
- Working to Ensure Equality in Housing
The Obama administration oversaw the first ever national study of discrimination in housing against the LGBT community, an especially important cause considering that homelessness is a grave issue that disproportionately affects transgender and gender-nonconforming folks. While there is still work to be done at many local and state levels, the national government ensured that Department of Housing and Urban Development’s housing programs do not discriminate based on gender identity or sexuality.
- Fighting to End Gender-Based Violence
The Obama administration has championed a number of task forces, bills, and programs that protect people from gender-based violence. The Violence Against Women Act serves to improve the criminal justice system’s response to gender-based violence, and it specifically addresses violence against Native American women and violence against LGBT individuals. This administration did an immense amount of work to combat the epidemic of sexual assault, from addressing the issue specifically on college campuses to bettering services available to survivors through funding and redefining sexual assault. They even implemented preventative measures through Joe Biden’s 1 is 2 Many campaign, that focuses on addressing violence against women specifically in youth relationships.
I am grateful that this administration has made women, girls, and gender equality a priority and have given marginalized voices the attention they’ve long awaited. There is no doubt still work to be done – but before we can keep moving forward it’s sometimes important to look back, celebrate and acknowledge the hard work that has taken place.
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