Stimulating Women?

Obama celebrates Women's History Month. But what about their economic futures?


Flanked by a cadre of beaming, successful women, President Barack Obama signed an executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls yesterday. But the president may have to reconcile that with the fact that the centerpiece of his administration so far—the passage of the economic stimulus package—may in fact end up hurting women economically.

Chaired by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and directed by Tina Tchen of the Office of Public Liaison, the council will be composed of the heads of every cabinet and cabinet-level agency, and will meet on a regular basis to fulfill Obama’s pledge “to ensure that each of the agencies … takes into account the needs of women and girls in the policies they draft, the programs they create, the legislation they support.”

The announcement, made from the East Room of the White House, attracted important leaders from women’s advocacy groups, well-known black women like athletes Lisa Leslie and Dominique Dawes, White House policy advisers like Melody Barnes and Mona Sutphen, and military brass like Assistant VA Secretary nominee Tammy Duckworth, and Command Sergeant Major Michele Jones, the highest ranking black woman in the armed forces. Also present were Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in the women’s congressional caucus.

The announcement was intended to celebrate women’s history. But a larger question may be: What about their economic futures?

The president has been generally sympathetic to the plight of working women—the first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. And at Wednesday’s event, he spoke of his wife’s struggle to balance work and family, saying, “I sign this order as a son, a grandson, a husband and a father.”