Obama on the Record: White House Council on Women and Girls

Remarks by the President at Signing of Executive Order Creating the White House Council on Women and Girls

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Well, today, as we continue our celebration of International Women’s History Month, I’m proud to sign this executive order establishing the women’s — the White House Council on Women and Girls. It’s a Council with a mission that dates back to our founding: to fulfill the promise of our democracy for all our people.

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

I saw my grandmother work her way up to become one of the first women bank vice presidents in the state of Hawaii, but I also saw how she hit a glass ceiling — how men no more qualified than she was kept moving up the corporate ladder ahead of her.

I’ve seen Michelle, the rock of the Obama family — (laughter) — juggling work and parenting with more skill and grace than anybody that I know. But I also saw how it tore at her at times, how sometimes when she was with the girls she was worrying about work, and when she was at work she was worrying about the girls. It’s a feeling that I share every day.

In so many ways, the stories of the women in my life reflect the broader story of women in this country — a story of both unyielding progress and also untapped potential.

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. (Applause.) 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.

And I want to be very clear: These issues are not just

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