The White House Council on Women and Girls recently released a report titled “Women and Girls of Color: Addressing Challenges and Expanding Opportunity.” The report details the progress the Obama administration has made in the past six years in regards to reducing the barriers that block women of color from reaching success.
Outlining the improvements made by minority women over the years including an increase in business ownership, a decrease in pregnancy rates, and an increase in high school and college graduation rates, the report also details the work that still needs to be done in order for women of color to reach full equality.
Today, black girls are 14.6 percent less likely to graduate high school than white girls; meanwhile, Hispanic girls are 12.8 percent less likely to graduate. When it comes to school discipline, young women of color are suspended at rates far higher than their peers. In public schools, black girls are six times more likely to be suspended than their white peers, American Indian/Alaska Native girls are three and a half times more likely, and Hispanic girls are twice as likely to be suspended.
Additionally, the report shows that women of color still lag behind in STEM related fields of study and careers despite an increase in workforce opportunities. A recent survey revealed that three quarters of teenage girls of color expressed an interest in STEM, yet women and girls of color are still highly underrepresented in the field. In 2010, only 10.6 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 7.9 percent of master’s degrees and 3.9 percent of doctorate degrees in science and engineering were earned by women of color, with fewer than one in ten being employed engineers and scientists.
In response, the Obama administration has put several initiatives in place to help eliminate these barriers and increase opportunities for all women. This year, the Education Department and the Department of Justice released a School Discipline Guidance Package to clarify schools’ civil rights obligations and to better ensure that no discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin is taking place. The Education Department also commissioned a study to examine whether young women in high school have access to high quality programs that prepare them for careers in non-traditional fields. Additionally, the Education Department has worked with NASA, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Patent and Trade Office and several other organizations to ensure that more attention is given to young women of color interested in STEM.
In January 2015, the Department of Education along with the White House Domestic Policy Council, the White House Council on Women and Girls and Georgetown University will gather with thought leaders and policy makers to further discuss ways to increase opportunities for all women in the future.