With the start of Women’s History Month, the White House has released its report on the state of women in America.
The report shows what many of us already knew and are currently experiencing: Women have higher graduation rates than men on all levels and account for more than half of undergraduate degrees issued in the United States. However, their qualifications have not translated into higher salaries and women on average make 75% of what their male counterparts do.
According to Valerie Jarrett, chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls On a conference call with reporters and women’s groups Valerie Jarrett, chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls said the report allowed the government to properly understand the challenges facing women in America.
“You really have to look at the whole story of a woman’s life,” said Jarrett, “and this report gives us a comprehensive framework to do that.”
While the numbers are not all that shocking, they are raising questions on why the story of women in this country has remained much the same for the past decade and in some areas, like the climb to the executive level, seemingly plateaued. Many say that the answer to many of the questions of equal wage lie not in the workplace but at home.
In a recent post on the White House’s report ABC’s polling analyst, Gary Langer writes:
Past analyses have shown that men work for pay more hours, weeks and years than women do; controlling for these attenuates pay discrepancies. It’s not, of course, that women do less work; rather that it’s customary for them to take on more uncompensated domestic responsibilities, which limits their availability to work for pay. That’s a societal as much as a policy issue.
The Obama administration should be credited for taking on this issue and dedicating attention to it. The last time women and girls received this kind of focus was in 1963 under President John F. Kennedy, when the then, Commission on Women chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, issued the first such report. However, with 50 years of both progress and stagnation successfully documented- many women believe its time for the government to implement policy and programs to that remove the barriers standing in the way of the last glass ceiling.
In her column for The Atlantic, Anne Freidman, who was on the conference call with Jarrett about the report, lends her thoughts on the way forward:
The report is indeed comprehensive — and rightfully so. Deep social problems like gender and race disparities are caused by a complex web of factors. But it was clear from…Jarrett’s comments that disentangling those factors and designing policies to address them one-by-one is a daunting task. In other words, the comprehensive nature of the report may be precisely what prevents it from providing the framework Jarrett hopes it will.
On the call, Obama’s senior advisor said that due to the government’s “financial challenges,” there would not be an aggressive push for new programs or legislation. It’s “really important that we spend our money smartly,” Jarrett said.