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President Obama & Obama Administration

Celebrating Women's History Month: A Look at Judicial Milestones

March is women’s history month, and, as such, it is a good opportunity take stock of the gains women have made in terms of their representation on the federal judiciary in the past year and under the Obama Administration more generally. One of President Obama’s signature accomplishments was the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, where three women now serve for the first time in history. While the Supreme Court tends to garner more attention, President Obama has had an impact on the gender balance on lower federal courts as well. While the percentage of women still lags in other arenas, for example with women comprising only 4.6% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, women have increasingly been appointed to the federal bench: slightly under 43% of the President Obama’s confirmed nominees over the course of his administration have been women. (This percentage is nearly double the percentage of women among President George W. Bush’s confirmed judges.)

Over the last year, President Obama nominated and saw confirmed two outstanding women to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals—widely viewed as the second most important court in the country. The confirmation of these two women, Judges Patricia Millett and Cornelia (“Nina”) Pillard, brings the number of active women judges on the D.C. Circuit to nearly 50%, a historic high. 2013 also marked the confirmation of Jane Kelly to the Eight Circuit, important because she is only the second female to ever have graced that court. And, just this week, Carolyn B. McHugh was confirmed to the Tenth Circuit, bringing the number of active female judges on that court to two (out of eleven). Read more »

Obama to Sexual Assault Survivors: "I've Got Your Back"

It pains me that there is no shortage of examples suggesting a dire need for reform in how sexual assault survivors are treated on college campuses. Take for instance Amherst’s response to a sexual assault case, whose policy ‘treats alleged rapists better than laptop thieves,’ or the survivor of assault who faced retaliation for filing a federal complaint against the University of North Carolina.

So when I heard that Obama announced a new plan to combat this depressing trend, all I could think was ‘Hallelujah!!!’

Yesterday, President Obama announced the creation of a task force to protect students from sexual assault, which he described as “an epidemic,” particularly on college campuses. This new initiative – a collaboration between the White House Council on Women and Girls and the Office of the Vice President – will facilitate ‘information sharing among key federal agencies’ about best practices to prevent sexual assault and provide support for survivors. Read more »

The President’s To Do List

I believe that To Do lists are an art form. There’s nothing more beautiful than a list of things you need to get done with every single item crossed off of it. Crossing off an action item gives me such a sense of accomplishment that I usually put things I’ve already done on the list, just to cross them off.

In a major speech yesterday about economic mobility, President Obama shared one of his To Do lists with us. The items on this list are much more important than the ones on my usual lists. These items are the legislative and administrative priorities that will help fix the growing problem of income inequality in the United States.

Before sharing his “roadmap” with us, the President started with a reality check. He was blunt about the fact that our economy has become profoundly unequal and families have become more insecure. He drove home the point that we are living in a country that once promised success for those who worked hard, but is now faced with rapidly rising inequality and decreasing upward mobility in a way that “challenges the essence of who we are as a people.” Each fall NWLC analyzes the poverty data put out by the Census bureau, and those sobering statistics illustrate exactly what the President is talking about. I couldn’t agree more with the President when he said that these trends are bad for families, bad for the economy, bad for social cohesion, and bad for democracy. Read more »

More States and Localities Move to Raise the Minimum Wage as President Calls for a Nationwide Increase

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, the holiday shopping season is officially in full swing. But while some of us retreat to the internet to avoid frenzied shoppers at the mall, the season is far more stressful for many of the workers restocking store shelves and serving meals in the food court (and not just because they have to deal with swarms of cranky customers). For millions of employees in retail, fast food, and other industries that pay poverty-level wages, the end of the year means hard work and higher expenses – without any chance of a holiday bonus.

As Paul Krugman points out in the New York Times this week, the inflation-adjusted wages of nonsupervisory workers in retail have fallen almost 30 percent over the past four decades. That drop parallels the declining value of the federal minimum wage, which is just $7.25 per hour today; if it had kept up with inflation since reaching its peak in 1968, it would be over $10.70 per hour by now. In another recent piece for the New York Times, Professor Arindrajit Dube notes that this “erosion of the minimum wage has been an important contributor to wage inequality, especially for women” (who make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers in the U.S.); in fact, “the evidence suggests that around half of the increase in inequality in the bottom half of the wage distribution since 1979 was a result of falling real minimum wages.”

Fortunately, there’s movement on the minimum wage in a number of states and localities – and even some encouraging signs nationally. Today, in a major speech on economic mobility, President Obama renewed his call to raise the minimum wage. Recognizing the link between the low minimum wage and widening economic inequality, he described an increase as a key piece of an agenda to restore opportunity for all. Read more »

10 Reasons it’s Great that President Obama Supports a $10.10 Minimum Wage

It’s official.  President Obama, who has long supported a minimum wage increase, has come out in support of Senator Harkin’s (D-IA) and Representative Miller’s (D-CA) Fair Minimum Wage Act

Here are 10 reasons this great news for women and families:

  1. Women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers.
  2. Women of color are disproportionately represented among female minimum wage workers.
  3. One in four working mothers would get a raise if the minimum wage were increased to $10.10 per hour.

Child Care: It’s Time to Move it Up on Our Country’s Priority List

Crushed by the Cost of Child Care,” an article in Sunday’s New York Times, highlights a dilemma faced by millions of families. It is not a new or a surprising story. Ask any parent in any community across this country what one of your biggest challenges is and they will say finding affordable and high-quality child care.

While we have made some progress over the years, putting in place programs to help low-income families with the cost of child care, federal and state funding is actually on a downward slide. It is hard to explain why we do not provide more help to families in affording child care given that the case for investing in young children is so strong. Child care plays two critical roles that support our economy. It helps children access the high-quality early learning environments that they need to succeed and it helps parents work and support their families. Yet we have not found the will to ensure that all our children and their families, especially the most vulnerable, have the early childhood opportunities they need.

For the sake of nation’s children, families, and economy, we need to do better. This will require policymakers to step up their commitment to child care. Read more »

President Obama Highlights the Importance of Early Learning Opportunities in Speech

 “If we don't make this investment [in education], we're going to put our kids, our workers and our country at a competitive disadvantage for decades. So we have to begin in the earliest years, and that's why I'm going to keep pushing to make high-quality preschool available for every four-year-old in America. Not just because we know it works for our kids, but because it provides a vital support system for working parents.”
—President Obama, July 24, 2013

President Obama, speaking to a crowd in Galesburg, Illinois highlighted the importance that high-quality early childhood care and education plays in ensuring that our youngest children are poised for upward mobility and success in life—and in building a strong economy that works for all Americans. The President made clear that early education is a key component of ensuring the country’s economic prosperity. He also emphasized that early education benefits both children and their parents.

Ensuring that children have affordable, high-quality early care and education means that parents are able to participate in the workforce, have the peace of mind they need to be productive at work, and provide for their families. When parents are able to work and contribute their talents, they also help make our economy as a whole more vibrant. Read more »

Hanging with Mr. President

At the White HouseSo yesterday was a REALLY exciting day for me! I was invited to the White House to see President Obama give a speech on the health care law, a.k.a. Obamacare. There are a lot of beneficial parts of the health care law for young women such as myself, like no co-pay preventive services and no longer being charged more for insurance by simply being a woman. I was asked to come to the White House because a few months ago I received a rebate from my insurance company. Yes, my insurance company sent me a check as opposed to a bill. The reason for this is that there is a provision in Obamacare that says that insurance companies have to use 80% of premium costs on care. If insurance companies do not use the majority of funds on care then they need to return the difference. Pretty great, right?

How it worked for me was that because I have insurance through NWLC, they received the check and the amount that normally comes out of my paycheck for my insurance plan was less. Some people might not even realize that they received the rebate but I was watching for it. Full disclosure, I have a lot of student loans, but on one of my loans I was really close to paying it off. When I received that extra amount in my paycheck, I was actually able to pay off one of my student loans!! Read more »

#PreKForAll: Transform a Twitter Trend into a Reality

The hashtag “#PreKForAll” was trending on Twitter nationwide less than 30 minutes into the National Women’s Law Center’s “Tweetchat,” which encouraged conversation about the importance of high-quality early learning opportunities. The chat was held as part of this week’s national Early Learning Day of Action, which aimed to generate support for increased investments in these programs.

Senators Patty Murray, Dick Durbin and Kirsten Gillibrand, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Paulette Aniskoff all joined the conversation that would continue for hours beyond its allotted one-hour time slot. Read more »

Giving Early Education the Attention It Deserves

At a recent forum held by the Center for American Progress, New York Times columnist Gail Collins said, “If there was going to be a cause that would hook the general needs of society with the most pressing needs of women with something that virtually everyone in the universe agrees with….it would be early childhood education.” Collins noted that early education addresses numerous challenges, from income inequality to parents’ need for child care while they work. Yet she also said that early education isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Read more »