While the Supreme Court was hearing history-making arguments on the Affordable Care Act, delegates and supporters of Vision 2020 made organizational history in Washington as 150 women and men attended a White House briefing Tuesday on domestic policy issues.
At the briefing, Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, made a compelling argument that changing rigid work schedules and policies and bringing flexible options to the workplace would make it more possible for women to contribute and benefit themselves, their families, and the nation.
Will a more flexible workplace solve the “leaky pipeline” of educated women gradually leaving the workforce when forced to choose between personal and professional responsibilities?
This issue resonates with our membership. One of our goals is to increase the percentage of women in leadership positions. Despite education gains, progress of women attaining leadership positions is slow, stalled and in some cases has slipped. For example, women make up 50 percent of law school class enrollments and just 17 percent of partners in firms.
Cecilia Muñoz Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, reminded us that the first bill President Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. But Congress failed to pass the subsequent Paycheck Fairness Act that would have addressed pay equity issues.
To help women compete in the workforce, Sara Manzano-Díaz, director of the Women’s Bureau in the Labor Dept., mentioned an innovative solution.
Her department launched in January a national competition to develop software applications that leverage public data to promote equal pay for men and women.
“Equal Pay App Challenge” is intended to produce an app to educate users about the pay gap and provide tools to combat it. The winner of the challenge will be announced next month.
One of the tools, said Manzano-Díaz, will help women negotiate asking for a raise.
We invited our delegates from 50 states and our national allies and supporters to attend the briefing. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. Delegates traveled from CA, AZ, NM and LA as well as nearby states to attend.
Catherine Ormerod is Director, Vision 2020, Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership, Drexel University College of Medicine.