President Barack Obama said he was signing an executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls to "ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have no limits on their dreams."
From the East Room of the White House, the president addressed a mostly female audience, a mix of lawmakers and public figures, including the first lady, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes, and civil rights activist Dr. Dorothy Height. The Council will be headed by White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, and made of up Cabinet secretaries and administration officials. Its mission will be to provide federal responses to the challenges confronted by women and girls and to ensure the impact of federal policies and programs on women and girls are taken into account.
"I sign this order not just as a president, but as a son, a grandson, a husband and a father," Obama said. "These issues are not just women's issues. When women make less than men for the same work, it hurts families who find themselves with less income and have to work harder just to get by."
Over the next year, the White House says the council will ensure all federal agencies work to improve the economic status of women and develop policies to establish a balance between work and family. The first lady has said that the work/family balance will be a major focus of her agenda. The council will also work to prevent violence against women and improve women's health care.
While Jarrett will chair the council, Tina Tchen will manage day-to-day operations. Chen is currently the director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. President Obama said he owed much of his own success to the women who had supported him throughout his life.
"That's why so many of us are here today, because of the women who came before us, who were determined to see us sit in the high seats," he said. "So now it's up to us to carry that work forward."
-- Yunji de Nies and Sunlen Miller