[Excerpt] In recent years, on indicators ranging from educational attainment to economic security to health and well-being, women and girls of color have made tremendous progress. The number of businesses owned by women of color has skyrocketed, and women of color have ascended to the upper ranks of workplaces across industries. Teen pregnancy rates for girls of color have plummeted, and high school and college graduation rates have risen.
Yet, these achievements may obscure the very real challenges and disparities that persist for women and girls of color. Girls of color still lag behind in their performance on standardized tests, and they are more likely to be suspended from school. Women and girls of color still face higher rates of poverty and receive lower wages for their work than their white peers, and they are more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system. Women of color still have some of the highest rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other serious conditions, and they experience high rates of domestic violence. And when women are the primary or sole breadwinners for nearly half of all households of color, these disparities do not just affect them, but their families and communities as well.
Further, as President Obama recently noted, women of color “struggle every day with biases that perpetuate oppressive standards for how they’re supposed to look and how they’re supposed to act. Too often, they’re either left under the hard light of scrutiny, or cloaked in a kind of invisibility.” When addressing the challenges women and girls of color face – challenges that often lie at the intersection of race and gender – we often fail to fully acknowledge, and account for, this complexity.
President Obama created the White House Council on Women and Girls in the first months of his presidency precisely for the purpose of addressing issues like these. The Council’s mandate is to ensure that every agency, department and office in the federal government takes into account the needs and aspirations of women and girls in every aspect of their work. Since it was established, the Council has worked on a number of issues and policies that impact women and girls of color across the country. Highlights of these initiatives – as well as numerous others across the federal government – are detailed in this report.
As part of its efforts to address barriers and disparities that still exist for so many Americans and so many women and girls of color in particular, the Council is convening a Working Group on Challenges and Opportunities for Women and Girls of Color. This Working Group will bring together policy staff from the White House and across federal agencies – as well as experts, leaders and advocates from outside the government – to focus on issues including education, economic security, health, criminal and juvenile justice, violence, and research and data collection.