With support from women critical to Democrats running in the November congressional elections, President Barack Obama is showcasing his administration’s efforts to improve their economic opportunities.
“There are some particular challenges women face,” Obama said, citing his late grandmother who raised him in Hawaii and worked in banking. She “hit a glass ceiling. She trained men to eventually be her boss even though she knew a lot more than they did.”
Obama discussed enhancing educational prospects for women and steps he’s taken to promote equal pay for equal work today at a college in Orlando, Florida. It is the first in a series of similar events around the country leading up to a White House summit on families on June 23.
“The point of this summit is to figure out what the government can and should do,” to advance women in the economy, Betsey Stevenson, a member of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters before Obama’s speech.
The president met with a group of female community college students and faculty, hearing their personal stories of working and raising families.
Support from women has been crucial to Obama’s presidential wins. Exit polls showed that 56 percent of women voters supported him in the 2008 election, and in his 2012 re-election the figure was 55 percent.
Obama’s job approval among women was 50 percent compared with 45 percent among men, according to a Bloomberg National Poll released last week. His approval among women under 45 years old was 53 percent.
Obama is seeking to capitalize on such backing by highlighting his administration’s effort to help women’s economic status as a domestic policy issue this year leading up to November’s congressional elections.
“The president has a range of tools and he wants to figure out which are the right ones to use that can actually improve our competitiveness,” Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama adviser told reporters on a conference call yesterday.
The average unemployment rate for men 20 and older is 6.4 percent, and for women in that age group it’s 5.9 percent, according to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, women make 77 percent of what men make, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Obama didn’t announce any new policies at Valencia College, where he focused on education and job training.
“We’ve got to build an economy that works for everybody, not just a few,” Obama said today in Orlando.
Obama arrived in Florida after announcing new sanctions on Russian individuals and a Russian bank for their roles in the Ukraine crisis. In addition to making an appeal to female voters, Obama also is soliciting money from Democratic donors.
At the Miami home of former National Basketball Association start Alonzo Mourning and his wife, Tracy, Obama joined about 75 contributors to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats.
Ticket prices for the event were $16,200 per person, according to the DCCC. Also speaking at the event were House minority leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Representative Ted Deutch, whose Florida district includes parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties.
He also attended a smaller event for about 25 supporters on behalf of the Democratic National Committee at the home of Lili Estefan, a television host on Spanish-language network Univision. She’s also the niece of singer Gloria Estefan, who hosted a Democratic fundraiser that featured Obama in 2010.
This year’s midterm elections will decide control of Congress, and as a result determine whether Obama is able to advance his legislative agenda.
Democrats are trying to hold their majority in the 100-member Senate, where they control 55 votes, and make gains in the House, where Republicans have a 233-199 edge.
Obama has committed to appearing at 18 events for the DNC and a dozen total for the DCCC, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Governor’s Association in the first half of 2014.
To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org