Obama Highlights Women and Economy in Election Appeal

U.S. President Barack Obama is emphasizing economic issues that affect women, a key voting bloc in November’s congressional elections, meeting today with female lawmakers at the White House and releasing a report on the gender gap in income.

The report by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers says that while women are making progress in male-dominated occupations, a wage gap persists. The White House will host a summit on working families on June 23.

“We are doing this to ensure that we’re making the best use of American talent to ensure competitiveness in the U.S., in the U.S. economy,” Betsey Stevenson, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, said at a briefing.

Thirteen Democratic women in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate joined Obama for a meeting at the White House today. They including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Patty Murray of Washington.

One of the most senior women in Congress, Senate Intelligence committee chairman Dianne Feinstein of California, didn’t attend.

Feinstein and the Obama administration are at odds over her panel’s investigation of the Central Intelligence Agency’s treatment of suspected terrorists during former President George W. Bush’s administration.

Feinstein has accused the CIA of improper and possibly illegal interference in the investigation -- hacking into computers used by the committee -- while CIA Director John Brennan said “nothing could be further from the truth.”

Economic Issues

Obama, responding to a question at the meeting, said he will declassify the report as soon as the Senate committee finishes it.

Obama and the lawmakers were to discuss proposals for equal pay, raising the minimum wage, expanding family leave and childcare and getting more women into science and technology jobs, according to a statement released by the White House.

Obama lauded successes for women in the workplace while saying there is much work yet to be done.

“There are doors that have been opened to women that previously were closed,” he said. Even so, “women continue to be overrepresented in low-wage professions. Families are suffering the burden.”

The 10-page report from Obama’s economic advisers assesses women’s participation in education and the workforce.

77 Cents

It said that full-time female workers still earn only 77 cents for each dollar paid to men in similar jobs, and that women are still more likely to work in low-wage jobs and are more likely to be paid the minimum wage.

“While the wage gap reflects a variety of causes, it is clear that there are wage gaps across the income distribution, within occupations, and are seen even when men and women are working side-by-side performing similar tasks,” the report said.

Income earned by females is increasingly critical, the report said, because married women’s earnings account for 44 percent of a family’s wages last year, compared with 37 percent in the 1970s.

“Raising wages for women means raising income for families,” according to the report.

There are other inequalities, including a widening income gap between men and women holding professional degrees. Earnings are similar for both men and women in their 20s, though by their late 30s men’s earning are more than 50 percent greater than women.

Valerie Jarrett, senior counselor to the president, said on CBS’s “This Morning” that the goal of the June summit is to make sure that workplaces are globally competitive and prepared for the 21st century.

The pay gap between men and women is important because women are “increasingly breadwinners in families.”

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