Today, the White House Council on Women and Girls and the US Department of Treasury hosts a “Women in Finance” Symposium at the Treasury Department. In the spirit of Women’s History Month, this event features discussions with prominent women who have risen to the top in what many still consider a predominantly male profession. As someone who has worked in business and finance, I know how important these discussions are. When I started my career in business, it was a pretty lonely world for women, but thanks to the talent and dedication of women such as Elizabeth Warren, Karen Mills and Carla Harris, that is not necessarily the case anymore. This event not only serves to elevate awareness about the progress of women in the financial sector, but it is also our hope that it will inspire more young women to pursue financial careers of their own in the future.
The event kicks off with a welcome by Treasurer Rosie Rios and remarks by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Following the Secretary’s comments, a panel moderated by Maria Bartiromo of CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” will discuss women’s roles in the economic recovery. This topic could not be timelier. Women now account for more than half of the workforce. Additionally, men have suffered the brunt of job losses in the recent recession, meaning that more and more women have been entering the workforce and those that were in it already, are now working longer and harder to make up the difference and make ends meet. Women are now economic engines, and their progress in the labor force is intrinsically tied to our future prosperity as a country. Panelists such as SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro and Council of Economic Advisers Chairwoman Christina Romer, will also touch on how financial institutions, both public and private, have helped women in the recovery process.
The second panel will discuss challenges to women in the finance field, followed by breakout sessions in which small groups will discuss how to address these challenges and will share their own experiences and success stories. I have the privilege of wrapping up the day’s events with comments of my own about how the White House Council on Women and Girls is working to both support working women and those not yet in the workforce. Specifically, the Council is taking up the issue of workplace flexibility with a conference later in the week and by helping to integrate more flexible policies into the agencies. The Council has also worked with the Department of Education to promote “STEM” education—education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The Department of Education has offered incentives to the state school systems to include more girls and underrepresented students into STEM education. And working with multiple entities, the Council is working to promote financial literacy into school curriculum and into the knowledge base of all young women.
April is “Financial Capabilities” month so stay tuned for more information on our financial literacy programs in the coming month. And stay tuned for updates on all of the Council’s work!
Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement