The President has fought long and hard for the strongest and most comprehensive protection for consumers and reforms of Wall Street in the history of this nation. Last week, the Senate passed legislation that would provide important protections for consumers and enforce commonsense rules of the road for the financial industry. These reforms are vital to the wellbeing of this nation, and they are especially critical to the wellbeing of women.
We, as women, face many unique financial challenges. Women were 32% more likely to have received subprime mortgages of all types than men, regardless of income. Our average 401(k) balance is substantially less than the average balance for men, and women face a higher risk for retirement insecurity. Complicating these inequalities is the fact that women need to accumulate more retirement assets than men because we are likely to live longer.
The Federal Government has been working hard to ensure that women get access to the tools they need from an educational perspective. On April 27, 2010, http://www.mymoney.gov/ was launched, which provides financial information and resources from 20 Federal agencies and Bureaus. Financial capability and economic empowerment for women and girls is also one of the areas of focus for the interagency White House Council on Women and Girls. And the Department of the Treasury, in partnership with the Department of Education, issued the National Financial Capability Challenge, an awards program designed to increase the financial knowledge and capability of high school aged youth.
Ensuring that everyday citizens have the financial skills they need does not correct the abuse and neglect of Wall Street. President Obama has been working tirelessly to reform Wall Street. The reform the President supports will establish clear rules of the road; combat abusive and predatory practices; increase protections for consumers and investors in the case of fraud; help families to avoid hidden fees; empower us to make smart choices by promoting financial education and financial literacy; protect our retirement security, savings and investments; and increase protections for those who uncover financial frauds.
Women across the country and all American citizens have paid the price for an outdated regulatory system that left our financial system vulnerable to collapse and our citizens without adequate protections. Lobbyists are already ratcheting up their efforts to water down this legislation and create loopholes and carve-outs that would leave us susceptible to some of the same core problems that created this financial meltdown in the first place. As the Senate and the House come together to reconcile these two bills, we urge Congress to ensure that every word of its final legislation leaves the American people more empowered, better educated, and better protected -- without any exceptions or loopholes. America deserves nothing less.
Elizabeth Vale is Business Liaison in the Office of Public Engagement and Executive Director of the White House Business Council