This past weekend, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Young Feminist Leadership Conference here in Washington, D.C. about the Administration’s efforts to advance the rights of women and girls. The conference brought together young leaders from all over the country to George Washington University’s campus in order to network, share activism and organizing ideas, and discuss complex topics ranging from sexual assault policies on campuses to the role of social media in feminist activism. The campus activists who attended the conference are fostering change in their communities every day. It was inspiring to see the auditorium full of passionate students of every ethnic background, gender, and sexual orientation, united by the common ambition of achieving equality on all fronts.
Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls, speaks to young feminists
next to Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and Representative
Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C.
I spoke to this generation of young activists alongside luminaries and heroes of the feminist movement including Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, and Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton from the District of Columbia.
We were also joined by two young activists, Steph and Kari. These young feminists are utilizing social media and grassroots organizing to galvanize students and youth across the nation to be leaders on their campuses and in their communities. Steph and Kari embody the spirit of winning the future and highlight how passion and innovation can foster progressive social change.
Each panelist shared her unique experience of working towards achieving gender equality in the United States. Although the speakers were each instrumental in championing important advancements for women, they all agreed that women and girls today must strive to make those changes permanent and continue to address the dramatic inequalities that still exist.
Achieving gender equality and advancing women’s rights are priorities for President Obama. That’s why the first piece of legislation he signed upon taking office was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and why less than two months later, he established the White House Council on Women and Girls by Executive Order. The Council on Women and Girls recently released a report on “Women in America” that highlights the incredible progress women have made on many fronts while underlining the reality that there is still a lot left to be done.
The President has emphasized the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation and he continues to highlight the need to inspire young girls to pursue excellence in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. In his recent weekly radio address, the President stressed that in order to stay competitive with the rest of the world, we must utilize everyone’s skills. Investing in women and girls stimulates growth and the economy and will advance our nation as a whole.
Young women like Steph, Kari, and the hundreds of other campus activists who attended the conference are working diligently to eliminate inequalities in their communities. In the spirit of young leaders, the White House recently launched WhiteHouse.gov/YoungAmericans to mobilize youth across the country. It’s the dedication and enthusiasm of young activists that will advance the rights of women and girls and win the future.
Tina Tchen is the Chief of Staff to the First Lady and the Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls