As we commemorate Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, it is fitting to celebrate the many strides our Nation has made towards equality over the past 91 years. It is a day to remember those iron-jawed angels, who marched and stood vigil, who fasted and were imprisoned for that basic right—the right to vote. It is a time to recommit ourselves to continuing the struggle for full equality for women—for our mothers, grandmothers, daughters and for ourselves. And for me personally it is a time to reflect on how much I have benefited from this legacy of sacrifice and leadership to enjoy the great honor I have today of serving in the Obama Administration.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with community organizers, business leaders, faith leaders, and elected officials at Congressman Steny Hoyer’s 9th Annual Women’s Equality Day Luncheon in Clinton, Maryland. I was proud to highlight that the rights, freedoms, and welfare of women and girls has been a priority of the Obama Administration from day one.
From creating the White House Council on Women and Girls, to appointing a strong team of women leaders to his Cabinet and White House staff, President Obama has ushered in a new era of leadership. He nominated two women to the Supreme Court and nearly half of his confirmed nominees to the lower courts are women—far surpassing the previous high watermark of around 30 percent.
President Obama understands that supporting women translates into stronger families and a stronger economy. That is why over the past two and a half years, the Obama Administration has placed an emphasis on implementing policies that empower women to realize their full economic potential. The Administration has looked at issues from workplace flexibility to wage inequality, and expanded small business lending to women businesses owners though the Small Business Administration.
The Obama Administration has also made strides in women’s health. The landmark Affordable Care Act prevents insurers from charging women higher premiums than they charge men, and makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to women based on pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, being a victim of domestic violence, or pregnancy. For the first time, new insurance plans must cover preventive care for women, including: mammograms, STD/HIV testing and counseling, domestic violence counseling, contraception, and gestational diabetes screening with no deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance. Additionally, starting in 2014 all health plans will be required to cover the cost of a pregnancy — a monumental win for women. This Administration is also working to reduce teen pregnancy, improve medical care for women veterans, and end violence against women though increased funding and innovative programs.
Supporting our Nation’s families and working to improve their health is also a cornerstone of the First Lady’s agenda. From Let’s Move!, the initiative that aims to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation, to Joining Forces, the initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to support and honor our service members, veterans, and their families, the First Lady is committed to improving the lives of women and children.
The President and the First Lady are deeply committed to ensuring all women and girls can reach their highest potential, but each of us has a role to play in this fight for equality. So in honor of Women’s Equality Day I hope you will get involved in our efforts by: