In March, President Obama signed an executive order creating a panel to advise him on the issues women face in society today. The council is designed to collaborate with Cabinet agencies and departments to ensure that women receive the same opportunities as men. This announcement was made during Women's History Month. Some of the reasoning Obama cited for the necessity of the panel included his own personal experiences of being raised by a struggling single mother, along with the obstacles his grandmother faced trying to obtain promotions during her years as a bank executive. Also cited were the below average wages women earn compared to men; 78 cents on the dollar. According to the White House, “The mission of the council will be to provide a coordinated federal response to the challenges confronted by women and girls and to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and families”. The panel is to be chaired by Valerie Jarrett, who is also a single mother.
The planning for this women's panel was set into motion in December 2008 when more than 50 women's groups sent a letter to the President-elect and Vice President-elect requesting the creation of such a panel. “We urge you to create a Cabinet-level Office on Women that will deal not only with the status of women, but with the many inequities women face in our society, our nation, and our world,” the groups said. “It would be another historic ‘first’ for the United States”. However, the panel isn't Cabinet-level. It is not even a permanent office with a full-time staff. A similar office was created by former President Clinton during his years as president, but was quickly disbanded when Bush took office. Along with his dismantling of the women's office, Bush also closed an office that dealt with racial issues while opting to keep open the office that dealt with the AIDS policies. This trend of opening and closing offices seem to coincide with the changing political tides.
Without permanent status, what can this office truly accomplish on women's issues? If the office isn't permanent, can the effects of the policy changes still be? Some of the bloggers imply that the panel is simply to pacify women and secure their future votes, while others assume the presence of the panel promotes women as more important than men. How does the assumed necessity for a panel focused on women's issues relate to the changing dynamics of our capitalist society as our economy has taken a downfall? Are there any other thoughts on this matter that have been overlooked?