White House to Address Disparities for Women, Girls of Color

White House to Address Disparities for Women, Girls of Color

In response to criticism that its My Brother's Keeper initiative is too narrowly focused, the White House is launching an effort to expand opportunity and improve life outcomes for young women and girls of color.

Acknowledging that young women and girls of color also face disparities in educational, health, and life outcomes, on Wednesday the White House Council on Women and Girls released a report about the work the administration has done over the last six years to help minority women and girls and announced it was creating a working group to further address the issue. The White House also announced that in January it will convene thought leaders, policy makers, practitioners, researchers, and advocates to develop strategies for expanding access to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and CTE (career and technical education) opportunities for marginalized girls and young women.

According to the report, Women and Girls of Color: Addressing Challenges and Opportunity (54 pages, PDF), about 39 percent of African-American girls, 30 percent of Latino girls, and 40 percent of Native American girls live in poverty, compared to 20 percent of all girls. The report also found that African-American, Latino, and Native American girls are less likely to graduate from high school than white girls and have teen pregnancy rates about twice as high as the rate for white girls, and that African-American and Latino women only make 64 cents and 56 cents to every dollar white men make.

"This report serves as a reminder of steps the administration has already taken to address a number of issues prevalent to the lives of women and girls of color and call to action on what we need to continue to do to tackle these issues going forward," said White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, who chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls.

Social justice advocates have been calling for the inclusion of girls and young women of color in My Brother's Keeper, a public-private effort to which eleven foundations have pledged nearly $200 million, ever since the initiative was announced in February. Anything less than full inclusion is "basically another frame for separate and still unequal," said African American Policy Forum executive director Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, who in June argued for broadening the initiative in a letter to President Obama that was signed by more than a thousand women. "The need to acknowledge the crisis facing boys should not come at the expense of addressing the stunted opportunities for girls who live in the same households, suffer in the same schools, and struggle to overcome a common history of limited opportunities caused by various forms of discrimination," the letter said. It also pointed out that the White House Council on Women and Girls "lacks an intersectional frame that would address the race-based challenges faced by young women of color in a racially stratified society."

Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, told the Associated Press she hopes this week's discussion will spark a movement to address challenges faced by minority women and girls. "This is part of the White House listening and engaging and figuring how they can continue to address issues impacting women and girls and knowing," said Campbell, "that there are unique things that affect women and girls of color."

"White House Report: Women and Girls of Color: Addressing Challenges and Expanding Opportunity." White House Press Release 11/12/2014. Jesse J. Holland. "White House Now Turning to Girls of Color." Associated Press 11/12/2014.