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Obama launches effort focused on economic issues facing women

  • McClatchy Washington Bureau
  • Published Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at 5:02 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, March 13, 2014, at 4:26 a.m.

President Barack Obama launched a new effort Wednesday designed to highlight economic issues facing women.

Obama met with female lawmakers focused on issues that resonant with women — raising the minimum wage, the pay disparity between men and women, affordable child care and early childhood education programs.

He said his overall economic agenda is aimed at opportunity for everyone, but said it’s especially important to focus on opportunity for women. He said that women still make less than men; are overrepresented in low-wage jobs; and still carry the greatest burden at home.

“If we work together, this is a great opportunity for the United States to take some leaps forward,” he said.

Lawmakers who attended the meeting include: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, Sens. Patty Murray, D-WA, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, Kay Hagan, D-NC, Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, Elizabeth Warren, D-MA and Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, Donna Edwards, D-MD, Lois Frankel, D-FL, Doris Matsui, D-CA, Chellie Pingree, D-ME, Jan Schakowsky, D-IL and Nydia Velazquez, D-NY.

Murray spoke briefly, saying that the Senate will be pursuing legislation to deal with equal pay and minimum wage and other such issues. “We want to make sure we address this broad range” of issues, she said.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report earlier Wednesday showing that on average, full-time year-round female workers earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by male peers. That’s the case even though women are more likely to be more educated than their male colleagues.

“We’re not doing the best we can to maximize GDP growth if we’re not letting women reach the fullest of their potential,” said Betsey Stevenson, a member of the CEA.

The White House announced it would host a summit on working families June 23. In the coming months, the Labor Department, the White House Council on Women and Girls, and the left-leaning think tank, the Center for American Progress, will identify programs the administration can support.

Obama is expected to issue an executive order Thursday to require businesses to pay more overtime to workers who have been exempt in the past. It would restrict companies from classifying certain employees as “executive, administrative or professional” to avoid paying them overtime.

White House spokesman Jay Carney criticized reporters who accused the administration of pandering to a key voting bloc whose turnout just in time for the midterm elections in November.

“You know what? I think every woman in here ought to be offended by that,” he said. “I'm offended by it on behalf of my wife and my daughter. It's crazy.”

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