Obama Dedicates $118 Million to Uplift Women and Girls of Color

The new initiative is an awaited counterpart to last year’s initiative for young men, ‘My Brother’s Keeper.’

Girls hug President Barack Obama as he visits the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Girls hug President Barack Obama as he visits the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

NOV 13, 2015
Rebecca McCray is a staff writer covering social justice. A former Fulbright scholar, she is based in New York.
When President Barack Obama announced a multimillion-dollar philanthropic initiative to uplift young men of color last year, the investment was met with praise from some stakeholders and a big question from others: What about girls and women?

On Friday, a long-awaited answer was delivered at an all-day forum at Wake Forest University dedicated to the issues facing women and girls of color. The White House Council on Women and Girls announced a five-year initiative that will include $118 million in public and private partnerships devoted to empowering women and girls and lifting them out of poverty.

The conference centered around a White House report, Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color, that focuses on education, health care, criminal justice, and economic opportunity, among other issues. While gains have been made for marginalized American women in recent years, the report noted, significant inequity and barriers to success remain.

While the average woman makes just 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, for example, the gender pay gap is even starker for women of color. Black women earn just 60 cents per dollar earned by the average white man, while Latino women earn only 55 cents. In spite of representing a smaller percentage of the overall U.S. population than do their white counterparts, black and Native American girls are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system. Girls of color are more than twice as likely than white girls to become pregnant as teens, decreasing their odds of earning a high school diploma.

Obama addressed the inequalities facing women and girls of color in September during a speech before the Congressional Black Caucus, foreshadowing the initiative announced Friday.

“When women of color aren’t given the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential, we all lose out on their talents; we’re not as good a country as we can be,” Obama said. “So we’re going to have to close those economic gaps so that hardworking women of all races, and black women in particular, can support families and strengthen communities and contribute to our country’s success.”