Presidential Commission on the Status of Women

ISSUE UPDATE: Congress Considering Presidential Commission on Women May 7th, 2009


By Brandy Bailey, ElectWomen Magazine Contributor

A Presidential Commission on Women is one step closer to becoming a reality.  On April 2nd, Representative Jackie Speier (D-California) introduced legislation regarding the creation of such a Commission that is now moving through Congress.  If approved, the Commission will be responsible for conducting an independent review of the status of American women and make substantive policy recommendations to help women move forward and achieve equality and opportunity.

In March, President Obama signed an executive order creating a White House Council on Women and Girls that will consider the effect on women of the Administration’s policies and agenda.  The Presidential Commission on Women will differ from the White House Council on Women and Girls in the following ways:

•    The Commission will provide an independent, thorough look at the lives of women in America and create strategies for moving forward.  It will examine women’s life at home, in the workplace, health issues, and economic impact.
•    The Commission will be externally focused and it will call upon experts from around the country with diversity in geography, age, ethnicity, and industry sector.
•    The Commission will be a bipartisan group reaching across political ideology.
•    The Commission will involve a significant grassroots component. It will encourage the participation of millions of women from around the country who can provide feedback and input.

Ultimately, 15 members will be appointed to the Commission to serve a five-year term.  President Obama will appoint four members.  The head of the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader in the Senate will each appoint three members, while the minority leaders of the House and Senate will appoint two members to serve on the Commission.

The first Presidential Commission on women was created in 1961, by President Kennedy to explore issues relating to women in areas such as employment policy, education, and federal Social Security and tax laws relating to women. Although local chapters of that Commission still exist, there has not been a similar national effort in 48 years.

For more information go to

From, 4/13/09:

Speier seeks women’s commission

By JOSH GERSTEIN | 4/1/09 11:11 AM EDT  Updated: 4/1/09 2:55 PM EDT
“Rep. Jackie Speier wants more equality for women.

“I would say, ‘We’ve come a long way, baby’…not,” Rep. Jackie Speier said of women’s rights.
Photo: AP

A California congresswoman is pressing forward with legislation to set up a permanent federal commission on women just weeks after President Barack Obama created an interagency council to focus the government’s policies towards women and girls.

“I don’t see them at all in competition. I see them as complementary to each other,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told POLITICO.

Speier said she plans to introduce a bill Thursday that would set up a 13-member federal commission similar to one President Kennedy created in 1961 at the urging of Eleanor Roosevelt, who also served as the panel’s chairwoman.

“I would say, ‘We’ve come a long way, baby’ … not,” Speier said, putting a twist on the old Virginia Slims cigarette slogan. “If you look at statistics, it’s very telling. Women represent only 17 percent of Congress. The amount women make in comparison to men is only 77 cents on the dollar. … It’s that kind of insidious discrimination that lingers.”

A new California-based group which blames gender bias for undermining Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Women Count, counts Speier as a member and has been calling for a national women’s commission. The organization’s executive director, Stacy Mason, said 55 women’s groups have endorsed the idea.

Some women said the interagency council Obama announced March 11 fell short of the full-time office or Cabinet-level influence they had hoped for. Mason offered no criticism of Obama’s action, but said it spurred more calls for a broad-ranging national panel.

“Since then, I think this effort and the commission has actually picked up steam and there has been more support coalescing around it because people are really in agreement that we need both things,” she said. “The idea of a presidential commission is to step back and take an independent look at the status of women in this country.”

Speier said her bill calls for commissioners to serve five-year terms appointed by the president or Congressional leaders. The panel would have a budget of $2 million a year, she said.

Last month, a White House official said Obama considered a presidential women’s commission before deciding to set up the intra-government council instead. On Wednesday, the White House stuck a more positive tone towards the idea of a national women’s commission.

“There are a number of initiatives and pieces of legislation that members of Congress have introduced that would help address issues of particular importance to women, including the creation of various commissions,” a White House spokesman, Shin Inouye, said. “Under his executive authority, President Obama created the White House Council on Women and Girls, which is in the process of developing a plan of action to improve the lives of women and girls. President Obama looks forward to our continued work with Congress and supports efforts that move toward this shared goal.”

Speier said the White House is aware of her planned bill, but hasn’t signaled Obama’s stance on it.

Supporters are planning to introduce the measure on Thursday because it is the anniversary of the swearing-in in 1917 of the first woman to serve in Congress, Rep. Jeanette Rankin of Montana.

 About H.R. 1887:


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