Women in the World

03.09.12

Jarrett: Obama Views Women as Integral to Administration, Economy

The president's senior advisor tells Mellody Hobson what Obama's doing to advance women—and stresses fostering confidence in girls.

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“How would you say women fit into the president’s overall vision?” Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, asked Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

"Integrally," Jarrett replied. “The president was raised by a single mom, he watched her struggle, he saw his grandmother hit a glass ceiling when she worked at a bank. And then he married this terrific woman and they were really struggling, and they had these two wonderful girls. He values women having a seat at the table, and our mission is to do everything within our power to improve the quality of life for women and girls."

So, Madame Advisor, what are you getting done?

"The first bill the president signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which gives us a little more ammunition to get women equal pay. Equal pay is sound business," Jarrett said. The Obama cabinet has also tried to put the spotlight on transparency "and lead by example."

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Marc Bryan-Brown

Still, Jarrett admitted, we're far behind. "The jobs of the future are science, engineering and math, and those are the jobs that women have shied away from," she said. The guarantee of a strong education for every child is the magic bullet, and the administration is working toward that goal. "If you have an education, then the sky is the limit," she said. Teaching our daughters and colleagues confidence is crucial to the formula for women's success.

Asked what she wants her own legacy to be, Jarrett replied: “That’s a hard question to answer, when you think of yourself as being at the midpoint in life. But one thing I try really to do is mentor those who come after me. I’ve been lucky, so I feel like I have a lot to give back.”