Obama rallies women lawmakers at meeting

President Obama will host women of Congress at the White House for a Wednesday meeting in the administration's latest bid to focus attention on its economic policy priorities ahead of the midterm election.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers will release new data in conjunction with the meeting showing that women earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and the wage gap increases for women of color.

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"In the 21st century, why aren’t women earning equal pay? So how can we close that pay gap?" White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett asked CBS News on Wednesday.

The meeting will feature female Democrats from the House and Senate, along with the president and Jarrett. Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are expected to speak at the top of the meeting.

The president also plans to announce a White House summit on working families set for late June.

According to the White House, the conference will draw businesses, academics, labor leaders, and elected officials to discuss ways to help workers better compete for jobs. The event will be co-hosted by the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank founded by current Obama counselor John Podesta.

Officials say attendees will work together to develop solutions and best practices to help women maintain and advance their careers. The administration is also expected to promote early childhood education, child care, and elder care initiatives that would help mothers in the workplace.

Jarrett said the Obama administration would look to lead by example through workplace flexibility initiatives that allowed women to juggle responsibilities on the job and at home.

"We want to make sure that they have the flexibility to participate in the work but also honor the responsibilities — and it could be taking care of children, elder care, volunteering in the community, and that companies that are flexible tend to be more productive and more profitable, so how can we support that," Jarrett said.

Jarrett said the White House would encourage businesses to "restructure our work environment" to retain and promote women who are being left behind during their childbearing years.

The meetings also dovetail with the president's political messaging. Obama has kept a laser-like focus on his populist economic agenda in 2014, looking to cast the midterm elections as a battle between economic philosophies rather than a referendum on his signature healthcare law.

Democrats will also need women to vote at a significant clip if they hope to gains seats in the House or retain their majority in the Senate. During the 2012 election, 55 percent of women voted for Obama, and just 44 percent voted for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, according to CNN's exit polls.

During the Democratic National Committee winter meeting late last month, Obama mocked Republicans for bringing in outside consultants to advise them on how to talk to women voters.

"It is unclear how they’ve gotten this far without that particular skill," Obama said. "But talking the talk ain’t walking the walk. The problem isn’t how they talk about their policies — the problem is their policies."

Obama also previewed his focus on the female pay gap during his speech to the DNC.

"This isn’t 1954, it’s 2014. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work," he said. "She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves to take a day off to care for a sick kid or a sick parent without running into hardship and a father does, too."

Republican lawmakers have argued that equal-pay legislation championed by Democrats is unnecessary and that existing laws should be better enforced. Some, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have objected to Democrats' claim that the GOP is waging a "war on women."

“I think women are doing very well, and I’m proud of … how far we’ve come,” Paul told CNN earlier this year. “I think some of the victimology and all this other stuff is trumped up, and we don’t get to any good policy by playing some charade that one party doesn’t care about women, or one party isn’t in favor of women advancing or other people advancing.”

 

Mike Lillis contributed.