The White House says it is creating a working group of top federal officials and outside experts to examine ways the administration can help minority women.


Wednesday’s announcement serves as a response to complaints that young women had been excluded from President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

White House aides will meet with policy staff from across federal agencies, as well as experts, leaders and advocates from outside the government, according to a White House official. The panel will examine ways to improve the lives of young women of color with a focus on education, juvenile justice, health and finances.

The White House will also convene a meeting in January to examine ways to increase access for female students to science, math and trade programs. According to the White House, officials, aides and advocates will look for ways to “help disrupt patterns of gender-based occupational segregation.”

The White House on Wednesday also released a report detailing persistent challenges and disparities for minority women.

“Women and girls of color still face higher rates of poverty and receive lower wages for their work than their white peers, and they are more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system,” the report says. “Women of color still have some of the highest rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other serious conditions, and they experience high rates of domestic violence.”

The White House was criticized by some women’s rights activists over the My Brother’s Keeper program, launched in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin killing.

The program is designed to find ways for the federal government and private sector partners to offer greater assistance to minority men most likely to drop out of school or have interactions with the criminal justice system. It has solicited hundreds of millions of dollars in outside donations. In recent months, Obama has appeared alongside other celebrities, including NBA stars Chris Paul and Magic Johnson, to promote tutoring and mentorship programs.

But more than 1,000 prominent women of color, including actress Rosario Dawson and law professor Anita Hill, signed a letter earlier this summer asking the president to expand the program to include girls.

Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said the program “is not an either/or, it’s a both/and” at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast earlier this year. But she also defended the focus on boys, noting they were disproportionately suspended and expelled from school, leading to interactions with the criminal justice system.

“If you’re in a family unit … and the boys are having a particularly hard time, the impact on the entire family is troublesome,” Jarrett said. “And so you’re helping the sisters, the moms, the aunts, the uncles.”