Obama promises to continue fight for women's equality

Two days after Senate Democrats demanded that President Obama take a more public stance in the budget fight, Obama devoted his weekly address to honoring Women’s History Month.

While Democrats want the president to plunge into the tense standoff with Republicans over spending cuts, Obama is sticking to his own timeline.

In a pre-taped address delivered Saturday morning, Obama extolled Eleanor Roosevelt’s pursuit of equality between the sexes and the recent progress women have made in education and the professions.


The president recalled Roosevelt’s work on a commission established by former President Kennedy to examine the status of women in America and said the nation has made great strides toward greater equality since then.

“Women have caught up with men in seeking higher education. In fact, women today are more likely than men to attend and graduate from college,” Obama said. “Yet, there are also reminders of how much work remains to be done.”

Obama noted that women are still more likely to live in poverty in the U.S. and are vastly outnumbered as students of math and engineering.

“And, today, women still earn on average only about 75 cents of every dollar a man earns,” he said. “That’s a huge discrepancy.

“And at a time when folks across this country are struggling to make ends meet — and many families are just trying to get by on one paycheck after a job loss — it’s a reminder that achieving equal pay for equal work isn’t just a women’s issue. It’s a family issue,” he said.

Obama touted his enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which expanded plaintiffs right to sue employers for discriminatory compensation practices.

“I signed a law so that women who’ve been discriminated against in their salaries could have their day in court to make it right,” Obama said.

Obama also called on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation intended to reduce wage disparities by further empowering women to file class-action lawsuits and to seek information about co-workers’ salaries. The legislation fell two votes short of overcoming a Senate Republican filibuster in November.

Obama vowed “to keep up the fight to pass the reforms in that bill.”

Democratic strategists say that women voters will be critical in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

And ABC/Washington Post poll from October of last year found that women voters are 10 points more likely to be Democrats than Republicans but supported Obama by a smaller margin, 47 percent to 44 percent.

Obama and his political team have made an effort to target women voters, who formed a crucial pillar of support for his 2008 election.

While trying to woo women voters, Obama mentioned his daughters on the campaign trail last fall, such as when he stumped for Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySchumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap House passes bill to combat gender pay gap MORE (D) in Washington state.

He did so again Saturday. 

“Achieving equality and opportunity for women isn’t just important to me as president,” he said. “It’s something I care about deeply as the father of two daughters who wants to see his girls grow up in a world where there are no limits to what they can achieve.”