TRANSITION FORUM--Women’s eNews Founder and Editor-in-Chief Calls for Office of Maternal Health, Title IX Task Force, and More

November 7, 2008 Posted by Rita Henley Jensen, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Women’s eNews As The Memo: A Status Report on U.S. Women produced this summer by Women's eNews documents, we’ve seen a decline in U.S. women's wellbeing during the last decade: Our labor force participation is down; the wage gap is persistent, women's health indicators are falling, violence against women is likely to increase during the recession and lesbian or suspected lesbians who are in the military are most likely to be discharged under the Ask Don't Tell policy.  Bias against women is systematic and needs to be addressed in a systematic way. To move women and the issues women care about most from the margins to the center in this new administration, President Obama should hold a joint monthly with the women's caucuses of the House and Senate.   He should also consider the suggestions outlined below. New Appointments, Task Forces, and Advisory Positions I have two strong candidates for the Secretary of Treasury Post and both are brilliant and neither has made public statements insulting women's abilities in math and science, as has Lawrence Summers, who is currently under consideration.  They are: 1. Brooksley E. Born is now chair of the board of the National Women's Law Center. From 1996 to 1999 she was chair of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission the federal government agency that oversees the futures and commodity option markets and futures professionals.  While at the CFTC, Born served as a member of the President's Working Group on Financial Markets and the Technical Committee of the International Organization of Securities Commissions. She was fired from her post because she dared to urge tighter regulation of trading in derivatives.  She was given her pink slip by none other than, yes indeed, , Mr. Shortlist for Treasury Secretary himself, best know for challenging the existence of gender bias and for his statement that "innate differences" between men and women might explain why fewer women succeed in those careers.

2.  FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair who has proposed a bailout that actually focuses avoiding foreclosures -one that could help banks AND homeowners. Bair told the Senate Banking Committee that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is working with the Treasury to establish standards for modifying loans and providing guarantees for loans that meet the standards.  For more on Bair, click here. President-elect Barack Obama should immediately set up a cabinet level Office of Maternal Health. Within that office should be a special focus on improving the maternal health of African American women and an office focused on ending the homicide of pregnant women. Both could dramatically improve the health of all pregnant women in the United States. At this writing, the United States is ranked 41st internationally in maternal mortality, with African American women dying three to five times as often (depending where they live within the United States) as white women. In addition, homicide is a leading cause of death of U.S. pregnant women. Maternal health includes access to contraception, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and availability of abortion, as well as pre-natal and post-natal care. President-elect Obama  should also appoint a Title IX Task Force within the Department of Justice focused on enforcement, civil litigation and auditing of compliance with the law that requires equal opportunity across the board at all colleges and universities that receive federal funds, not just in athletics. Part of the task force's work should also include developing strategies for compliance in primary and secondary schools. President-elect Obama also should appoint a special advisor on judiciary appointments. President Bush has appointed one-third of all sitting federal judges, a job that is a lifetime appointment. President-elect Obama should take steps now to ensure he has a deep reservoir of excellent candidates ready to fill any open positions and the staff to move the nomination smoothly through the Senate. Finally, President Obama should focus on women's poverty and reassess the 1996 welfare law that drastically limited single parents and grandparents access to federal assistance. Before the law was passed, 20 percent of custodial single parents (85 percent of whom are women) did not receive federal assistance and did not have a job. Recent data indicate the percentage has grown to 30 percent—and this was before the recession officially began.

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These are some alarming facts...I didn't realize how grave some of these situations are. I definitely respect the call to action you've laid out the only issue is getting the pencil-pushers in Washington to actually do something about it.
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