Obama Says U.S. Still Has Steps to Take for Women's Equality

In remarks at a GE plant in Schenectady, N.Y., President Obama said the U.S. struck a deal with China during President Hu Jintao's visit to open American markets in China. The president said the deals with China will mean more than $45 billion in new business and 235,000 new jobs for American workers.
By Nicholas Johnston
(c) 2011 Bloomberg News
Saturday, March 12, 2011; 6:20 AM

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said women are still more likely than men to live in poverty, are underrepresented in math and engineering education, and earn, on average, 75 percent as much as men.

"We have to work even harder to close the gaps that still exist, and to uphold that simple American ideal: We are all equal and deserving of the chance to pursue our own version of happiness," he said.

The White House on March 1 released a report highlighting gains made by women since the last comprehensive federal report on women was published by the government in 1963.

The report found that women in the U.S. attend college at the same rate as men, and the number of women in the workforce is almost equal. Still, the gains in education and employment over the last several decades haven't translated into income equality.

Legislation intended to address the wage discrepancy is stalled in the Senate. The bill, which would lift the cap on damages in pay-discrimination suits and restrict how employers can fight such complaints, was passed in the House in July 2008 and again in January 2009.

"I'm going to keep up the fight to pass the reforms in that bill," Obama said.

In the Republican address, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski focused on energy, saying there are steps the government can take to help lower gasoline prices, such as allowing more exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and in Western states and reducing regulations on energy production.

The cost of oil has surged 23 percent over the past year, and gasoline prices are at their highest in more than two years on concern that the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa will spread to major oil-producing countries. Oil for April delivery settled at $101.16 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday.

"When gasoline prices go up, families and businesses are stretched thin," Murkowski said. "If energy prices keep climbing, our nation could slip back into recession, just as we're finally emerging from the last one."

She said Republicans support both new domestic production and alternatives to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. Greater U.S. oil production would create jobs and make the country more secure, she said.

© 2011 bloomberg.com