The White House Council on Women and Girls will host an all-day forum Friday to explore ways to improve the lives of women and girls of color, including a commitment of $118 million in assistance from public and private organizations.

The initiative comes after President Obama, during a speech several weeks ago, called for more attention to the "real and persistent challenges" faced by women and girls of color, including lower incomes, higher rates of serious illness and more exposure to violence. The Obama administration last year launched a major initiative, "My Brother's Keeper," aimed at black boys and young men, and has been chided by some groups for not including girls and young women of color.

Participants in Friday's forum will discuss a report, "Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color," that identifies several areas of focus, including education, criminal justice, health and economic conditions. In the area of education, the report calls for finding ways to reduce the disproportionately high rate of school suspension for girls of color, as well as encouraging more of them to study STEM fields.

The Ms. Foundation and Prosperity Together, a collaboration of 20 women's foundations, have pledged $100 million over five years to develop programs to lift women and girls out of poverty. The money could be used to provide job training, encourage women to open businesses or pay for child care so that women can go to work.

Another $18 million has been pledged by the Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research, which will study and collect data to help identify challenges faced by women and girls of color and solutions to those challenges. That effort will be led by the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University, which is co-hosting Friday's forum.