At the White House’s very first United State of Women Summit yesterday, President Obama criticized workplace gender inequality, and laid out plans to change it. The President, along with speakers like Michelle Obama, Joe Biden and Oprah, praised the progress our country’s made with equality, but also reminded the audience how much work is left to be done.
Referring to the often archaic stereotypes women face in their work environments, Obama called for urgent changes in our economic and employment policies. “Households and work arrangements come in all shapes and all combinations, and yet our workplace policies still look like they’re straight out of Mad Men,” he lamented.
To move America into the modern age, he called for equal pay, paid family sick leave, affordable childcare and an increased minimum wage. The White House announced $50 million in commitments to improve the lives of women and girls, as well as multiple initiatives addressing the problems that face American women, including the White House Equal Pay Pledge, which encourages companies to conduct yearly wage analysis and restructure their hiring processes to promote gender equality.
Many major corporations, including Amazon, Pinterest and AirBnB, have already signed it, while other large companies, including AOL, are contributing to a $20 million program to help women’s education through Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative. The Department of Labor also announced its decision to revise sexual discrimination guidelines.
This is the not the first time Obama’s referenced Mad Men, again comparing workplace policy to the show during his 2014 State of the Union address. He’s clearly a fan of the show, but not one of gender inequality. “I may be a little grayer than I was eight years ago,” he said yesterday, “But this is what a feminist looks like.”