Women Appointees Celebrated

Rita Webb, Rebecca Myers, Eleanor SmealNASW’s Rita Webb, left, and Rebecca Myers, right, talk with Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal at the Women, Power and Money Summit.

The Coalition for Women's Appointments, of which NASW is a member, honored more than 320 women appointed to positions in the Obama administration at a Sept. 29 celebration. The event, co-sponsored by NASW, took place at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke at the event and was joined by Nancy Hogan, director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, and Tina Tchen, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Sebelius's remarks focused on the importance of health care reform. She said it is the No. 1 issue for the administration and likened it to the struggle of the suffragettes who worked for many years to pass the 19th amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote.

"Reform will change the world for women," Sebelius asserted.

She also introduced HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Carmen Nazario, a social worker. Before being appointed, Nazario was an assistant professor of social work at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, where she taught social policy and coordinated the social work practicum. Nazario has vast experience in public service with a focus on improving services to children and families within the U.S. and around the world, dating back to 1968.

Hogan remarked that the coalition next year will need a bigger room because President Barack Obama so far has appointed more than a thousand women. Although there have been great strides, she said, women are still underrepresented.

Tchen, who also heads up the White House Council for Women and Girls, spoke about the issues concerning women and girls and the responsibility of the entire federal government to address these challenges.

The Coalition for Women's Appointments is comprised of 20 nonprofit organizations that have been submitting names of qualified women for consideration of appointments within the Obama administration.

Luisa LopezLuisa Lopez, NASW’s director for human rights and international affairs, addressed a panel on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

In October, NASW co-sponsored the "Women, Power and Money Summit." The two-day event, hosted by the Feminist Majority and YWCA, brought together women's groups, social justice advocates, elected officials and others to develop strategies for addressing issues that disproportionately impact women.

NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark participated in a panel discussion with YWCA Executive Director Lorraine Cole; National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill; Susan Scanlon, president of the Women's Research and Education Institute; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md.

In her remarks, Clark focused on the economic difficulties American families, especially families headed by women, currently face. "Every day in their work with individuals, families and communities, social workers see firsthand the devastating costs and consequences of our current recession," she said. "In addition, many agencies, governments and organizations that employ social workers are losing funding just at the time when the demand is greatest."

Clark asserted that the slowing of the job market has taken a greater toll on women workers, and unemployment for single mothers has eclipsed the national average. Also, she observed that women are affected more harshly by recession because they have fewer assets, such as savings, home equity or retirement savings.

However, the federal government has taken important steps in the right direction to supporting women and families through this recession, said Clark, pointing to recently enacted changes to unemployment insurance and Obama's signing of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — the first piece of legislation he signed into law.

Rita Webb, NASW's senior practice associate specializing in women's issues, said it's important for NASW to be present and take part in events such as the summit "because social workers not only address women's issues, social work is a female-dominated profession."

Luisa Lopez, NASW's director for human rights and international affairs, participated in a panel discussion on strategies for the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Lopez was joined by Alex Arriaga, co-chair for the Working Group on CEDAW; Geeta Rao Gupta, president of the International Center for Research on Women; and Sarah Albert, public policy and advocacy director of YWCA USA.

CEDAW requires its signatories to eliminate all forms of gender-based discrimination, including political, economic, social, cultural and civil discrimination. It also calls on nations to suppress gender-based violence, the trafficking of women and exploitation of female prostitution. The U.S is the only democratic nation that has not ratified the treaty.