In 2009, President Barack Obama created the White House Council on Women and Girls for the purpose of “ensur[ing] that in America, all things are still possible for all people.” The Council is made up of the head of every federal agency and major White House office so that every agency is sure to “take[] in to account the needs of women and girls in the policies they draft, the programs they create, and the legislation they support.” To support the work of the Council, the Office of Management and Budget and the Economics and Statistics Administration of the Department of Commerce created a groundbreaking report called Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being in March 2011. The information in the report was compiled from the statistics of numerous Federal Agencies and is designed to provide a picture of how women are doing in five areas, specifically demographic and family changes, education, employment, health, and crime and violence. The following are some highlights from the report.

Demographic and Family Changes. In terms of poverty, historically, women have been more likely to be poor than men, a trend that continues today. Single woman households with children are the highest percentage of poverty individuals, totaling two or three times more than poor men and women combined. The age at which women get married and have children has risen steadily since the 1960s, and now 24% of women have their first child after the age of thirty. As a result, the number of children each woman has has decreased. These numbers are largely correlated with the increase in the education of women. Despite this delay in getting married and having children, ninety-five percent of both men and women over the age of 65 have been married at least once, and 80% of have children.

Education. Women are enrolling in greater numbers at the undergraduate and graduate levels. They are also graduating in greater numbers at all levels. Additionally, women have lower high school dropout rates and enroll in more Advanced Placement exams. However, women are not reaching the same achievement levels as men in math and science. The number of women entering the science and technology fields continues to lower then men who enter those fields and not only in America. Globally, it is reported than females make up only one-fourth of graduates in science and technology. However, nearly two-thirds of graduates in the humanities, arts, and education are women.

Employment. The percentage of women who are in the labor force has risen from 33% in 1950 to 61% as of 1999. This percentage remained constant over the first decade of 2000 while the percentage of men in the labor force has steadily declined. However, out of everyone who works, there are still more men employed than women. As a result of higher education levels for women, the types of occupations they are involved in have changed. Now, women comprise more than half of individuals employed in management and professional type occupations. Additionally, women now make 80% of the income of their male counterparts. In terms of volunteering, almost 15% more of women volunteer then men in all forms.

Health. The lifespan of women has continued to increase and remains higher than that of men. However, American women live shorter lives than women of other, industrialized countries. The prevalence of heart disease, the leading killer of women, has decreased 68% in the last sixty years, however the rate of death from cancer, the second most common killer of women, has only decreased by 17%. Astonishingly, lung cancer deaths have risen by more than 500%. Women are more likely to use the health care system, although part of this can be contributed to the need for women-specific services.

Crime and Violence. Historically, women are less frequently the victims of crime than men, however sexual victimization and domestic violence affect women much more frequently than men. Twenty-six percent of all violence against women is by domestic partners although non-fatal domestic violence has declined by 50%. In contrast, while the proportion of women arrested and convicted for violent crimes continues to be relatively low, it is rising. Currently, 18% of people arrested for violent felony offenses are women, up from 11% in 1990. In general, women represent a significantly lower percentage of the people involved in the criminal justice system, both as victims and as perpetrators.

The mission of the White House Council on Women is “to provide a coordinated Federal response to the challenges confronted by women and girls.” This report is one of the first steps in accomplishing this task as it looks at conditions for women and girls now, how they have changed over the years, and points out crucial areas where the lives of women and girls can be improved.