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Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice Inaugural Symposium 2010

Tina M. TchenOn October 22, 2010, the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice held its inaugural event where Tina M. Tchen, Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls (CWG) and Director of White House Office of Public Engagement gave the keynote speech.

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During her visit to the College of Law for the launch event, Ms. Tchen met with law students. She discussed the history of the Council and highlighted key initiatives the White House has focused on to empower women and girls, including the Workplace Flexibility Program. Ms. Tchen also discussed her experiences growing up in Ohio as an Asian American woman and her unexpected road to the White House. She fielded student questions on current events, such as the increase in bullying-related suicides of LGBT youth and President Obama’s commitment to end such bullying, and the Obama administration’s position on the military’s “don’t ask—don’t tell” policy. Ms. Tchen also spoke about the Administration’s concern that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision would give special interests unlimited spending power; the Administration seeks to address this problem with the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act.

Ms. Tchen’s keynote remarks at the Netherland Hilton in downtown Cincinnati highlighted the achievements made in the areas of race, gender, and social justice over the last fifty years and drew attention to the continued need for advocacy in these areas. Ms. Tchen illustrated the economic disparities between men and women, and across racial and ethnic lines in terms of wages, net worth, and business ownership. The numbers were startling. For example, even though women make up the majority of undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. students, they still are paid an average of 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. In 2009, women’s median earnings were $26,030 compared to men’s median earnings of $36,331. Ms. Tchen noted that disparities are more pronounced for women of color: single black and Hispanic women have a median net worth of $100 and $120 respectively; the median for single white women is $41,500.

Ms. Tchen also identified violence as a significant barrier to women’s well being. For example, she noted that one in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetime, which President Obama has decried as “an assault on our national conscience that we no longer can ignore.”

In addressing the barriers confronting women at the intersections of race and social class, and highlighting the fact that these ongoing inequities transcend identity politics, Ms. Tchen struck the right chord for the Center’s launch. In closing, she noted quite compellingly that, despite assertions to the contrary, we are not yet living in a “post-racial, post-gender” era.