Double Booked: “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds”
By Tina Tchen
On January 28th, during the State of the Union Address, the President uttered the simple words “When women succeed, America succeeds,” and I smiled. As Assistant to the President, Chief of Staff to the First Lady, and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, I am proud of all the work we have done on behalf of the women, girls, and families across the country, and I am determined to continue to push these issues forward. As a single, working mother, I know I am not alone when I say that I am proud to be represented by a President, who understands the struggles that women and families are facing each and every day.
Working at the White House is an honor I never could have dreamed of having. I was born in Columbus, Ohio, and my parents arrived in the United States in 1949, leaving their parents and many of their family members behind in China. My sister and I were raised in Cleveland, Ohio, where my dad was a physician and my mom, who was trained as a chemist, stayed home to raise my sister and me. My parents always told my sister and I that we could do anything we wanted to with our lives, but I never anticipated walking through the iron gates of the White House every day.
Before coming to work at the White House I was a practicing lawyer and experienced first-hand what it was like to grapple with raising young children as a single mom. While I had a demanding job that included late nights and lots of travel, I had the good fortune to have the resources to have wonderful childcare in my home that I trusted and who were always available for me and my kids. And I was also able to take full advantage of technological advances, as I could put my kids to bed at night and then go back to writing legal briefs that I could fax back in the middle of the night, and later, I could send in through my computer when that became possible. (Yes, I am old enough to remember when there was no such thing as the internet or a laptop computer).
But I also know that I was one of the lucky ones- millions of working parents in America do not have these advantages and instead are struggling to hold jobs that make ends meet, while worrying about who is taking care of their kids. Many people have to choose between a job and sick child or parent, and many give up a career they trained long and hard for in order to meet the needs of their families. This is why I was so excited to have been present yesterday when the President announced the date of the White House Summit on Working Families. On June 23rd of this year, the Department of Labor and Center for American Progress are teaming up with the White House Council on Women and Girls to host the Summit, and in the coming months leading up to the event we will engage with groups and individuals across the country to identify initiatives that benefit America’s working families, American businesses and the American economy.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts on key issues like workplace flexibility and paid leave, equal pay, career advancement and opportunities for workers up and down the wage scale. We will lift up promising ideas and best practices of leading companies and we hope to develop solutions for bringing such practices to scale, across industries and for all types of workers. Thanks so much for all your interest in these issues, which I know, and the President knows, are so close to everyone’s lives. Go to www.workingfamiliessummit.org to sign up for updates on the Summit and we look forward to seeing you in June!
Tina Tchen is Assistant to the President, Chief of Staff to the First Lady and the Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. She has a son, Patrick, who is 25 and a daughter, Emma, who is 17 and lives in Washington, DC.
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