President Barack Obama said Tuesday that women and girls have made great strides in the nearly eight years he's held office, but asserted that they can claim even more progress if society would cast aside long-held stereotypes about the way men and women should behave.
He also urged consumers to patronize more than two dozen U.S. corporations that have pledged to close gender pay gaps.
"Women are leading America at every level of society, from Hollywood to Silicon Valley, from the C-suite to the federal bench to the Federal Reserve," Obama said in remarks at a daylong, White House-organized summit on the state of women.
"And that is progress. It's real and we have to celebrate it. But we also have to remember that progress is not inevitable," he said, adding that society is still "boxed in" by stereotypes.
"We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear," Obama told thousands of administration officials, activists, celebrities, business leaders and others attending the summit.
"We need to keep changing the attitude that prioritizes being confident, competitive and ambitious in the workplace — unless you're a woman," he said.
Obama called for more family friendly policies, including equal pay for equal work, paid family and sick leave, a higher minimum wage, affordable child care, and paid maternity and paternity leave. He also said consumers should support American Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Staples and other leading corporations that have taken a pledge to ensure "wage fairness" between its male and female employees.
"We should encourage more businesses to join them. We should shop and frequent those companies that are doing the right thing because the truth is most folks agree with each other on this," Obama said. "We don't have to have Congress agree with us. We can go ahead and make progress without waiting for them."
At the summit, which was held as residents of the District of Columbia voted in the final Democratic presidential primary, Obama couldn't help but make an observation about one woman in particular. He said Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first woman to become the presumptive presidential nominee of a major political party, has "raised the expectations of our daughters and our sons for what is possible."
Obama endorsed Clinton last week. He put in another plug for her before leaving the summit.
"If we really want workplace policies that work for everybody, I will say, though, it would help if we had more women in Congress. It would help if we had more women in the corner suite," he said, adding: "I have a corner suite, by the way. Just making that connection for you."