Obama Keeps Focus on Fight for Women's Equality

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WASHINGTON -- Father of two girls, President Barack Obama says he wants to improve the status of women in the United States.

Women are more likely than men to graduate from college today, yet earn less on average, face a greater chance of living in poverty and are outnumbered in critical subjects such as math and science, he said in his weekly radio and online address Saturday.

"Achieving equality and opportunity for women isn't just important to me as president. It's something I care about deeply as the father of two daughters who wants to see his girls grow up in a world where there are no limits to what they can achieve," he said.

Obama noted that one of his first acts as president was to sign legislation allowing women who've been discriminated against in their salaries to have their day in court. Obama said he was disappointed when the Senate blocked action on a proposal that would treat gender discrimination involving pay in the same as race, disability and age discrimination.

The Senate in November fell just short of the votes needed to overcome GOP opposition and move ahead on the bill, which would make employers prove that any disparities in wages are job-related and not sex-based.

"At a time when folks across this country are struggling to make ends meet - and many families are just trying to get by on one paycheck after a job loss - it's a reminder that achieving equal pay for equal work isn't just a women's issue," the president said in his weekly radio and online address. "It's a family issue."

He said he would not relent in fighting for the goals of that legislation. He also said women on average make about 75 cents for each dollar a man earns and are more likely to fall in poverty.

Republicans and business groups said the Paycheck Fairness Act would expose employers to more litigation by removing limits on punitive and compensatory damage awards.

In the Republican radio address, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska addressed rising energy costs.

International events such as the upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa affect those costs, she said, but "our own shortsightedness and restrictions have played a role."

She urged greater U.S. oil production, saying the way should be cleared for more pursuit of energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico and the Rocky Mountain West. She said her home state of Alaska has estimated resources in excess of 65 years' worth of Persian Gulf imports.

Republicans also support energy alternatives that would lower oil consumption, Murkowski said.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved

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