Obama: "I've got a personal stake in seeing women get ahead"

At a time when Democrats are trying to rally women to once again turn out at the polls for them, President Obama on Thursday kicked off an initiative on women's issues with a roundtable in Florida about expanding women's economic opportunities.

"I also personally know the challenges that women face in our economy," he said after the roundtable, describing his experience growing up the son of a single mom. He also described how his grandmother was the breadwinner in his family, working her way up from secretary to the vice president of a bank before hitting a glass ceiling.

"We've all got a stake in this," Mr. Obama said. "This is a family agenda, but it starts with making sure every woman gets a fair shot."

The president discussed the steps he's taken to support greater access to higher education, such as expanding tax incentives for postsecondary education, increasing Pell grants and keeping student interest rates low. The White House contends these investments have helped increase the number of women pursuing a college degree, noting that enrollments of women in four-year schools are up over 20 percent since 2000. Enrollments of women in community college are up by 50 percent.

The administration chose to deliver this message at Valencia because it is a community college that has successfully met the needs of a large, diverse student population. Currently, women make up 58 percent of community college students, and about a quarter of them are mothers.

The Valencia roundtable kicks off five regional forums focused on women's issues that senior administration officials will host this spring in Boston, Denver, Chicago, San Francisco and New York City. They all lead up to the White House Summit on Working Families hosted by the president on June 23.

The White House's efforts compliment the Democrats' midterm-year efforts to mobilize the women voters who turned out to support the president and his party in 2012.

From Orlando, Mr. Obama is headed to Miami to attend a Democratic National Committee fundraiser, as well as a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Committee (DCCC), the campaign arm for House Democrats. The DCCC fundraiser is at the home of basketball star Alonzo Mourning, with whom Mr. Obama golfed in Key Largo earlier this month.