On Monday—International Women’s Day—President Joe Biden signed an executive order to establish the White House Gender Policy Council to address gender equality and human rights of women and girls and “ensure that every domestic and foreign policy we pursue rests on a foundation of dignity and equity for women.”
“We know that governments, economies, and communities are stronger when they include the full participation of women—no country can recover from this pandemic if it leaves half of its population behind,” read a statement released by the White House on the new Gender Policy Council.
“Elevating the status of women and girls globally is the right thing to do—it is a matter of justice, fairness, and decency, and it will lead to a better, more secure, and more prosperous world for us all,” the statement continued. “On International Women’s Day, let us recommit to the principle that our nation, and the world, is at its best when the possibilities for all of our women and girls are limitless.”
Today will mark a historic step forward for the Biden-Harris Administration, and for our nation, in advancing gender equity and gender equality. @POTUS will sign into law two Executive Orders!
— White House Gender Policy Council (@WhiteHouseGPC) March 8, 2021
The council will address a range of issues, including systemic bias and discrimination, sexual harassment and misconduct, gender-based violence, gender equity in leadership, women’s economic security—especially in the wake of Covid-19, which has disproportionately affected women—and improving access to comprehensive healthcare.
Jennifer Klein, who served as a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton when she was first lady and secretary of state, and Julissa Reynoso, chief of staff to First Lady Jill Biden, will lead the council, which will report directly to the president.
That makes it “the most powerful body of its kind to date,” according to the New York Times, which reported that “almost every Cabinet secretary will be required to participate with the council, signaling that the council’s work is of top priority for every federal agency.”
“This is not just a council,” Klein told the New York Times last month. “It’s a plan to take a governmentwide approach to gender equity and equality.”
According to HuffPost, “The council, which will have a staff of six people, will create and submit a strategy to Biden to address gender in policies, programs, and budgets, as well as create an annual report that measures progress.”
Biden also signed a second executive order on Monday directing the Department of Education to review controversial Title IX provisions issued under former President Donald Trump, which completely transformed how colleges handle sexual assault by bolstering the rights of those accused and allowing schools to abdicate responsibility for assaults that occurred off-campus, which many critics warned would deter survivors from coming forward.
The executive order is meant to “ensure consistency with the Biden-Harris administration’s policy that students be guaranteed education free from sexual violence,” an administration official said.
The establishment of the Gender Policy Council and DOE review of former education secretary Betsy DeVos’ harmful Title IX provisions was welcomed by critics of the Trump administration’s four years of attacks on women’s rights and gender equality.
“We applaud the Biden-Harris administration this International Women’s Day for establishing this much-needed gender policy committee in a time when disproportionate gender-based discrimination and violence affecting women, girls, and LGBTQ+ communities is at an all-time high,” said Serra Sippel, president of CHANGE (the Center for Health and Gender Equity).
“Without basic human rights for all, there is no gender equality, and sexual and reproductive health and rights are human rights. Period,” she continued. “The establishment of the White House Gender Policy Council is a step in the right direction of advancing global health and gender equality once and for all.”