By Jennifer Klein and Julissa Reynoso, Co-Chairs of the Gender Policy Council
Earlier this week, on International Women’s Day, President Biden issued an Executive Order establishing the White House Gender Policy Council—a body that will instill, advance, and oversee this Administration’s commitment to a government-wide approach to gender equity and equality.
We are thrilled to serve as the co-chairs of this Council at a critical moment. There is so much work to do to address the systemic barriers that have held women and girls back here in the United States and globally. Because the truth is—those barriers have stood for far too long.
The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic downturn have shown us in the grimmest ways how crises can exacerbate inequality. Women and girls—and particularly women and girls of color—are bearing the brunt of this pandemic in visible and invisible ways. Women make up an outsized share of our frontline workers, face historic levels of unemployment, and are disproportionately shouldering the increased caregiving responsibilities created by the pandemic. Women’s participation in the workforce has dropped to the lowest level in more than 30 years. This threatens their economic futures and hinders our potential as a nation. We’re ready to lead a whole-of-government approach to gender policy that meets this moment.
We’ve already begun working with colleagues at the White House to address women’s economic security, caregiving, pay equity, and education. We are taking on gender-based violence, wherever it occurs. And globally, we are engaged with the United Nations and the G-7 to rejoin allies from around the world to advance gender equality. Soon, the Gender Policy Council will begin to convene key external groups and stakeholders—policymakers and political leaders, advocates for gender justice and social justice, academics and experts, and leaders in philanthropy and the private sector.
We also look forward to working across the entire federal government with the Cabinet and other members of the Council. The President has nominated and appointed a diverse Cabinet that includes a record number of women in senior roles—including Janet Yellen, the first woman Treasury Secretary; Avril Haines, the first woman head of intelligence; Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American and Native American woman Cabinet secretary; and Cecilia Rouse, the first Black woman to chair the Council of Economic Advisors. Alongside a diverse and representative staff at every level, these leaders will help chart a path to address gender inequality.
In the months ahead, each member of the Council will appoint a senior member of their respective teams to execute on an agency-wide plan for addressing gender equity and equality. This person will focus on how policies disproportionately create or maintain barriers for women and girls, particularly women and girls of color. As Co-Chairs, we will submit a government-wide strategy for advancing gender equity and gender equality to the President, compiling key recommendations from all federal agencies and policy councils. Each year, we will measure our progress against clear goals and hold ourselves accountable for meeting them.
The task in front of us is enormous. It is also essential in the face of the current crisis. A government-wide approach to gender policy means that every agency and every policy team is at the table, and that every issue is approached with gender equity in mind. We’ll work closely with the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice to end gender-based violence against women, girls, and LGBTQ+ people; with the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure access to comprehensive health care; and with the Department of Labor and National Economic Council to increase economic women’s security, decrease wage and wealth gaps, and address the caregiving needs of Americans. We’ll work with the National Security Council to advance gender equality globally, recognizing the needs and roles of women and girls in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, humanitarian crises, and development assistance. We’ll work with the Department of Education to combat systemic bias, and ensure that all young people—including girls and LGBTQ+ youth—can be guaranteed education free from sexual violence; and with the Domestic Policy Council to ensure an integrated strategy for racial justice and gender equity that considers the unique barriers faced by Black women and girls, Indigenous women and girls, and other women and girls of color. And this is just the start—we’re building a big table because the moment calls for it.
Stay tuned this month, as we commemorate the leadership and legacy of trail-blazing, barrier-breaking women and girls during Women’s History Month, and work to advance equal rights and opportunities for all as our Council begins its vital work.
Jennifer Klein is Co-Chair and Executive Director of the Gender Policy Council.
Julissa Reynoso is Co-Chair of the Gender Policy Council and Chief of Staff to First Lady Jill Biden.