One year ago, President Biden and Vice President Harris took office, facing a divided country, a global pandemic and an economy under severe stress. The Administration moved quickly to deliver results for working families and has kept women and families at the center of our agenda.
On International Women’s Day in March, President Biden signed an Executive Order formally establishing the first White House Gender Policy Council, charged with leading a whole-of-government approach to advance gender equity and equality and with developing the first-ever national gender strategy. To spearhead the Administration’s efforts to promote equal opportunity for all people, the President has made equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility a priority in appointments to the Cabinet and across the federal government, appointing a record number of women and people of color – including the first woman to serve as Treasury Secretary, the first woman to serve as Director of National Intelligence, and the first Indigenous woman to serve in the Cabinet. More of President Biden’s lower-court judicial nominees were confirmed in his first year than any president since Kennedy – and he has appointed more Black women on the Court of Appeals than any President ever.
In first year, President Biden added 6.4 million jobs – the most ever in one year – and has managed the fastest growing economy in decades, turning the tide on women’s labor force participation, which had hit a 33-year low. Through the American Rescue Plan and pandemic response efforts, the Biden-Harris Administration brought relief to so many women who have borne the brunt of the pandemic, particularly women of color, and has taken strides to strengthen the economic security of women and their families: standing up a historic vaccination program that resulted in more than 200 million Americans fully vaccinated this year; reopening schools; providing direct payments to individuals; and helping child care providers keep their doors open. And it expanded the Child Tax Credit, which has contributed to what experts estimate will be the lowest child poverty rate on record.
Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which the President signed into law in November, we are supporting equitable access to the good-paying jobs created through the legislation’s implementation, including in the sectors where women have historically been underrepresented. We are also using our role as the Nation’s largest employer to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility across the federal government, including by closing gender and racial wage gaps and addressing workplace harassment, including sexual harassment.
The President has also taken action to prevent and respond to gender-based violence wherever it occurs, one of his longstanding priorities. The American Rescue Plan directed $1 billion in supplemental funding for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and services, including $49.5 million for culturally-specific community-based organizations that help survivors from marginalized communities access the services and support they need. And the President has championed the reauthorization and strengthening of the Violence Against Women Act, which passed the House in March and is now being advanced in the Senate with bipartisan support.
He has kept his promise to address the scourge of sexual assault in our armed forces, signing into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which included sweeping reforms to the military justice system – the most significant since the Uniform Code of Military Justice was established more than seventy years ago. This bipartisan, historic law adopts core recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault, as called for by President Biden. These reforms will fundamentally alter how the military prosecutes and investigates sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other serious crimes, and establishes specialized, independent prosecution units in each military department.
The Biden-Harris Administration has also taken critical steps to advance access to comprehensive health care, including reproductive health care, and defend reproductive rights across the country. President Biden issued a Presidential Memorandum to protect and expand access to comprehensive reproductive health care and to revoke the Mexico City policy – the “global gag” rule – that prohibited federal funding for organizations providing abortion counseling or referrals. And the President’s FY 2022 budget removes the Hyde Amendment restriction from government spending bills, reflecting the Administration’s support for expanding access to reproductive health care, through Medicaid and other federally-funded programs.
The Department of Health and Human Services has also issued a final rule to strengthen the Title X family planning program to ensure that low-income people can access family planning and other preventive health care, while the Biden-Harris Administration as a whole has taken steps to eliminate racial disparities in maternal health, including through efforts to reduce complications and mortality in the year following birth, which disproportionately impact Black and Indigenous women.
In addition to efforts to advance gender equity and equality in the United States, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken action to protect the rights of women and girls around the world. At the United Nations’ Generation Equality Forum, Vice President Harris announced bold commitments to advance women’s economic security, gender-based violence prevention and response, and sexual and reproductive health and rights at home and abroad, including a new Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund focused on women’s economic security. And, at the Summit for Democracy, the Administration emphasized the importance of gender equality and women’s political participation to democratic progress, launching the Advancing Women’s and Girls’ Civic and Political Leadership Initiative. The United States also committed to lead the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse to improve the response to technology-facilitated gender-based violence, which undermines women’s participation in public life.
As we turn to the work ahead, the White House Gender Policy Council is committed to breaking down the barriers that have long held back women and girls, especially women and girls of color – and we will continue to work towards the President’s vision for advancing gender equity and equality: a world where every person has equal opportunity; where their safety and security are guaranteed; and where they are treated equitably and fairly at home and in their schools, workplaces, and communities.