One year ago today, on International Women’s Day, President Biden issued an Executive Order establishing the White House Gender Policy Council and charged it with leading a government-wide effort to advance gender equity and equality both at home and abroad.
In the year since, the Biden-Harris Administration laid out an ambitious agenda in the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality and has taken significant steps to advance equal rights and opportunity:
Expanded Economic Opportunity and Supported Women in the Workforce
- Provided immediate relief through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to millions of women who have borne the brunt of the pandemic, including by: standing up a historic vaccination program that has resulted in more than 215 million people in the United States being fully vaccinated; reopening schools; providing direct payments to individuals; expanding nutrition programs for families; helping child care providers keep their doors open; providing paid leave tax credits for small and midsize employers; distributing the majority of emergency rental assistance to female-headed households; and expanding the Child Tax Credit, which last year contributed to the largest drop in child poverty in American history.
- Passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which will increase access to good-paying jobs, including for women, people of color, and members of other communities who are currently underrepresented in the sectors where these jobs will be created, such as transportation, clean energy, and broadband. It will also replace lead pipes, and expand affordable high-speed internet, reliable public transit, and clean drinking water. BIL also established a task force, soon to be launched by the Department of Transportation and the Department of Labor, dedicated to promoting the recruitment, inclusion, and advancement of women in trucking.
- Issued an Executive Order to increase the minimum wage and eliminate the subminimum wage for federal contractors, which went into effect in January 2022 and ensures that Federal contractors pay their workers an hourly wage of at least $15.00. This significantly benefits women, who are disproportionately minimum wage workers.
- Issued an Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce, which directs the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to provide a report to the President with recommendations to promote a $15 per hour minimum wage for federal employees. OPM then issued a memorandum implementing guidance for agencies to do so.
- Issued an Executive Order to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility across the federal government – the nation’s largest employer – including by prioritizing efforts to close gender and racial wage gaps, address workplace safety and harassment, including in our national security workforce, and advance equity for LGBTQI+ public servants.
Prevented and Responded to Gender-Based Violence
- Directed $1 billion in supplemental funding for domestic violence and sexual assault services through the American Rescue Plan, including $49.5 million for culturally-specific community-based organizations that help survivors from historically marginalized communities access the services and support they need. The ARP also provided approximately 70,000 housing choice vouchers to local Public Housing Authorities in order to assist individuals and families, including those who are fleeing, or attempting to flee, from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking.
- Working with Congress to reauthorize and strengthen the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which passed the House in March 2021 and has been introduced in the Senate. The President has continued to champion this legislation, an expanded version of the bill he first wrote and passed as a United States Senator in 1994. In addition, the President’s discretionary budget request for FY22 doubles funding for Department of Justice VAWA programs, with a historic $1 billion investment in total funding.
- Signed 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. In conjunction with the President’s Executive Order on military justice reform, 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 shift how the military prosecutes and investigates sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other serious crimes, and will increase prevention initiatives and support for survivors. All of these actions carry forward the President’s campaign promise to address the scourge of sexual assault in our armed forces.
- Signed into law the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 – bipartisan legislation that empowers survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment by giving them a choice to go to court instead of being forced into arbitration.
- Directed the Department of Education to review Title IX regulations and other agency actions to ensure that all students have an educational environment that is free from discrimination on the basis of sex. The Department is developing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking currently under review that will address the need for protection for students who experience campus sexual assault while treating all students fairly and addressing the issue of discrimination for LGBTQI+ students.
- Signed into law the Amendments to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which passed Congress with strong bipartisan support and expands the allocation of resources for the Crime Victims Fund. This has already resulted in an increase of hundreds of millions of dollars of non-taxpayer funding for essential and lifesaving services to crime victims around the country.
- Announced the development of the first-ever government-wide National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, as well as committed to reviewing and updating the 2016 United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally.
- Issued an Executive Order to improve public safety and criminal justice for Native Americans and address the crisis of missing or murdered Indigenous people, directing federal agencies to develop a coordinated strategy to prevent and respond to violence against Native Americans, which disproportionately affects Native women, girls, LGBTQI+ Native Americans and people who identify as “Two-Spirit.”
- Re-launched the United States’ leadership and participation in the Trilateral Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls with the Governments of Mexico and Canada. The White House will host the Fourth Convening of the Trilateral Working Group this summer to improve and reaffirm our respective national and regional commitments to prevent and respond to violence against Indigenous women and girls through increased access to justice and prevention services.
Expanded Access to Health Care, including Reproductive Health Care
- The American Rescue Plan expanded premium tax credits, reduced net premiums, increased individuals’ savings, and provided women with access to quality, affordable health care coverage through the Marketplaces. Fifty-four percent of those newly signing up for coverage during 2021 special enrollment were women.
- 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 foreign nongovernmental organizations providing abortion counseling or referrals, and restored funding to the UN Population Fund, which supports the provision of sexual and reproductive health services in fragile contexts.
- Charged the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with reviewing the Title X Rule to ensure that low-income people can access family planning and other preventive health care. HHS has since issued a final rule to strengthen the Title X family planning program, carrying forward the Administration’s commitment to restore access to affordable, quality family planning services.
- Took steps to improve maternal health and eliminate racial disparities that persist through efforts to reduce complications and mortality, which disproportionately impact Black and Indigenous women. Through the ARP, the Administration gives states an easier pathway to extend coverage for pregnant women from 60 days to 12 months postpartum; the Administration is working to encourage all states to take up this option so women can get the care they need to stay healthy and has approved Medicaid demonstration projects in several states to expand postpartum coverage. The Vice President hosted the first-ever White House Maternal Health Day of Action, while the President issued the first-ever proclamation on Black Maternal Health Week, highlighting the specific disparities that Black women face in pregnancy and childbirth. As part of this call to action, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued new guidance to help states provide 12 months (up from 60 days currently) of continuous postpartum coverage through their Medicaid programs. HHS also announced plans to create a new “Birthing Friendly” hospital designation, which would be the first-ever hospital quality designation by HHS specifically focused on maternity care.
- Launched a whole-of-government effort to protect women’s reproductive rights in the wake of the passage of an extreme and unconstitutional Texas law that severely impairs access to abortion after six weeks. In response, HHS issued Title X grant support for health service providers and announced additional funding to a current Title X family planning grantee in Texas, along with other actions.
- In addition, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has vigorously pursued a legal challenge to the Texas law, and the Attorney General reaffirmed DOJ’s commitment to continuing to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, including abortion, pursuant to its enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. DOJ also filed an amicus brief before the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, arguing that Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban violates the Constitution.
Advanced Gender Equality Around the World
- 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 at the United Nations’ Generation Equality Forum, including a new Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund focused on women’s economic security.
- Proposed a record $2.6 billion to advance gender equity and equality through foreign assistance in FY 2023, more than doubling the commitment proposed in the FY 2022 Budget and furthering our work to promote prosperity, stability, and security around the world.
- Issued a Presidential Memorandum to advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ people around the world, which directs all federal agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ people.
- Emphasized the importance of gender equality and women’s political participation to democratic progress by launching the Advancing Women’s and Girls’ Civic and Political Leadership Initiative at the Summit for Democracy.
- 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 health and economic security, as well as their participation in public life. This commitment was made at the Summit for Democracy and will be formally launched at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
- Launched the Build Back Better World Partnership with G7 partners to meet infrastructure needs in low- and middle-income countries, with a focus on gender equity and equality as one of the initiative’s four central pillars, alongside climate, health and health security, and digital technology.
- Submitted to Congress the 2021 Women, Peace, and Security Report from the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security and the U.S. Agency for International Development and continued implementation efforts, including through a new and strengthened strategy to ensure women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution, stability and security. The Administration is also integrating a focus on gender in preventing conflict, supporting peace-building, and promoting regional stability and security in partnership with countries facing a variety of stressors, such as climate change and backsliding democracy.
Promoted Diverse Leadership and Full Participation
- Reached gender parity in the Cabinet for the first time ever, thanks to President Biden’s commitment to making diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility a priority in appointments to the Cabinet and across the federal government. The President has appointed 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, the first Native American woman to serve in the Cabinet, and the first openly transgender, Senate-confirmed federal official.
- Nominated the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court and nominated more Black women to the Courts of Appeals than any previous President. And in his first year in office, President Biden has had more lower-court judicial nominees confirmed than any president since Kennedy.
- Expressed steadfast support for the Equal Rights Amendment and called on Congress to enshrine the principle of gender equality in the Constitution. President Biden also continues to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would provide long overdue civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Advanced equality for transgender Americans by signing an Executive Order to restore open service for transgender service members, expanding access to comprehensive gender-affirming medical care for transgender veterans, delivering more inclusive federal IDs like passports for transgender and non-binary people, and addressing anti-transgender violence, which continues to disproportionately impact trans women and girls of color.
- Built the architecture to ensure a government-wide, intersectional approach to advancing equal rights and opportunities by:
- Issuing the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, which addresses ten priorities – including economic security, education, health, human rights, democracy and leadership. It also reflects the Administration’s broader commitment to advancing equity, including through racial equity and LGBTQI+ equality.
- Issuing an Executive Order on advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities and an Executive Order on preventing and combatting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
In the past year, the Biden-Harris Administration has produced historic results. As the President said in his State of the Union address, “We are stronger today than we were a year ago…and we will be stronger a year from now than we are today.”
Going forward, the Administration remains committed to helping women get back to work; creating good jobs; closing gender and racial wage gaps; lowering costs for families; ensuring that care is accessible and affordable – including child care, home health care and paid leave; expanding access to health care, including reproductive health care; advancing LGBTQI+ equality and civil rights; and preventing and responding to gender-based violence, wherever it occurs.
In doing so, we will continuing our extensive engagement with domestic and international partners, which in the last year has included collaborating with nonprofit and community-based organizations, civil society groups, faith-based organizations, unions, worker organizations and academics; engaging over 270 girls, young women and gender nonconforming youth leaders from across the United States and more than dozen countries to provide input into the development of the National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality; and hosting a historic White House roundtable with intersex advocates. We look forward to continuing this collaboration in the years ahead, in service of our vision of a world where people of all genders are guaranteed the equity, equality, and dignity they deserve.