Biden to Sign Executive Order to Advance Gender Equity

— Hillary Rodham Clinton


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President Biden will sign an executive order on Monday — International Women’s Day — establishing a Gender Policy Council in the White House that will seek to advance gender equality in both domestic and foreign policy across government. The council will report directly to the president, making it the most powerful body of its kind to date.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic and an economic downturn, the Gender Policy Council will play a critical role in pushing forward Mr. Biden’s agenda, signifying a sharp departure from the past four years when the Trump administration effectively sidelined women’s issues.

Leading the effort will be two co-chairs: Jennifer Klein, who served as a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton when she was first lady and secretary of state; and Julissa Reynoso, who served as ambassador to Uruguay during the Obama administration.

Ms. Klein will serve full time as chair, while Ms. Reynoso will also continue to be the chief of staff to the current first lady, Dr. Jill Biden. Three senior-level advisers will craft policy, including one adviser who will focus exclusively on gender-based violence.

“This is not just a council,” Ms. Klein told The New York Times last month in the first interview that she and Ms. Reynoso had given since being appointed as co-chairs. “It’s a plan to take a governmentwide approach to gender equity and equality.”

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 and that it will touch on many issues like national security, health care and economics.

The secretaries will also be required to designate a senior official within their agencies who will collaborate directly with the council to advance gender equity work, both on their teams and when crafting new policies.

“Part of the thinking is to have senior officials who can oversee each respective agency’s work towards advancing gender equity and equality,” Ms. Reynoso said in the interview.

This structure, Ms. Klein explained, ensures that the policy areas traditionally viewed as women’s issues — the pay gap, sexual harassment, reproductive health and child care — won’t be separated from the administration’s broader priorities like climate change or infrastructure.

“The council is an absolutely critical first step,” Mrs. Clinton said in a phone interview last month. “It sends a very clear policy message to the rest of government that there is going to be constant attention paid to how important it is to integrate the kinds of concerns women are facing, especially post-pandemic.”

ImageJulissa Reynoso is co-chair of the Gender Policy Council and chief of staff to the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden.
Credit…Celeste Sloman for The New York Times

Like many parts of the Biden administration, the council has its roots in eras past, with the first such council established in the Clinton administration. Every Democratic president since has established his own version of the council, though previous iterations have not had much authority. Republican presidents, including Donald J. Trump, have quietly disbanded them.

Mr. Biden’s executive order says that the council is required to submit a governmentwide strategy to tackle, among other matters, systemic gender-based discrimination, sexual assault and harassment, and the gender wage gap, according to administration officials. It also requires the council to submit annual progress reports.

In addition, the council will analyze through a gender lens existing policies and programs, like the impact of budget decisions on women and L.G.B.T.Q. people. It will also focus on workplace policies for female employees within the federal government, aiming to serve as a model so others employers across the country will do the same.

[In Her Words is available as a newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox.]

“This is not just a council,” Ms. Klein told The New York Times last month in the first interview that she and Ms. Reynoso had given since being appointed as co-chairs. “It’s a plan to take a governmentwide approach to gender equity and equality.”

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 and that it will touch on many issues like national security, health care and economics.

The secretaries will also be required to designate a senior official within their agencies who will collaborate directly with the council to advance gender equity work, both on their teams and when crafting new policies.

“Part of the thinking is to have senior officials who can oversee each respective agency’s work towards advancing gender equity and equality,” Ms. Reynoso said in the interview.

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