President Biden marked International Women’s Day on Monday by signing two executive orders aimed at promoting gender equity in the United States and around the world.
The first executive order establishes a new Gender Policy Council within the White House. The aim of the gender council is to focus on uplifting the rights of women and to address gender-based discrimination and violence.
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NPR reports: Under former President Barack Obama, the office was called the White House Council on Women and Girls. The name change to the Gender Policy Council is intentional, according to an administration official speaking on background, “to reflect the fact that gender discrimination can happen to people of all genders.”
But, the official said, “there will be a focus on women and girls, particularly women and girls of color, given the historical and disproportionate barriers that they face.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted those inequities, with women bearing the brunt of most job losses and caregiving responsibilities. “No country can recover from this pandemic,” Biden said, “if it leaves half of its population behind.”
By establishing the council, Biden said, his administration shows its commitment “to ensure that every domestic and foreign policy we pursue rests on a foundation of dignity and equity for women.”
Co-chairing the Gender Policy Council are Jennifer Klein, who has worked on women’s issues going back to the Clinton administration, and Julissa Reynoso, who is first lady Jill Biden’s chief of staff and who served under Hillary Clinton at the State Department.
The second executive order is directed at the Department of Education and seems expressly aimed at reversing a controversial rule on campus sexual assault and harassment that was issued last year by Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos.
Citing Title IX, the federal civil rights law barring sex discrimination in education, DeVos announced a new regulation that granted more rights and protections to those accused of sexual assault or harassment.
Biden’s executive order directs the Department of Education to review all existing regulations to “[guarantee] an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including discrimination in the form of sexual harassment, which encompasses sexual violence, and including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”