Coverage of The White House Gender Policy Council - 2021
Biden, Harris Form A White House Gender Policy Council
Erin Spencer, Senior Contributor, ForbesWomen, I am a Boston-based writer who covers the intersection of gender and politics. January 22, 2021
The "intersection of gender and politics" is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. and Black Lives Matter Plz NW,
You can't miss it. It has "BLACK LIVES MATTER written large on the road". Look for the big house painted white at the intersection with a big pointed Washington Monument sticking out the house at the top on the left ( see pic below). Best to make a reservation / appointment during Covid-19. You can't order anything from the men's menu. They don't have one. Usually 4 stars - it's a general. It's Lady's Night every night. Women are free and men have to pay.
President Biden and Vice President Harris announced the formation of a White House Gender Policy Council earlier this week. According to the administration, the council's aim is "to guide and coordinate government policy that impacts women and girls, across a wide range of issues such as economic security, health care, racial justice, gender-based violence, and foreign policy, working in cooperation with the other White House policy councils." Essentially, this means there will be a government-wide focus on advancing and protecting the rights of people of all genders both here in the United States and abroad.
A handful of past administrations have formed councils focused on women's issues. Most recently, the Obama administration created the White House Council on Women and Girls, a group that Trump disbanded early on in his term. The Obama administration's council was comprised of members of the head of each federal agency and major White House offices, with the intent that the group would influence all critical aspects of governance and serve as a central point for coordination of policy. Similarly, George W. Bush disbanded Clinton's Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach upon taking office. Unlike Obama's policy-driven council, Clinton's office was primarily focused on liaising with women's organizations and holding events meant to project the president's "pro-woman, pro-family agenda," according to the oh so pink archived webpage.
Biden's council is notably the first to use "Gender" in the name instead of the more categorically restricted "Women" used by its predecessors. Some speculate the title nods to an administrative aim to be more gender-inclusive, accounting for nonbinary, intersex and transgender needs. The presumption isn't necessarily a stretch as, on day one, the White House website contact form was updated to allow for a new selection of pronouns and an increased number of prefixes—a change quickly applauded by LGBTQ groups.
Beyond the nomenclature debate, it remains to be seen who will be named to the policy-focused council under Biden. So far, only the group's chairs have been announced, with Jennifer Klein and Julissa Reynoso tapped to take the lead. Klein is the chief strategy and policy officer at TIME'S UP, a movement against sexual harassment founded in 2018 and championed by Hollywood celebrities. Klein also recently worked on the Women and Families Policy Committee for the Biden-Harris campaign and previously served as an advisor on the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and as Hillary Clinton's senior domestic policy advisor at the White House. Reynoso is the current assistant to the president and chief of staff to First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. She previously served as U.S. ambassador to Uruguay and as deputy assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere in the U.S. Department of State during the Obama administration. Thus far, the appointment of the two women has been met with high praise from women's policy groups and high-profile women in politics.
The announcement of the council comes at a time where the pandemic continues to disproportionally impact women, in particular, women of color. Women are more likely to work as frontline healthcare worker roles, facing increasingly stressful work environments and higher risks of Covid-19 exposure. Lockdowns have ushered in a spike in domestic violence against women and girls and, just last month, women accounted for 100% of the nation's job losses. "Too many women are struggling to make ends meet and support their families, and too many are lying awake at night worried about their children's economic future. This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the current global public health crisis has made these burdens infinitely heavier for women all over this country. The work of this council is going to be critical to ensuring we build our nation back better by getting closer to equality for women and to the full inclusion of women in our economy and our society," said President Biden in the administration's release.
It's clear the group will have their work cut out for them. Moreover, in a climate where gender-based advocacy groups have more prevalence and reach than ever before, it's likely to face more scrutiny than any of the aforementioned presidential councils with a like-minded intent. That said, Biden ran on the promise of "Build Back Better." While it remains to be seen what kind of influence the newly appointed group will wield, many hope this council will help ensure that "Better" applies to all genders—particularly when gender-based inequities are further exasperated by the day.