Joe Biden signs two executive orders on International Women’s Day

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Grace Mittleman, Staff Writer

President Joe Biden declared that he will mark International Women’s Day as the day where he signed two executive orders geared toward promoting gender equity. This is in efforts to promote gender equity, both in the United States and around the world.

In a recent statement, Biden said: “In our nation, as in all nations, women have fought for justice, shattered barriers, built and sustained economies, carried communities through times of crisis, and served with dignity and resolve. Too often, they have done so while being denied the freedom, full participation, and equal opportunity all women are due.”

The first executive order establishes a Gender Policy Council within the White House, reassembling a council from the Obama administration that was later disbanded by the Trump administration, and giving it more power.

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, the council’s name change is “to reflect the fact that gender discrimination can happen to people of all genders.” The official also adds: “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 brought those inequities to light, with women bearing the impact 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 a Gender Policy Council, Biden said that 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 ranging from the Clinton administration to today, 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 Biden signed on March 8th is directed at the Department of Education and seems to be directly aimed at reversing a controversial rule on campus sexual assault and harassment that was issued last year by Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos. During Trump’s presidency, DeVos announced a new regulation that granted more rights and protections to those accused of sexual assault or harassment.

Biden’s second 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.” The order completely allows the newly confirmed Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, to consider “suspending, revising, or rescinding” any agency actions that violate that policy.