Skip to main content

On International Women’s Day, Biden Signs Executive Orders to Advance Gender Equity

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden became the 46th president of the United States earlier today during the ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

After marking the anniversary of Bloody Sunday with an executive order aimed at securing voting rights and access for all Americans, President Biden celebrated International Women’s Day by signing two executive orders that actually help women and work to advance gender equity. Just acknowledging that women are even people feels like a nice change from the previous administration, but the substance of the orders is important as well. So let’s dig into what Biden’s creation of a Gender Policy Council and his roll-back of Trump-era changes to Title IX will do.

First, Biden signed an order creating the White House Gender Policy Council. This order reforms a council (the White House Council on Women and Girls) that existed while Obama was in office and that Trump, of course, disbanded. This version will have more reach however and be more inclusive of all gender policies, as the new name implies. Council co-chair Jennifer Klein said: “We intend to address all sorts of discrimination and fight for equal rights for people, whether that’s LGBTQ+ people, women, girls, men.” Additionally, the council will include a special assistant to the President to focus on “policies to advance equity for Black, indigenous and Latina women and girls of color,” according to Klein.

A key goal of this council will be to economic equity, especially in light of recovering the economy in the wake of the pandemic. The pandemic recession has disproportionately affected women, who hold a high percentage of jobs in industries hardest hit by the pandemic. The council will also focus on transgender rights.

The second order was also aimed at fixing something Donald Trump broke, namely the Department of Education and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in higher education on the basis of sex. Biden’s 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.”

This takes aim specifically at a policy from former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that granted more rights and protection to those accused of on-campus sexual assault. Under the new order, the incoming Secretary of Education should consider “suspending, revising, or rescinding” any agency actions or regulations that violate the order. Translation: no more additional protections for accused campus predators and rapists.

In a statement along with the orders, the President 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.”

It’s sad that so much of moving forward to a better world for women means we have to undo the harmful actions of the previous administration, but this is a very positive start and a fitting celebration of International Women’s Day.

(via USA Today, Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.