WASHINGTON — March 8 marks International Women's Day, a global holiday aimed at celebrating women while simultaneously bringing attention to issues like gender equality and reproductive rights.
President Joe Biden signed two executive orders on his first International Women's Day in office, both of which are geared towards promoting gender equity. The new orders establish a Gender Policy Council and also creates plans to review recent changes to federal laws that prohibit sex-based discrimination in education.
"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," President Biden wrote in a statement Tuesday. "Too often, they have done so while being denied the freedom, full participation, and equal opportunity all women are due."
Here's a look at what's included in the orders and when the changes are expected to happen.
White House Gender Policy Council
Biden's first executive order focuses on reviving the Gender Policy Council, an office originally created in the Obama administration as the White House Council on Women and Girls. The office was later deactivated under the Trump administration, so Biden's order would make the office active again.
The goal of the Gender Policy Council is to focus on advancing gender equality through policy development and "combat systematic bias and discrimination" like sexual harassment. It will also increase access to comprehensive health care and address health disparities, including promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, according to administration officials.
Beyond those initiatives, the Council will also be focusing on studying the impact of the pandemic on women and girls, and "will address responses to the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on women and girls, especially those related to health, gender‑based violence, educational access and attainment, and economic status."
Transgender rights and supporting care workers are also a priority for the Council, with emphasis on women of color and those in underserved communities. The council would be led by the chief of staff to First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Julissa Reynoso, as well as Jennifer Klein, a chief strategist for Time's Up.
As for when specific policies might roll out, the Council is expected to create and present a formal strategy to Biden "within 200 days" of the order signing.
"The strategy should include recommendations on policies, programs, and initiatives that should be proposed, passed, or implemented to advance gender equity and equality in the United States and around the world," the White House wrote in a statement.
Re-evaluating Title IX changes
The second executive order signed by Biden on Monday will review existing regulations and Title IX orders from the Department of Education to make sure "they are consistent with the administration's promise that all students are guaranteed education free from sexual violence."
The new order will evaluate Title IX regulations set into place by Betsy Devos, Trump's Education Secretary and make sure that they are "consistent with the Biden-Harris administration’s policy that students be guaranteed education free from sexual violence." Specifically, Monday's order will look at reversing Devos's campus sexual assault and harassment regulation signed back in March 2020.
Those regulations gave more room to students accused of sexual harassment to appeal charges and raised the evidentiary standard from "preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing," which many argued narrowed the definition of assault.
"It is the policy of my administration that all students should be guaranteed 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," Biden's official order states.
The new order demands that past regulations and policies that are inconsistent with Biden's administration, and don't adhere to new discrimination protections, be reviewed and can be suspended or dismantled by the new Department of Education secretary, Miguel Cardona.
While these orders are just some of many roled out by the Biden administration in his first 100 days in office, Biden emphasized the need for regulations to protect women and girls, highlighting the importance of holidays like International Women's Day.
"Elevating the status of women and girls globally is the right thing to do — it is a matter of justice, fairness, and decency, and it will lead to a better, more secure, and more prosperous world for us all," President Biden wrote. "On International Women’s Day, let us recommit to the principle that our nation, and the world, is at its best when the possibilities for all of our women and girls are limitless."