President Biden's First 100 Days: Is the Biden-Harris Administration Delivering on Gender Equality?
April 29th 2021 marks 100 Days from the start of Biden’s presidency, a symbolic marker used to assess American presidents’ early tenure in office. Candidate Biden promised to center the needs of women and girls in his domestic and foreign policy, has President Biden delivered?
When he was on the campaign trail, Joe Biden acknowledged that women, and especially women of color, have not had a fair shot in the United States. Noting centuries of racist and sexist laws and legislation, he promised to address this imbalance of power and opportunity by improving economic, political, and social inclusion of women. After 100 days in office we wanted to assess the progress that President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have made in fulfilling this commitment.
On March 8th 2021, President Biden took a critical step in turning electoral rhetoric into political action by issuing an Executive Order establishing the Gender Policy Council (GPC).
Led by Jennifer Klein and Julissa Reyonossa, the GPC will not just address issues that are typically designated as “women’s issues” but will assist the administration in applying a gendered lens to a wide array of topics. Feminists have long urged governments to mainstream gender across all aspects of policy because we know that gender equality is not possible if it is not holistically adopted.
In addition to establishing the GPC, President Biden has demonstrated a commitment to gender equality in the following ways:
1. Representation of women, especially women of color, in positions of power.
While representation is not the be all and end all to achieving gender equality, having a seat at the table is a prerequisite for developing inclusive and equitable policy. Historically, American politics have been dominated by white, Christian, men which means that the lived experience of other communities has not been sufficiently represented in politics. Laws and policies for all have been traditionally decided by a few.
We are encouraged to see that President Biden has taken steps to address this issue of inclusivity by nominating a diverse range of candidates, including the first Native American to hold a cabinet appointment and the first openly transgender woman to be confirmed to federal office.
2. Prioritizing reproductive labor and the care economy.
The COVID19 pandemic has demonstrated the country’s reliance on women’s paid and unpaid labor and at the same time has highlighted how profoundly the market undervalues this work. Feminist economics emphasizes the need to not just acknowledge our dependence on reproductive labor but to formally integrate the needs of care takers into economic policy.
In his sweeping infrastructure plan, Biden has not just allocated funds to traditional projects such as road maintenance and expansion of public transportation, but he has also expanded the definition of infrastructure to include the care economy. By incorporating legislation such as a Child Tax Credit and free childcare under the wider banner of infrastructure and economic policy, he has both acknowledged the economic value of unpaid work that has historically been relegated to women, as well as providing the ability for women to more easily pursue careers outside of the home and make independent financial decisions.
3. Reversing regressive policies.
In addition to proactive legislation, President Biden has rolled back policies introduced by previous administrations that were detrimental to gender equality. Biden has repealed President Trump’s ban that prevented transgender Americans from serving in the military, rescinded the “Global Gag Rule” restoring American funding for sexual and reproductive health care abroad - inlcuding abortion services, and he has halted President Trump’s plan to cut food stamps which many families, especially single-mother households, depend on to feed their families.
Still more to do
We are heartened to see that President Biden’s promises have manifested into concrete action during his first 100 Days in office. However, there is still significant work to be done to achieve gender equality and build back equal.
In the next 100 days, we hope that the Biden Harris administration will prioritize making the Equal Rights Amendment the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution and ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
And while Biden has publicly supported the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) initiatives to combat gender-based violence continue to be underfunded and deprioritized at the federal and state level.
Enshrining gender equality in the US Constitution, formally committing to promoting women’s rights domestically and abroad, as well as acknowledging the magnitude of gender-based violence would be major steps to ensuring that women, girls, and gender minorities receive equal and inclusive protection under the law.