White House Releases Plan to Promote Gender Equality

October 28, 2021
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White House Releases Plan to Promote Gender Equality

The Biden administration recently released a national strategy to foster gender equality in the U.S. and abroad. Priorities include preventing gender-based violence and promoting economic security, health, education, fairness in justice and immigration systems, and human rights and equity in the law.

"On International Women's Day, the president issued an executive order establishing the White House Gender Policy Council to ensure that gender equity and equality are at the forefront of America's domestic and foreign policy," wrote President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in a letter introducing the plan. "That executive order also mandated the development of this first-ever national strategy to guide our work on gender equity and equality as a government and as a nation."

We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.

COVID-19 Pandemic Deepened Divide

Women around the world already dealt with significant equity issues prior to the coronavirus crisis, but the pandemic exacerbated many problems and may have reversed progress. 

"Following the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, women's participation in the American labor force plummeted to its lowest level in over 30 years. Rates of gender-based violence have risen significantly, and racial and ethnic inequity has deepened," Biden and Harris wrote. "This moment demands a bold and united response—a commitment to do more than just rebuild to a status quo that wasn't working for women and girls, but rather to build back better."

(Axios)

Highlights of the Plan

The 42-page National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality contains many initiatives, including plans to:

  • Eliminate gender-based violence.
  • Protect abortion rights, expand access to health care and create a national paid-family-leave program.
  • Improve women's educational opportunities and access to STEM jobs (in science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
  • Promote global legal reform to combat gender discrimination in other countries.
  • Recruit more women in military and leadership.
  • Close the gender pay gap.
  • Improve childcare quality and affordability.

The Biden administration noted that transgender women and girls, as well as those who identify as nonbinary, are included in the initiative. The plan aligns with initiatives to achieve gender equity in some European countries, including Sweden, as well as Canada. 

(Forbes)

'An Intersectional Approach'

The Biden administration's plan adopts an "intersectional approach," which considers the challenges faced by people who experience compounding forms of bias related to gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, socioeconomic status and other factors. "This includes addressing discrimination and bias faced by Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American people, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and other people of color," according to the White House.

(The White House)

Make Sure Women Aren't Left Behind in Return to Work

Companies must ensure that women who left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic are treated equitably and aren't punished for their absences once they return to work. Millions of women left the workforce voluntarily to take care of their children because schools and day care centers were closed. Others worked in industries like hospitality and retail, which have an overrepresentation of female employees and were especially hard-hit by the pandemic. Returnship and allyship programs will be even more important to help women ease back into the workplace, said Camille Olson, an attorney with Seyfarth Shaw. 

(SHRM Online)

The Importance of 'Strong and Open Workplace Cultures'

Research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 27 percent of workers in the U.S. think workplace equity is the most important issue they face at work.

Emily M. Dickens, SHRM's chief of staff, head of government affairs and corporate secretary, noted that many recommendations to improve the workplace experience for women are relevant to all workers.

"As we embrace this next normal, we'll need the best of the best to be part of this workplace revival, and that includes underrepresented talent pools, like women."

Additionally, employers can benefit from hiring women and men with criminal backgrounds, workers with disabilities, veterans, and older workers.

Dickens urged leaders to keep paying attention to the issues that impact their culture and what employees are experiencing in times of stress. "Strong and open workplace cultures are even more important when times are tough."

(SHRM Online)

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