The Biden Administration Agenda on Global Women’s Issues

Monday, March 8, 2021
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Jennifer Klein

Co-Chair, White House Gender Policy Council

Rachel B. Vogelstein

Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program, Council on Foreign Relations

Women and Foreign Policy Roundtable Series and Women and Foreign Policy Program

The Joe Biden administration has announced it will establish the first-ever White House Gender Policy Council to coordinate federal efforts to advance gender equity and equality at home and abroad.  How will this new Council shape U.S. foreign policy and national security strategy and address the devastating effects of COVID-19 on women and girls globally? Jennifer Klein, the incoming co-chair of the Gender Policy Council, will speak about the administration’s priorities and plans to advance women’s issues around the world.


VOGELSTEIN: Thank you. Good afternoon and welcome everyone. My name is Rachel Vogelstein, I lead the women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council, which analyzes how elevating the status of women and girls advances U.S. foreign policy objectives. Yesterday, President Biden signed into law an executive order, creating the first ever White House Gender Policy Council to coordinate federal efforts to advance gender equity and equality at home and abroad. This council's formation comes at a critical moment for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world who are facing an unprecedented challenge in the wake of COVID-19, including a devastating exodus of women from the labor force which threatens not only individual families but entire economies. President Biden also faces a daunting inbox replete with foreign policy challenges from Afghanistan to Syria, and in many places, the fundamental rights of women and girls hang in the balance. How will the new White House Gender Policy Council shape U.S. foreign policy and national security strategy? And what are the administration's priorities and plans to advance gender equality globally? To answer this question, we are very fortunate to have with us today Jennifer Klein, the co-chair and executive director of the White House Gender Policy Council. She brings deep expertise to the role having served as co-chair of the Women and Families Policy Committee during the Biden-Harris campaign, as a senior advisor to Secretary Hillary Clinton, and deputy and senior advisor in the State Department's Office of Global Women's Issues during the Obama administration, among many other roles. Jen, we are grateful to you for taking time out of a very busy week to be with us today. I'm also delighted that we have so many experts on gender equality issues joining us for this roundtable. So I know we'll have a very full discussion. I'll begin with just a few opening questions for our speaker, and then open the floor to get to as many of your questions as we can. A few housekeeping notes, our session today will be on-the-record. And if you'd like to ask a question, please use the raise hand function in Zoom to be put into the queue. All right, Jen, let's start with the news of the day, beginning with the executive order that President Biden signed yesterday. Can you tell us more about what this order actually requires of officials in the White House and across the executive branch? And how does the Gender Policy Council differ from prior White House offices on women, including in the Clinton and Obama administrations?

KLEIN: Thank you. And let me start by saying thank you for having me. I'm glad to be here with you, of course, and with so many of the other people who have joined this roundtable, so many of whom are experts that I've worked with for years, and I look forward to continuing to work with. I couldn't imagine a more appropriate place to be on International Women's Day week, as I like to call it because it certainly doesn't all fit into one day. So yes, as you said yesterday, the president signed the executive order, creating the first ever White House Gender Policy Council. And I’ll point to a couple of things that I think are really exciting and unique about this council. You know, the first, to state the obvious, is it reports to the president. And it explicitly coordinates with the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic Council, and the National Security Council to cover both domestic and global priorities and to ensure a focus on gender equity and equality around the world. The second is that it nominally and formally has almost every cabinet secretary and the opportunity to add any others that are relevant to particular issues or discussions as part of the council. But it also designates, senior-level or asks each agency to designate, senior-level officials to work with the council on gender equity and gender equality. And this is really an effort to make real a robust interagency process that will continue throughout the work of the administration. And finally, the president also asked for, in the executive order, a national strategy. So this is not just a council, this is a government-wide strategy to advance gender equity and equality through domestic and foreign policy against which each agency will be asked to report on their progress annually. So I think that really adds up, I hope that adds up to a strong, not only indication, but sort of working premise that these issues will be deeply embedded, not siloed, throughout the work of this administration.

VOGELSTEIN: We've talked a little bit about the process, how the council will operate and how it will lead on these issues. I'd like to now turn to the substance. We know that during the campaign, President Biden outlined a comprehensive agenda on women's issues domestically and globally. What is at the top of your list as the chief official leading this agenda? And what are the specific priorities to advance gender equity and equality around the world?

KLEIN: Again, the executive order speaks to this, although to be really clear, what it says is the Council will work on issues including because as we know, women are 50% of the population. So even starting there, really all issues are women's issues. And again, the effort here is not to silo issues of gender equality or women in one place. But it does list a series of high priorities. I'll name them here, so combating systemic bias and discrimination, including sexual harassment, increasing economic security by addressing the structural barriers to women's participation in the labor force, decreasing wage and wealth gaps and addressing caregiving needs and supporting care workers, ensuring access to comprehensive health care, and preventing and responding to gender-based violence, promoting equity and opportunity in education and in leadership, and advancing gender equality globally through diplomacy, development, trade, defense, and by recognizing the needs and roles of women in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, democratic rights, respecting governance, global health, and humanitarian crises and development assistance. Each of those really is global and domestic, I would say. On the global front, top of mind, really for all of us, but certainly for the council, are women's economic recovery in the wake of COVID; addressing the rise in gender-based violence, again, you know, the spikes that we've seen around the world during COVID, it's incredibly important; and finally advancing women's roles in peace and security processes, including by ensuring integration and fair treatment of women in our own armed forces.

VOGELSTEIN: So I'd like to get into a little more detail on one of the priorities you mentioned, which is women's economic participation, and turn to the really devastating effect that COVID-19 has had on women in the economy. We know that though women comprise just 39 percent of the global labor force, they account for 54 percent of pandemic related job losses. A recent study by McKinsey found that taking action to counter the gender-regressive effects of the pandemic would actually create $13 trillion in global GDP gains by 2030. So what is it that the Biden administration will do to address this global exodus of women from the labor force?

KLEIN: Yes, as you said, women have been disproportionately affected economically, literally, around the world. In many countries, women are more likely to be employed in the sectors that have been particularly devastated by the crisis in the United States as well. Things like education, hospitality, retail, women are concentrated in the informal sector in the informal economy, working as market vendors or domestic workers, and in those sectors, they've been especially vulnerable to unemployment. Inequalities in access to digital and financial services have also left women especially vulnerable during this global economic crisis and health crisis, by the way. And as we know, no nation can recover from this current economic crisis by leaving half its population behind, or by focusing narrowly on piecemeal solutions. This is going to take a set of solutions that are deep, and really go at the structural barriers that have historically prevented women from entering and staying in the labor force, but also that are particularly exacerbated by this crisis. And as always I quote our former boss, it's not just the right thing to do, but it's a smart thing to do and the McKinsey numbers that you just cited really make the case. This is not just about helping women, although that would be sufficient, and girls, although that would be sufficient. But it's also essential to our global economic recovery, that we figure out how to do this and that we do actually address those deep structural barriers that undermine women's economic participation and global economic potential. So that needs to go beyond what's been done, which is great work but needs additional efforts. It has to go beyond promoting women's entrepreneurship. As I said, we need to really, really go to the legal, structural, and cultural barriers that have held women back. Things like an insufficient caregiving infrastructure right here in the United States, also around the world, particularly for those who are working in the informal economy. And you really need to address the enabling environment, things like education, access to comprehensive reproductive health care and services, and freedom from gender-based violence and harassment.

VOGELSTEIN: A big agenda indeed. I want to get to another issue that you mentioned in your list of priorities, which is women's participation in peace and security processes. We know that in 2017, the Women, Peace and Security Act was signed into law concretizing the National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security launched during the Obama administration. And yet implementation of this law arguably has languished. And we see that women continue to be absent from peace processes around the world. Just this week, there were news reports of a potential power-sharing agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban. So what does that mean for women? And how will the Biden administration ensure women's involvement in peace and security processes?

KLEIN: So I think this is a perfect example of where the Gender Policy Council (already in Washington, we have an acronym, the GPC) can play a role working really closely with the National Security Council, and other relevant cabinet agencies, including State Department, the Defense Department, USAID, USTR, and others to ensure that gender equality issues are on the agenda, including, as you just noted, in critical negotiations in Afghanistan and Syria, and really anywhere else. To take Afghanistan as a particularly relevant example, our commitment to security for the Afghan people must include security for Afghan women and girls. Yesterday at the State Department, we commemorated the International Women of Courage awards. And seven women, seven Afghan women were honored posthumously who were assassinated in 2020, simply for serving their communities. And those attacks need to be fully and promptly investigated and the perpetrators need to be held accountable. And this is part of a larger effort to ensure safety and security for Afghan women. So the other thing I would point out is that the administration's interim national security strategy, the longer strategy obviously underway, but the interim strategy even makes clear that advancing gender equality and women's empowerment is central to U.S. national security strategy. And that includes a number of different components as you noted, and it also includes robust implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Act.

VOGELSTEIN: So I'd like to zoom in on a security issue closer to home, women in our own military. Many applauded President Biden's nomination yesterday of two incredibly qualified women to lead combatant commands, and the appointment of Kathleen Hicks as the first female deputy secretary of defense. But I want to ask about sexual assault and harassment in the military, an issue that has, we know, long plagued our armed forces, and has also been in the news quite a bit lately from the investigation of the murder of 20-year-old army specialist Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood, the Marine who bravely recounted her own experience of sexual assault on social media just last month. This is an issue that's not only one of justice and accountability for survivors, but also of force readiness and national security. So how will this administration succeed, where so many others have failed?

KLEIN: That's such a great question, such an important question, and I would note that, first of all, the president himself campaigned on his deep commitment to ending and preventing gender-based violence generally, but particularly named sexual assaults in the military as a huge challenge that he was looking forward to taking on. And I hope that people have seen everything that has happened in the first month or so of the administration, 48 days, as evidence of that deep commitment. So on his first day in office, Secretary Austin made it clear that he is committed to addressing the scourge of sexual assault in the military. He asked for a quick two-week turnaround report to assess what was happening and then quickly afterward launched this commission to end sexual assault in the military. He appointed Lynn Rosenthal, who I think most people know, but just to be clear, is a longstanding senior adviser to President Biden, she worked for him when he was vice president on this set of issues, sexual assault more broadly, but including military sexual assault. So I think the appointment of Lynn Rosenthal as the chair of this commission is, again, a strong signal that this is serious. And in addition to that, Lynn has a lot of latitude in planning the work and the structure of the commission. And the president also himself had committed to involve outside experts, survivors, and survivor advocates in the work of that commission. And that is exactly what is happening. And it has a mandate to focus broadly on accountability, to really look at the system of accountability, which has failed previously, and on prevention, as well as climate and culture. So I think all of that adds up to a commitment and a reality that I really do believe that this commission will come back to the president. And that's also an important thing to note, that the commission reports to the secretary of defense, and he reports to the president, who has the ultimate decision-making authority as to what actions to take after the commission makes its recommendations. And then I will also just note, you mentioned the promotion of the female four star commandants. And another thing I noted myself with great interest was that the president's remarks yesterday when he highlighted those nominations, really went far beyond the actual just inclusion of women in the military, but also highlighted some of the things big and small in his own words that need to happen to actually make female participation in our military successful and real. So, again, that's another piece that I think shows pretty immediate action.

VOGELSTEIN: Now, there are a lot of folks who will be watching the work of this commission closely. And with a 90 day timetable there's a great hope for quick action there. I'm going to open the discussion now to questions from our participants, please do raise your virtual hand on zoom, put yourself into the queue, and state your name and affiliation when called on and the floor is yours. And we will get to as many questions as we can, beginning with Chantal. Please unmute yourself and go ahead.

Q: Thank you very much, Rachel, and congratulations with the establishment of the council. My question is, the executive order establishing the council doesn't mention UN Security Council Resolution 1325 or the WPS agenda, or the WPS Act, or the WPS strategy? And my question is, why not? And second, how does the council and the new gender strategy will relate to efforts under the WPS agenda, the WPS strategy and WPS act? Thank you.

KLEIN: Thank you for that great question. Oh, sorry, Rachel. I was just going to say thank you for that great question. So the fact that the those issues are not mentioned by name in the executive order should be no signal that they are not first of all of importance, and/or a priority for the council and for the National Security Council and for the Biden administration more generally. Actually, I will tell you that in the sausage making of what went in and what didn't go into the executive order, one issue was whether naming some issues, high priority issues, as opposed to others would be any sort of signal that other issues were not equally important. And so literally, that is why women, peace and security, for example, as a perfect example is not named, but really, no indication at all that it is not part and parcel of the work both of this council, as I said, and the National Security Council as well, obviously, as the agencies like State and Defense and USAID that are required under the Act and are coordinating to advance our strategy. I feel like there was a second part of your question, which I've already forgotten.

Q: How does it relate to the WPS strategy, the WPS agenda? And, you know, other institutions that deal with these issues?

VOGELSTEIN: And I'll just broaden that question, if I might, Jen, because I know there have been questions about how the national strategy will relate to strategies on a whole host of other issues, whether it's gender-based violence, or women, peace and security, economic empowerment, girls’ education that kind of predate this moment. This is a step that our country is taking for the first time, other countries have had national strategies on gender equality before. This will be a kind of matter of first impression, to some respect, given that it is focused both on domestic and foreign policy. So how will this umbrella work?

KLEIN: Thanks. I think, first of all, the fact what you just said, is a really important thing to know. And it was quite intentional, that this council and the strategy cover both domestic and global issues. It does not replace the work on any of the particular issues where even there is already required a national strategy, so on women peace and security, on gender-based violence, for example, those strategies will continue, that deep work will continue, and this is sort of a, I was going to say, a layer on top, but in fact, not a layer on top, a foundation underneath to ensure that we are giving our full support to the development of those strategies and the work that needs to get done. So I think that's true of women, peace and security, it's true of a number of other issues. COVID and the economic impacts on women is another example, that work is happening in many places across the government and our job is to support that work, and to ensure that the focus on women and gender equality doesn't stay siloed, but actually is infused throughout.

VOGELSTEIN: I'm going to turn now to Alyse Nelson, please unmute yourself, and go ahead.

Q: Hi, Jen. Hi, Rachel, so wonderful that you were there. I know, I speak for all of us, just saying that. The first thing that I got a two part question. The first piece is, you know, I think all of us would agree that the last four years, this space has changed pretty dramatically. On the one hand, obviously, I know that the hill you are up against is a very sharp climb. And so I think the first part would be, how can we as the constituency who cares about these issues support you? What is it that you need from us to be successful? Because I think all of us, I'm sure people will ask you tough questions, but I think all of us would agree that we want you to be successful. And the second part is, the other thing that is really inspiring to me, that we've seen in this space is just a huge new constituency. I mean, the Trump era ignited so many young women, particularly so many young women of color in their twenties, who are really demanding change. And how will you also serve them and that new constituency, and really bring them into the fold?

KLEIN: I'll start with a very narrow answer, and then I'll give you a broader answer. So in terms of the, the young women of color in particular, there are and this is actually something I should have noted earlier, another really meaningful. It's particularly for those who've worked in government, you realize how meaningful that this is the first time (there have been others, as Rachel mentioned, there have been other iterations of women's offices, councils, etc.) And for the first time, we have a staff, and it is a growing staff. But already we have three substantive people, one of whom is laser-focused on Black, indigenous, and people of color. And so her job, it's all of our job, but her job is to wake up every day thinking particularly about the disproportionate impacts on women of color, and very much focused on young women of color. So that was very much front and center in literally the planning and staffing of this council. But to answer your broader question, which actually isn't a question, it's sort of an inspiration is, and I thank you for that, is, you said it, and it says it again, in the executive order, one of the provisions beyond the involvement of the cabinet, beyond the government-wide approach, it names that this council will work closely with nonprofit organizations, community-based organizations, also state, local and tribal governments, also the private sector, also foreign governments and multilateral organizations. And the reason for that is, because, as you point out, there is a big hill, there are big challenges, and even a brand new council is not going to solve those alone. And so I guess the answer is deep partnership, which will be sometimes formal and sometimes informal. But as we go being able to rely on and to work really closely with you and other partners and experts, who know these issues better than anybody, I think is really important. And the other thing I would say, and probably somebody working in government shouldn't say this. But you know, I think one of the things that we should note is that part of the reason for all of the successes have been the loud voices of advocates from the outside. And I think that that's actually really important.

VOGELSTEIN: The accountability role that we all play and really important to keeping the work going forward? I want to turn now to Lyric Thompson, to unmute herself lyric, the floor is yours.

Q: Thanks, Rachel. And hi, Jen. Welcome. Congratulations, we're so excited to have you. My question is process. So you have 200 days, or I guess, as of today, 199 days to pull together a strategy on both foreign and domestic policy, which seems like not a lot of time. So I’m curious what your process will be for that, and particularly for this audience, the foreign policy piece, and just to commend to you a Council on Foreign Relations report that encourages governments to consider feminist foreign policy as one of the most ambitious approaches to gender and foreign policy. If you'd care to comment on that, we'd be keen to hear your perspectives. Thanks.

KLEIN: Yes. Thanks, Lyric, I woke up in a panic myself, I was like, great. We're all celebrating this council. And now it says here, I have 200 days. So, first of all on your question on feminist foreign policy, I think, two things. One is, I think that, as you know, I have long followed the discussions about feminist foreign policy and the focus on women's rights and representation and resources, as well as just representation or representation as only one of those three pieces. And whatever terminology you use, I think that the steps that we are taking are very much in line with all three of those commitments. And in addition to it being a foreign policy priority, I think, again, tying domestic and foreign policy together is essential. So in terms of the actual crafting of the strategy, it's basically a work in progress. And the idea is, what we know, is that there is a Biden agenda that was on women, which was set out during the campaign. And ensuring that we meet those commitments will be front and center in the strategy. Engaging, as I said, really all of the both leaders of all agencies and departments, and then their senior designates, to figure out what first of all needs to be addressed, that may need to be undone based on choices and decisions and policies of the previous administration, and then their own internal priorities. And I sort of feel like those two things ladder up to a set of policies and priorities, which will guide our work, at least for the first year. I'll also note that I think the notion of the strategy is that it too can evolve over time. So things that are going to be priorities in the first year, I mean, you've heard already, because of COVID, because of policies that that we inherited, there are sort of a set of immediate priorities, those will certainly be addressed through this strategy. And then I think, over time, we will be able to, first of all, measure whether we've made progress on those things and then add to the list of priorities over the course of the next few years.

VOGELSTEIN: I think especially notable that the executive order called for accountability in the form of a report that would go to the president, which is different than some other commitments we've seen made on this topic in the past that didn't have any sort of reporting mechanism like that. I want to turn to Louise Shelley. Louise, over to you.

Q: Thank you, and it's great to hear about all these wonderful changes. I had a question on, what are you going to be doing on addressing human trafficking, which has gotten so much worse, especially among Black and other minority communities during the pandemic? And how will it be tied into health issues, and greater access to medical care for the most disadvantaged in our society?

KLEIN: Thank you for that great question. And, as you I'm sure know, there's work at the State Department. Human trafficking is also a domestic priority. And again it is one of those issue areas where I'm very grateful that we have both the global and domestic look, because it's a perfect example of how those issues need to be handled together, you know, immigration being another one. And also, as you pointed out, it is an issue of violence but it's not just an issue of violence. So again, being able to call together the right people across the government, to focus on health needs, and mental health needs and other things, as well as addressing the violence that human trafficking is. So that is very much high on our agenda of issues to begin focusing on immediately.

VOGELSTEIN: And I will just take the liberty to flag that the first-ever Council Special Report on human trafficking will come out in just a few weeks, informed by all four former trafficking ambassadors from both sides of the aisle. So we look forward to sharing those recommendations with you and your team. I'm going to turn to Tamara, please go ahead.

Q: Hi, Rachel. Hi, Jen. It's so great to see you both there. Just much excitement. My question, which won't surprise you guys is about reproductive health rights and justice. Of course, we're delighted about the lifting of the global gag rule, as usual, but eager to see it not be the usual ping pong back and forth. And interested in how reproductive health will be woven into all plans and just huge thanks for everything you're doing. We know it's a long curve up. Thank you.

KLEIN: Thank you. Yes. And I'm sure you and I'm hoping others noticed that literally, in the executive order, it calls out the importance of comprehensive health services, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. And so yes, we are looking forward to continuing to push forward on that issue and to work closely with Congress on the set of reproductive rights and health issues that are going to come our way very quickly.

VOGELSTEIN: Why don't we go to Debbie Harding. Debbie, over to you.

KLEIN: Debbie Harding, oh, my gosh.

VOGELSTEIN: You can unmute yourself. Debbie, now we can hear you.

Q: Congratulations, Jen it’s wonderful to hear about this initiative and to see that you're back in government, and it's an extraordinary development, I expected to have this council so I only have a couple of things that I wanted to say. One is, in your commitment to include foreign participants or partners. In the effort, I hope that you will get below the elite women in the capital kind of networks that usually are the ones that are addressed and try to bring in NGOs and community-based organizations that actually work with folks, as it were, I guess, particularly critical in Africa. And one of the agencies that wasn't on the list that you mentioned in your introductory comments was the Peace Corps, which right now doesn't have anybody in the field but certainly holds true when the pandemic’s over. And the Peace Corps Act explicitly was changed in 1970 a) to say that they had to work with the economic integration of women. So I think you'll find, if possible, good grassroots partners there. And the only other thing I wanted to say is the issue of hijab choice, which is, I'm sure you know, is a huge issue in Iran and other parts of the Muslim world. There's a terrific article that came out yesterday in the New York Review of Books on it, and, you know, it's an issue that doesn't seem to get much support from anybody except at the sort of chattering level. So it would be great if you could kind of tuck that away in the back of your mind. Thank you.

KLEIN: Thank you for all of that. And can I just take a moment to say, you know, so many people have already made incredibly important points about things that we need to be paying attention to. And I really just want to say outright, I think people know this, but I hope this is the first of many meetings, I hope this is the first of much interaction, because as you know, this is a true partnership and the work that so many of the people who are part of this roundtable have done will be essential to actually making progress in the next few years. So, please let this be the first formal, in addition to many informal invitations to send whatever intelligence you have, make whatever recommendations you have. I really hope that there will be a lot of back and forth because I am going to speak for myself here. I can't do this alone. And the people who are part of this roundtable are the world's experts, or many of the world's experts on this set of issues.

VOGELSTEIN: Thanks, Jen. We're going to turn now to Erin Hohlfelder from the Gates Foundation. Erin. Go ahead.

Q: Hi, Jen, nice to be with you. And just echoing everyone, it’s a delight to all be together and to see the GPC set up. And thanks, Rachel, for pulling this conversation together as well. So my question is, if my eyes served me well, I think I spotted a Beijing 1995 poster behind you, Jen. And so perhaps not surprisingly, at the foundation, we’re really eager about turning our sights to what is now the 26th anniversary of the Beijing platform and conference with dates just announced yesterday at the end of June. So curious if you have early thoughts. I know, with only basically four months to go there's not a lot of lead time. But curious if you have thoughts about how the U.S. might be thinking about early engagement with this process and elevating gender equality on the agendas of other heads of state, particularly, as you come into CSW next week was also delighted to see the news of VP Harris being the one to deliver the opening statement. So just early tea leaves on how the U.S. might approach some of these global moments coming up where gender will be central.

KLEIN: Thank you Erin. And yes, I'm going to sorry, Rachel, you might kill me for moving my computer during this. But yes, that is the Beijing poster that literally looks over my shoulder to remind me what I need to be doing every day. So the answer to your question is the U.S. will have a very robust presence at Beijing plus 26 and at really the host of meetings leading up to it in addition to, and I share your excitement about Vice President Harris, being the U.S. representative giving the remarks for the opening of CSW. Also, we have a number of people participating in bilateral meetings and a USG-led event at CSW that is focused on the impact of COVID on gender-based violence on economic issues on women. So we'll be I think a relatively strong presence already going in, sort of two weeks after this council is formed. And that's thanks to the work of so many, but in particular, my former colleagues at the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues who have been really important to U.S. participation, as well as U.S.-UN. And so you'll see us there. And also, I would note that within the G7, we've also started to really engage with the gender equality work through the G7, including the Gender Equality Advisory Council. So the answer, Erin, to your question is that we are excited to be back, and excited to be a really, I hope, important presence and send the signal that the United States is really wanting to be engaged in all of these, both the events, but far beyond the events.

VOGELSTEIN: I’m going to open the floor now to Matthew Emry. Matthew, please go ahead. We can't hear you yet.

Q: Hear me now? Yes. There we go. I had to hit two different buttons. Okay. Thank you very much for letting me join this conversation. My question has very specific focus on foreign assistance. Within our foreign assistance work historically, we focused on gender equality, and women or females’ empowerment, but there really hasn't been a space for talking about women's rights, through our foreign assistance work, through our foreign development work. What can the Biden administration really do to help us move more towards a direction of focusing on women's rights?

VOGELSTEIN: I wonder if I can just broaden the question to also recognize that there's been a push in recent years to fund and support women's rights organizations in countries which we know have been so frequently neglected. So is that an agenda item?

KLEIN: Yeah, absolutely. And I was going to say, I think one of the best ways to do that is to work closely and directly with organizations with eyes on the ground. So that is part of it. And I think generally, the focus on women's rights, whether that's through development, or whether that's through diplomacy, whether that's through the State Department's Human Rights Reports, I think sort of re-energizing the connection between women's rights and human rights is very much front and center. And I'd love to talk more with you about if you have particular ideas about how to ensure that women's rights are part and parcel of our development work. I'd love to hear more

VOGELSTEIN: I’m going to turn to Heidi Hartmann. Heidi, go ahead and unmute yourself.

Q: Is that working? Did that work? Yes. Great. Only one button for me lucky. Hi, Jennifer. And thank you, Rachel, for inviting me. I am more of a domestic expert than an international one. So my question is about that domestic agenda. One of the things I noticed in the Obama administration is that we didn't all coalesce around the idea of institutionalizing some apparatus for women through law, for example, we have very few offices in any of the federal agencies that are required by law. They're all happen, custom and happenstance. And they can easily be eliminated because of that. So that's just a question whether you think the council will be able to look into that, not just domestically but possibly also internationally.

KLEIN: Yes, quite frankly, I hadn't really thought about that yet. But I would be happy to talk more with you and think about that with you. I think, the work to deeply embed a focus on gender equity and gender equality is exactly the goal and how you get there and exactly what you what you put in place, again, very much a work in progress. So, let's talk about that more as the council gets started.

VOGELSTEIN: Terrific, why don't we turn to Jenny Vanyur? Jenny, go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Rachel. And hi, Jen. This is Jenny Vanyur with Planned Parenthood Federation of America. As has been mentioned, we were really thrilled that sexual and reproductive health and rights were named in the executive order and already have received such explicit support from this administration. I'm wondering if you could speak a little bit more about how the Gender Policy Council might be involved with budget proposals as well as policy change to make sure that we are adequately resourcing gender equality, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, and putting forward policy changes that will endure beyond this administration?

KLEIN: We will be is the short answer to your question. One of the things that the executive order was intended to make clear was that this is about policy, it's also about budgets, it's also about data collection. And as we all on this call know, each of those are tools to advance your policies, your values, etc. So, we're already involved in internal discussions about budget, internal discussions about policy changes, etc. So, yes, very much on the agenda of this council.

VOGELSTEIN: I’m going to turn to Ellen Chesler. Ellen, please go ahead.

KLEIN: Okay, this is not fair. I want to see everybody is asking these questions.

Q: My congratulations and warmest wishes, almost all the questions I thought to ask have been asked. No surprise, given the extraordinary reach of this group. But let's just talk specifically about institutionalizing in terms of treaties or the ERA at home. I know that both the ERA or CEDAW ratification would be very steep hills to climb in this congressional environment. But have you thought about a strategy there? Or at least you know, doing some work to bring this to the attention of a new generation of Americans?

KLEIN: Yeah, so on era I'm sure you're aware that the House Democratic Women's Caucus is likely to reintroduce ERA in the next several weeks. And again, sure you're aware, but the president has been really clear that he supports the Equal Rights Amendment. So we are looking forward to continuing to work with our allies on the Hill and try to get some allies on the Hill. And I think the same is true of CEDAW. As you point out, these are really steep hills to climb, particularly in this environment, as we are living every day. So beyond our strong support within the administration and making that clear, again, I'd love to have a longer conversation with you about strategies to advance both of those goals. But I think what is clear, and hopefully what will help is the president’s strong support.

VOGELSTEIN: I'm going to turn it to Anju Malhotra.

Q: Thanks Rachel and congratulations on establishing the council. It's a great move forward. My question is partially a question, partially advice. I was wondering if you have thought about, and I hope that you will think about, having more innovative measures of success than we have had in the past. A lot of especially in foreign policy, as you're thinking about feminist foreign policy, or having an influence in the global arena to really move both women's rights and outcomes forward. And we look at Beijing plus 25, or Beijing plus 26 now, so much has been left undone. And there are so many deep issues on which we have received pushback rather than move forward. It would be exciting to see how we're looking at measures of success beyond just money allocated or gender markers, or things that we've tried in the last 25 years and that haven't really given us that tangible outcomes.

KLEIN: Can I respond with a question? And if not, we can talk about this offline. But do you have a suggestion? I could not agree with your assessment and your recommendation more. And I wonder if you thought or would be willing to think more about some of those examples of what those measures of success could be?

Q: Yeah, I've been I've been doing nothing but thinking about that for the past few years. And I'd be happy to have a deeper conversation with you about but I think one of the things that we have been thinking about, we're setting up a gender and health hub at the UN University Institute of Global Health is for example in the UN system, talk about money spent rather than money budgeted, for example, just you know, simple shifts in that, but really looking at outcomes for women very tangibly rather than processes. So, yeah, we tend to just be too far away. And we seem to keep thinking that that will happen eventually. So yes, happy to talk to you more about that.

KLEIN: That'd be great. I would really appreciate that.

VOGELSTEIN: Thanks, Anju, why don't we turn to Lisa Roman?

Q: Thanks, Rachel, Jen, so pleased to virtually meet you and thrilled for the establishment of this council, I’m former State Department former NSC now working for Bumble, the dating app that is designed for women. And we're doing a lot of thinking in our policy shop about how, as a female-founded and led company, we can help raise the standards in private industry, especially internet-based companies to help empower and protect women online. And I was very interested, when the Biden campaign talked about in the fall, about setting up a digital task force that would at least partially address this issue. Apologies if you have already touched on this in the beginning of your talk, but wondering if you have any update on that, if that will fall under your purview? And if not how your team might plug in there to ensure that the gendered lens is applied to the challenges regarding online abuse and harassment?

KLEIN: That's a great question. It does not fall solely in my purview. But we will be involved. And it's a good reminder that I should get going on figuring out what is happening there because I honestly haven't had a chance to do that yet. But you're exactly right, which is that there needs to be a gender lens to all of that work. Some may know, I came from Time's Up before this. And that was one of the issues that we were working on, in fact, funded a study done by project include exactly on this topic, which is again, exacerbated, particularly during this moment, where so many people are working online, even those who never did before. And the range of issues that had pretty much long been ignored. So thank you for taking them on. Thank you for being attentive to them. And thank you for the reminder date to get myself into the right meeting there.

VOGELSTEIN: Terrific. We have a few more questions, we're going to try to get through them all. Joanne de Jonge, over to you.

Q: Thank you. I'm especially pleased to hear that the protection of Afghan women is a priority in our relations with that country, and also that the issue of human trafficking is a priority. My question is, what will the Biden administration do to protect women's sports, including women and girls competing internationally? Such as the Olympics given its support for the protection of transgender people?

KLEIN: Thank you. Yeah, I think that the administration is, first of all, interested in ensuring that there's non-discrimination in sports generally, and supporting the great work that has been done by the leagues and international sporting institutions to ensure that women and girls are not harmed by the inclusion of transgender athletes in sports.

VOGELSTEIN: Going to turn quickly to Kathleen, please go ahead.

Q: Hello, thanks so much. Welcome back, Jennifer. It's been so many years, but I'm really thrilled for the opportunity to be able to learn more about the council. When you described the vast number of relationships that you're going to nurture over these 200 days, I thought, wow, that is really admirable. And I'm excited for you. I do hope that it will involve the civil society in the development of the strategy. And if you could comment a little bit more about how you will engage civil society. And of course, on behalf of the U.S. civil society working group on women and security, which is in its 10th year, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss it with you further.

KLEIN: Absolutely, that is, that's great. Great to know. And great to think about it. And just to be clear about one thing, the first strategy is due within 200 days. The entire work of the council is not done in 200 days. So changing expectations there if that is a misinterpretation. So within 200 days, we will craft our first strategy. Yes, absolutely. And it really is already happening, part of the strategy will involve or part of the preparation of that strategy will involve consultation with civil society. So many of you on this phone are already part of that in informal ways. And then second of all, as I said earlier, the council and this was explicit in the executive order, not only for the creation of the strategy, just to be clear, throughout the work of the council in whatever we do, will engage civil society and community-based organizations. So the answer to that is an affirmative and enthusiastic Yes, very much welcome an ongoing conversation, ongoing work together.

VOGELSTEIN: Let me to turn it to Judith Bruce.

Q: Can you hear me? Yeah. First of all, again, congratulations. And I'll be brief and enthusiastic. I think many of us working in this, whatever the matter was, go back to the economic sources, the social and economic exclusion. So two areas I’d love comment on. One is, with this COVID relief bill, you're beginning to signal reinvestment in children, and in families with children. So I'm wondering where things like child savings accounts established at birth might fit in as anchoring both an identity for both boys and girls, but also for girls especially, a portal through which to support and incentivize a lot of changes we want to see, financially and financial literacy at the earliest possible ages. And I think that's invaluable in all settings. The second is just an emphasis in remembering the Global Women's Compact. I was at the Mexico City, I'm that old that I was at the interregnum between Mexico City and Beijing, a lot of attention was given, the first women in development office Arvan Fraser, and Percy amendment to women in agriculture and food security, which was at that point constructed, around a lot of history and women being included in technological innovation. But I think the food security issue, all parts of it, should be revisited. And Beijing, that would be another place to revisit it, because I think, is clear that it's bedrock, again, lack of food security increases violence, but it also is this bedrock economic contribution women are making, but largely without support. So comments.

KLEIN: Yes, exactly. On food security, I know, there is already work being done, specifically on that at the State Department and of course, at USAID. And that there's increased attention to making sure we're doing all we count on food security, for all of the reasons that you just outlined. On child savings accounts, what you probably have seen, but is in the American Rescue Plan, which hopefully is going to pass this week and be signed by the president, all Fingers crossed, it's now in the hands of the House. There's a $300 child tax credit, which many are seeing as a sort of child savings account-like provision. And so just pointing that out. Beyond that I don't think there are yet conversations more broadly about child savings accounts. But definitely that provision in the ARP, I think, is a sense of the importance of giving kids that and families that endorsement early on, in a way that's a little bit different than has been done before.

VOGELSTEIN: In true council tradition, we are going to wrap up and stay on time. It is clear that the opportunity is great and also that much work lies ahead to achieve the ambitious agenda outlined today. Jen, we thank you for your leadership and wish you much success on the road ahead.

KLEIN: And if I can have one last word, I just want to say that where we started this conversation is the historic first of this council, which is true, it is absolutely true that it is different from what has come before in some really important ways. But I also want to say having now having heard from so many of the luminaries in the field, that it really is, and I feel that I, but more importantly, all of this work stands on everyone's shoulders, who has been part of this roundtable. And so I just want to end by thanking everybody for that work, and for your continued help and partnership as this council launches, because literally, none of this would have happened, there would not be a council but there would also not be the opportunity to talk about gender equity and gender equality globally without the people on this call.

VOGELSTEIN: I will echo Jen, thanks to everyone for your work for being here and joining us today. Thank you all so much.

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