Catherine Powell

Adjunct Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy

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Expert Bio

Catherine Powell is an adjunct senior fellow for women and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). She is part of the women and foreign policy and digital and cyberspace policy programs. Having served in both the Obama and Biden White Houses, she is currently a full-time professor at Fordham University School of Law, where she teaches constitutional law, civil rights and civil liberties in a digital age, human rights, and feminist theory. Additionally, she is a visiting fellow with the Yale Information Society Project. She served as a senior advisor in the White House Gender Policy Council from January to early July 2024. Her prior experience includes stints in former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's policy planning office and in the White House National Security Council as director for human rights in the Barack Obama administration. Previously, Powell was founding director of the Human Rights Institute and the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, where she was on the faculty as a clinical professor.

Powell has also served as a member of the American Journal of International Law board of editors, a vice president of the American Society of International Law, and a co-chair of Blacks in the American Society of International Law. In addition to formerly serving on the Human Rights Watch board, she has been a consultant on national security and human rights matters for the Center for American Progress and the American Constitution Society as well as a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center (between 2012 and 2013) and Columbia Law School (spring 2007 and fall 2016).

She is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, where she was a senior editor on the Yale Law Journal. She has a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. After her graduate work, she was a post-graduate Ford fellow in teaching international law at Harvard Law School and then clerked for Judge Leonard B. Sand on the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York.

Powell’s recent blogs and op-eds include “Gender and Power in an Age of Disinformation: a Conversation With Mary Anne Franks,” “Can You Hear Me? Speech and Power in the Global Digital Town Square,” for Women Around the World (2022), “Invisible Workers on the Global Assembly Line: Behind the Screen” in Women Around the World and cross-posted in Balkinization and Net Politics (2019), “The United Divided States: San Francisco Sues Donald Trump for Sanctuary Cities Order” in Just Security (2017), “How #MeToo Has Spread Like Wildfire” in Newsweek (2017), and “How Women Could Save the World” in the Nation (2017).

Her recent academic publications include “War on Covid: Warfare and its Discontents,” in UCLA Law Review Discourse (2023), “Color of COVID and Gender of COVID: Essential Workers, Not Disposable People,” in Yale Journal of Law and Feminism (2020), “Race, Gender, and Nation in an Age of Shifting Borders: The Unstable Prisms of Motherhood and Masculinity, in UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs (2019), “We the People: These United Divided States” in Cardozo Law Review (2019), “How Women Could Save the World, If Only We Would Let Them: From Gender Essentialism to Inclusive Security” in Yale Journal of Law and Feminism (2017), and “Gender Indicators as Global Governance: Not Your Father's World Bank” in the Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law (2016). Shorter essays include “Race and Rights in the Digital Age” in AJIL Unbound (2018).


  • Fordham Law School, professor of law 
  • Yale Information Society Project, visiting fellow

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