The Oval Office, that is. The White House is establishing a Gender Equity Council that will permeate every level of government.
You see, the Gender Policy Council will not be a siloed group working on gender priorities, such as the pay gap, sexual harassment, and child care, in a vacuum. In other words, it won’t be “that women’s group.”
Rather, its mission, according to co-chair Jennifer Klein (former Chief Strategy and Policy Officer at TIME’S UP), is to take a government-wide approach to gender equity and equality and improve workplace policies for female federal employees in order to serve “as a model for other U.S. employers to do the same.”
Timing is everything. I told you here that McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace 2020 reported that more than one in four women are contemplating downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely. How can the Gender Policy council help?
Why would this Council work to accomplish its stated goal?
One reason is presidential support.
Remember, we’ve noted in so many different areas, but especially regarding sexual harassment, buy-in from senior leadership is critical and far more likely to maintain a “top-down” culture not only of prohibiting unlawful harassment but of equity.
When anti-discrimination and a refusal to tolerate unlawful harassment comes from the very top of an organization, it demonstrates commitment to employees from the C-Suite to the mailroom to maintain a culture of respect for all. It says, “we’re serious here.”
This New York Times piece notes that past councils did not include cabinet secretaries, and, accordingly, former gender equity council leaders had a tough time getting “upper level buy-in from senior leadership” for a group that reported to the first lady.
This Council will report right to the top, which tells other agencies that gender equity is a priority.
Another Reason THIS Council Is Different
The Council’s priorities will also infiltrate each federal agency so that each one focuses on gender-specific issues and includes them in policy decisions. As the NYT article noted:
It worked with the Transportation Department, for example, to train bus drivers and flight attendants to recognize signs of sex trafficking.
When organizational leaders consider gender equity as part of the broader agency or company agenda, equity is far more likely to be reached. Every cabinet member will participate and designate a representative to foster gender equity in each specific agency, thereby ensuring accountability across the agencies.
This move seems on theme with the January 2021 executive order, which I wrote about here, requiring all federal agencies to make equity a central factor in their work and for “the Federal Government [to] pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color… .”
Employers, if you have not yet prioritized gender equity and diversity and inclusivity, now is the time.