President Biden’s Recent Executive Orders Seek to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

May 7, 2021 | Insights

By Jackie Staple

Back in February, Jackson Walker summarized several of President Biden’s executive orders and memoranda that addressed areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Since taking the Oath of Office, Biden has signed over 40 executive orders (one of the tools most readily available to any president), a number of which touch upon DEI. Selected Orders are summarized below as an update to Jackson Walker’s previous article. President Biden’s actions—including his appointment of Cabinet officials who have been statistically more racially and gender diverse than appointees in recent administrations—reflect his stated mission to eliminate discrimination and reflect the diversity of the American people. Employers should keep these Orders in mind as they review, update, or revamp their DEI policies and trainings to ensure compliance. Jackson Walker’s Diversity & Inclusion Counseling practice group can assist with DEI policies, trainings, and assessments.


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No Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Discrimination in Education

Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free From Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity
Executive Order No. 14021 – March 8, 2021

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act, which applies to educational institutions that receive federal funding, prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs or activities. This Order clarifies that “sex” includes sexual orientation and gender identity. This falls in line with the United States Supreme Court’s Bostock v. Clayton County decision from June 2020, which interpreted “sex” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The Order calls on the Department of Education to review its Final Rule that implemented a number of new regulations effective last August 2020 in order to be sure it complies with the Order. It also calls for the Secretary of Education to consider additional actions to address students who experience intersection discrimination, meaning discrimination on the basis of sex and other characteristics.

Advancing Gender Equity

Establishment of the White House Gender Policy Council
Executive Order No. 14020 – March 8, 2021

President Biden has firmly stated his administration is committed to establishing and pursuing a comprehensive approach to advance equal rights and opportunities within the federal government and U.S. military. This Order creates the White House Gender Policy Council, which will provide legislative and policy recommendations to the President regarding gender equity and equality. The Council will coordinate policies and programs aimed at a slew of goals, including tackling systemic biases, combating gender stereotypes in STEM fields, addressing caregiving needs faced by American families (that are disproportionately handled by women), and responding to gender-based violence. The Council is comprised of the President’s Cabinet and a number of chairs, directors, and administrators.

Reducing Obstacles to Voting

Promoting Access to Voting
Executive Order No. 14019 – March 7, 2021

In this Order, President Biden acknowledges that many Americans, “especially people of color,” face obstacles when exercising their right to vote. The Order points out that historic discriminatory policies Black voters faced, lack of accommodations for voters who are disabled, and language barriers can all present disproportionate obstacles. The Order calls on federal agencies to find ways each agency can help promote reliable voting information and combat misinformation. The General Service Administration’s website and online voter registration form may also be getting a revamp, including to address disability accessibility.

Confronting Discrimination Against Refugees

Rebuilding and Enhancing Programs to Resettle Refugees and Planning for the Impact of Climate Change on Migration
Executive Order No. 14013 – February 4, 2021

This Executive Order focuses on the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) that works with governmental and private partners to identify and admit qualified refugees and provide resettlement assistance. This Order states that individuals applying for immigration under humanitarian programs “must be treated with dignity and respect, without improper discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or other grounds.” The Order also affirms a commitment to enhance the refugee program for groups vulnerable to persecution, such as women and children and those persecuted due to their sexual orientation or gender expression. To accomplish this, the Order outlines procedures to increase transparency and integrity of the USRAP process, such as fraud detection, data-driven decision-making, and video conferencing for refugee interviews.

[1] Executive orders are a way for the president to issue mandatory directives or requirements related to the federal government and its agencies’ operations. They have the force of law without needing Congress’ approval. Presidential memoranda are similar, but they are not required to explain the source of the president’s authority for the directive and do not have to be published in the Federal Register.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.