Mr. Douglas Emhoff, Distinguished Visitor from Practice at Georgetown Law and husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, made a surprise appearance at the Georgetown Women’s Forum last week. Mr. Emhoff dropped in on a panel discussion about the state of women in the U.S. hosted by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS). He emphasized to attendees that the Biden-Harris administration plans to make gender equity a policy priority. “The challenges facing women today should concern all of us, in every community, because they affect everyone in every community,” said Mr. Emhoff.
The Second Gentleman revealed he gained a deeper understanding of the shared struggles that many American women face while accompanying Kamala Harris on the campaign trail and through his work as an attorney. A lack of access to quality childcare and record job losses are among the issues that concern him most. “The pandemic has only magnified the barriers that disproportionately impact women, and particularly impact women of color,” he said.
Mr. Emhoff’s remarks echo findings from a recent GIWPS report that ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia on women’s rights and opportunities. The research illustrates how racial inequality compounds gender inequality for American women. For example, approximately 3 in 10 Hispanic women in Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Missouri, North Carolina, and South Carolina reported not seeing a doctor in the past 12 months because of cost, compared with 14 percent of women on average. Among Black women, 17 percent report that healthcare is unaffordable.
“The pandemic has only magnified the barriers that disproportionately impact women, and particularly impact women of color.” — Mr. Douglas Emhoff, Second Gentleman of the United States
Throughout his speech, the Second Gentleman expressed hope that the Biden-Harris administration’s economic rescue plan can address intersectional disparities through key policy initiatives: “The plan will give more support to women who are out of work, it will finally expand paid sick leave and family medical leave, which we need, it will increase access to affordable child care, help childcare providers, and expand childcare tax credits,” explained Mr. Emhoff. “It will provide relief to women in need, and in doing so it will help all of us, all Americans.”
Ambassador Melanne Verveer, the Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, said: “Mr. Emhoff has a strong understanding of the struggles and inequalities that many women in America confront. He particularly singled out the disproportionate impacts of COVID, like the lack of access to quality childcare and record job losses, and underscored the toll that the pandemic has had on women of color. To have the Second Gentleman focus on these issues is very encouraging.”
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Evelyn Garrity is a Program and Communications Associate at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.