Climate and Environmental Policy in Trump’s First 100 Days: A Summary through a Gender Lens

Of all the actions President Trump has taken in his chaotic first months in office, moving to roll back the previous administration’s environmental and climate rules may have the greatest impact on future generations. Against the overwhelming evidence, scientific consensus, and trends in public opinion, Trump threatens to dramatically reshape climate and environmental policies – many of which will lead to disparate outcomes for men and women.

The Trump Administration has made announcements and taken actions to slow or repeal Obama-era environmental protections related to coal mining waste, clean water, oil and gas drilling, vehicle emissions, and power plant carbon dioxide emissions. By some estimates, Trump rolled back 23 environmental rules in his first 100 days. The Administration has also removed information on climate change from EPA websites, proposed a budget that would significantly cut back federal funding for environmental protection and clean energy research, made significant cuts to the scientific advisory boards to the EPA, and nominated individuals with notable anti-environmental regulation positions for key regulatory positions.

Why Coal Jobs?

The nominal motivation for Trump’s environmental agenda thus far has been to support employment in the U.S. coal sector. As he signed the March 28, 2017 executive order “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” President Trump was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and 12 coal industry workers (see photo below). Trump seemed to enjoy asking the coal workers, “You know what this says?” He answered his own question: “You’re going back to work.” The moment appeared to begin fulfilling a promise Trump repeated during the campaign that coal miners would “start to work again” and be “proud again to be miners” if he became president.

Image by Inside Climate News

The coal industry, however, is one of the least gender-balanced sectors in the U.S. economy—it comes as no surprise then that every coal worker who stood behind Trump during the signing of this Executive Order is male. Of the 279 industries that the Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles gender ratios for, coal mining ranks 278th (behind only logging) with a 4% female workforce in 2016[1]. Jobs classified as “support activities for mining” (all forms of mining, not just coal mining) are a bit more balanced, at 13.4% women. The mining sector’s gender imbalance permeates the mining sector. According to a 2014 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the mining sector employs the fewest women on its boards among all industries, with “women occupying only 5 per cent of the board positions of the top 500 global listed mining companies.”

The gender imbalance of the coal mining industry is not a new issue. In fact, one of the earlier workplace hiring gender discrimination lawsuits brought forward under the 1964 Civil Rights Acts came in 1978 from the Coal Employment Project, an advocacy group seeking to end “the blatant employment discrimination which … exists in the coal industry” so that women might claim “economic equality in the coal fields.” The group’s efforts are credited with raising female employment in the coal sector to 830 by 1978, and increasing that figure five-fold by the mid-1980s.

As more women entered the coal mining industry in the late 1970s, sexual harassment became pervasive. One study found that, in the early 1980s, 54% of female miners had been propositioned by a superior at least once and 17% had been attacked physically. The Coal Employment Project again played a role in addressing the issue by participating in the landmark 1986 Supreme Court case Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, the case that first recognized workplace sexual harassment as a violation of the Civil Rights Act. Yet gender discrimination in the coal sector persists. It was only this year that Mach Mining, L.L.C. settled a $4.25 million gender bias case that had reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015.

Trump’s moves to reverse environmental and climate policies and bolster the coal sector employment also ignores much larger losses of employment in many other sectors, including the retail sector, which had a loss of some 89,000 workers in the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017 (that’s more than the total employment in the coal industry – see figure). The irony of rolling back environmental regulations in the name of increasing coal sector employment is that these actions will in all likelihood be ineffective for this goal. The economics of energy decisions have changed dramatically in the past decade as the costs of natural gas and renewables have plummeted, and yet coal workers have remained highly politically significant.

Figure originally published in the Washington Post


Jamelle Bouie, chief political correspondent for Slate, recently published a piece offering several possible explanations for this puzzling political significance. Bouie concludes:

Work is gendered and it is racialized. What work matters is often tied to who performs it. It is no accident that those professions dominated by white men tend to bring the most prestige, respect, and pay, while those dominated by women—and especially women of color—are often ignored, disdained, and undercompensated … The story of our outsize concern for coal and manufacturing, or rather our indifference to the collapse of retail, is inescapably the story of how worth, value, and citizenship are still tied to those traits we can’t control.

Trump’s Environmental Agenda

Trump’s actions in his first 100 days have jeopardized the international pledge made by the Obama Administration to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025. Already, the Trump Administration has discussed federal actions that would increase annual greenhouse gas emissions by 530 million tons – and Trump has already proposed specific actions that would have about half of this impact. The below chart gives the context for these figures. The Obama pledge (blue line) would have been a significant departure from historic emissions (grey line) and from “business-as-usual” (or “reference”) emissions (dotted-gray line). But discussed (red line) and proposed (orange line) Trump Administration policies would put the U.S. far off track from the Obama trajectory. (See here for calculations).

Figure originally published in Climate Advisors


The key Obama policy the Trump Administration has threatened is the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP would have reduced U.S. greenhouse emissions by an estimated 233 million tons per year by 2025, but Trump’s executive order instructed the EPA to review the rule with an eye to revision or suspension. Undoing the CPP will be extremely complicated for administration lawyers, but has been a top priority for the president and his newly-appointed Administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt (who sued the Obama EPA over the CPP, the exact rule he would now be responsible for enforcing).

Local Air Quality

There is some irony that, in the short run, the greatest impact of repealing the CPP would not be on climate change but on local air pollution. The CPP is the result of a Supreme Court ruling that mandated that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gases because of their contribution to global warming. But burning coal to produce electricity simultaneously creates greenhouse gases and local environmental pollutants, notably particulate matter and ozone. Therefore, it’s impossible to reduce one without reducing the other. When the Obama-era EPA conducted a thorough cost-benefit analysis of the CPP (the study appears to have been removed from the EPA’s website, but is available through some university websites) it found that, in most models, the health benefits of reducing particulate matter and ozone pollution would be at least as important and possibly even more significant than the climate benefits.

How does gender equity figure into a discussion about cleaner air? The answer appears unclear. While there is some scholarship examining gender differences in local air pollution impacts, studies have come to different conclusions, particularly with respect to whether gender differences in health responses to air pollution can be attributed to “socially derived gendered exposures, to sex-linked physiological differences, or to some interplay thereof.” There are fairly clear divides in the impacts of air pollution along socioeconomic and racial lines, however, and early evidence shows that gender plays a role in how people understand and respond to the health impacts of outdoor air pollution.

Global Climate Change

Telescoping out to look at global climate change, it must first be noted that U.S. federal policies, even before the Trump Administration, were already inadequate for staving off the worst effects of climate change. Avoiding climate change requires global cooperation, because its causes and impacts are global; once coal, oil, and gas are burned anywhere in the world, the emitted carbon-dioxide disperses around the globe in a matter of days. So Obama’s climate rules could not have, in themselves, stopped climate change. But they were essential in building trust with other large-scale polluting countries, like China and India. The biggest climate impact of Trump’s first 100 days may actually have been in damaging the U.S.’s reputation and ability to lead the rest of the world.

The goals of the historic 2015 Paris Agreement are now dangerously close to being out of reach. There is an apparent significant rift within the President’s inner circle whether the U.S. will even remain a party to the Paris Agreement—and as one of the countries with the greatest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. signaling disinterest in the Agreement could unravel other counties pledges too.

At the global level, there is increasing scholarly agreement and international policy action to mediate the linkages between gender equity and climate change.

Most studies have focused on developing countries, where overall climate impacts are likely to be most acutely felt. In this area, one of their overarching themes has been the notion that climate change vulnerability can be exacerbated by multiple dimensions of inequality, including gender, age, race, caste, ethnicity, and disability. Women’s vulnerability is argued to come as a result of their greater dependence on natural resources, less ready access to independent sources of finance, and a painful trifecta of repressive social practices, underrepresentation in decision-making, and inadequate legal protections.

Researchers also point to the disproportionate death rate of women in natural disasters as evidence of gender differences in climate vulnerability. For example, after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (a natural disaster unrelated but potentially analogous to climate change impacts), the death toll among women was three to four times higher than among men. In a study comparing the death rates following natural disasters in 141 countries over 22 years, researchers found that while natural disasters did reduce life expectancy for women significantly more than for men, this difference was importantly mediated by women’s socio-economic status. From this, the researchers conclude that the gender differences in vulnerability to natural disasters could be largely explained by social structures and norms. This finding provides strong motivation for a more holistic approach to climate change policy in the context of sustainable development, for example by developing coherent policy strategies that work across individualized “Sustainable Development Goals.”

Such strategies capitalize on the synergies across goals by, for example, reducing climate change impacts by taking action to reduce gender inequity.

Solutions to address climate change are also likely to have important gender differences due to the important role that women hold in resource management and agriculture, where they contribute an estimated 60-80% of agricultural production in the developing world. These sectors are critical for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. And while gender imbalance has begun to influence the practice of international development, efforts to “mainstream” gender in international climate policy are still in their early stages (see more here).

Again, Trump’s actions and inactions have not yet fundamentally altered the trajectory of climate change. Still, they have not yet shown any respect to social inequality, either. The Obama Administration had begun to give voice to more gender-responsive climate policies, and important moves like the establishment of the USAID’s Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI), founded in 2010, are being rolled back. One of the “guiding principles” of the GCCI, detailed in its 2012 strategy document, was to “utilize gender-sensitive approaches across climate programming.” The GCCI also was quite progressive in its efforts to integrate climate change across USAID’s full development portfolio, including in relation to gender equity. One example of how the initiative integrated climate change and gender equity shows how the GCCI and two other State Department programs, Power Africa and the Young African Leaders Initiative, brought together a gender-balanced group of African leaders for a six-week program to catalyze clean energy in Africa. One fellow of the program, Fatima Oyiza Ademoh of Nigeria, credits the GCCI program for helping introduce her “to a whole new dimension: the economic and technical aspects of gender issues in large- and small-scale energy projects.” Ademoh stated that the GCCI-supported workshop was “immensely useful for me to think about as I develop [my own] mini-grid projects in rural off-grid communities in Nigeria. It will help me develop a more gender-responsive business model as I scale up my business.”

Trump’s proposed “skinny” budget would eliminate all U.S. funding for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The GCF, formed in 2010, is a key body for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, intended to be the primary vehicle to facilitate the pledge made by developed countries to, by 2020, mobilize $100 billion per year toward developing countries’ climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. As of March 2017, $10.3 billion had been pledged to the GCF, $3 billion by the U.S., which has only actually deposited $1 billion, including a dramatic, last-minute deposit of $500 million in the final three days of the Obama Administration. Now the remaining $2 billion of the U.S. pledge is unlikely to materialize, decreasing the global availability of GCF funds by nearly 20%.

The GCF offers perhaps the most detailed gender guidelines of any international climate body and has been at the forefront of incorporating gender-responsiveness in international climate policy.

For example, the GCF requires all partners who propose and implement GCF-funded projects to document their gender policy and gender expertise. This requirement has already catalyzed change: Deutsche Bank developed its first-ever gender policy, which observers attribute to its desire to participate in the GCF. Much is yet to be seen as to whether the GCF’s progressive gender policy will translate into greater gender equity and more sustainable climate investments, but President Trump’s efforts to disengage from the fund will mean that the U.S. will lose capacity to shape practices moving forward.

Room for Hope?

Important actions against the Trump Administration’s signals of disengagement from global climate change efforts offer signs of hope. Thousands of protesters marched in Washington, D.C. and across the country in support of greater environmental protections. States have largely maintained their environmental commitments, with some, like California, proposing even more stringent environmental policies in direct response to federal rollbacks. And major companies have voiced their preference for continuity in U.S. engagement in international climate policy and for slowing down environmental deregulation. Countervailing forces to Trump Administration rollbacks are also taking shape internationally. Just prior to Trump’s inauguration, China announced a plan to invest $360 billion in renewable energy by 2020.

Climate change impacts are not felt over 100 days, but over the course of decades.

The full impact of the Trump Administration is yet to be seen. Smart leadership is needed to design policies that account for vulnerable populations and give voice to marginalized groups at the front lines of environmental harm. The U.S. has never been close to perfect in this regard. But at the same time that the U.S. cedes international leadership on climate policy to the next group of leaders—whether they be U.S. states, other countries, or civil society groups—the challenge of addressing environmental problems is becoming even greater. Groups beyond the White House should find ways to put the international community’s focus on the key intersectional issues affected by climate and other environmental policies and must press the issue of fairness in environmental policies by centering the differences in environmental impact across income, race, age, and, as highlighted here, gender. Highlighting the connections across these multiple dimensions will help build broader coalitions of action and drive the world to solutions that benefit populations justly.

— Gabriel Chan is an Assistant Professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

— Photo of female farmer in Bhutan, one of the world’s “hot spots” where 7 in 10 families depend on agriculture, by Asian Development Bank


[1] Notably the coal mining sector ranks last out of all 279 industries tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the combined workforce that is either Black or African American, Asian, or Hispanic or Latino.

A Retreat from International Human Rights is not Gender-neutral

In its first 100 days, the Trump administration’s “America First” rhetoric and actions have led to an increased focus on national security and a retreat from international institutions. In particular, these early days have been marked by disengagement from or attacks on international human rights systems that play a key role in the protection of women’s rights.

For all their shortcomings—including their own historic gender biases—international human rights norms and institutions provide an advocacy space for groups whose dignity, worth, agency, or security have been systematically undermined by state policy and practice. This has been especially true for the rights of women. We have observed retreats from human rights at home, from human rights in foreign policy, and from the spaces and practices designed to uphold women’s rights globally. Here, we highlight some of the human rights effects of the fledgling administration’s actions—and inactions.


Retreat from human rights at home

Trump administration policies have eroded human rights within the United States. For instance, just days after his inauguration, President Trump authorized the US Army Corps of Engineers to grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline to pass beneath Lake Oahe and the Missouri River, ignoring the sovereign rights of the Standing Rock Sioux regarding the threat to clean water for their indigenous community. Indigenous women are not backing down from this fight. They continue to lead their communities in struggles for land rights, cultural restoration, and environmental justice.

Early April saw another threat to existing human rights protections when Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review of all consent decrees adopted to decrease the discriminatory practices of U.S. police departments. When U.S. District Judge James Bredar upheld the consent decree between the Baltimore PD and the Justice Department, Sessions blasted the ruling, suggesting that the decree would “reduce the lawful powers of the police department and result in a less safe city.” But the Baltimore consent decree had resulted from a year-long DOJ investigation that found widespread racial bias, use of excessive force, repeated patterns of unconstitutional arrests, and hostility toward women and LGBT civilians. Rescinding the consent decree would be more likely to result in “a less safe city” for people of color, including women of color.

And the Trump travel ban drew widespread condemnation as a violation of human rights. Four UN Special Rapporteurs (along with other UN bodies) found that the Jan. 27, 2017 Executive Order “breaches the country’s international human rights obligations, which protect the principles of non-refoulement and non-discrimination based on race, nationality or religion.”

The push to roll back health guarantees also runs contrary to established international human rights standards related to the right to health and the principles of equality, non-discrimination, and non-regression. We learned through a document leaked to Dana Milbink of the Washington Post that the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health sent a confidential urgent appeal to the Trump administration on the human rights implications of its various proposals to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, especially highlighting the disparate impact on people living in situations of poverty and social exclusion.


Disregard for human rights in foreign policy

An emerging foreign policy conveys a disregard for human rights standards in favor of “national security”. First, the Trump team has embraced Heads of States known for serious human rights violations while ignoring those issues, including those of Egypt, Pakistan, China, Russia, and most recently, the Philippines. In explaining his “very friendly conversation” with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whom he welcomed to the White House despite UN, EU, and U.S. condemnations of his brutality toward his own people, Trump suggested that the strategic and military importance of the Philippines in relation to North Korean aggressions outweighed other considerations. Incongruously, Trump also welcomed a meeting with “smart cookie” Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s despotic leader. The strategic security interest of these moves remains questionable.

Bombing is another favored “security” tactic. An increase U.S.-led airstrikes has led to civilian casualties in Mosul, Syria, and Yemen. A January 30th airstrike in rural Yemen, for instance, killed approximately thirty, including ten women and children. The Trump administration has lowered the threshold for the CIA and the U.S. military to target identified terrorists with drone strikes, even if it means tolerating more civilian casualties.


Disengaging from international women’s human rights

Disengagement from international institutions that uphold human rights and a withdrawal from its leadership role on international women’s rights characterize the new face of U.S. human rights policy under President Trump. The Trump administration even threatened withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, before ultimately attending and promoting its particular priorities at the 34th session in Geneva in March. Another notable indication of a retreat from leadership on women’s rights (as we feared in our opening post for Gender Policy Report) came from a leaked budget suggesting that the administration plans to cut all funding for State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.

While Ambassador Nikki Haley has asserted herself as the highest profile woman in the Administration—outside the Trump family circle—she apparently had too high a profile for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. He recently reined her in, asking her to vet her public remarks.

The Administration also put some problematic new faces on the U.S. delegation to the 61st Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, held in March at U.N. Headquarters in New York. Joining Ambassador Haley on the delegation were Lisa Correnti, Executive VP of C-Fam (the Center for Family & Human Rights), a group that opposes reproductive rights for women and supports the criminalization of homosexuality, and Grace Melton of the Heritage Foundation. According to Graeme Reid at Human Rights Watch, C-Fam is an “ardent supporter” of Russia’s propaganda law against LGBT persons. In fact, following the Commission, C-Fam went on to celebrate that the UN meeting was frustrated, that no final agreement was reached, and that the delegation from the Russian Federation shared their stance on sexual and LGBT rights.

On March 30, the Trump Administration cut all funding to the U.N. Population Fund for Women (UNFPA), a dramatic reduction that, according to U.N. Foundation President and CEO Kathy Calvin, “threatens the health and rights of millions of girls and women around the world, particularly those in crisis situations.” Women around the world rely on the UNFPA for reproductive health care, including contraceptives, support for the prevention of child marriage, and ending the practice of female genital mutilation.

Secretary of State Tillerson’s failure to show up for the public release of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, mandated annually by Congress, underlined his disregard for human rights. Even Republican Senator Marco Rubio was taken aback by this breach of precedent, remarking that he was “disappointed that the Secretary of State did not personally present the latest report.” When the U.S. failed to appear for its hearings before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, reviewing the situation of the Dakota Access pipeline and the administration’s immigration restrictions, that, too, was unprecedented.


These examples demonstrate the Administration’s broad trend to disengage from or actively undermine international human rights standards—with women’s rights particularly hard-hit. In just 100 days, human rights have been tossed aside in favor of the appearance of military might. And with its retreat from international institutions and human rights norms both at home and abroad, the new Administration’s actions and omissions are dramatically diminishing protections for the human rights of women and LGBTI persons in favor of big talk, big guns, and big money.


— Robyn Skrebes, Amanda Lyons (Co-director of the Human Rights Center), Karen Brown (Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Global Change) and Barb Frey (Director of the Human Rights Program) at the University of Minnesota

Photo by UN Geneva

100 Days for Labor and Family: Promised, Proposed and Passed

The Trump administration began with high expectations for job creation through protectionism and infrastructure development, reform of family leave and child care policies, and tax and regulation reforms aimed at stimulating economic growth.  Little of that agenda has been implemented, yet clear patterns have emerged with important implications for gender justice and equality.  This article examines policies related to Labor and Family that have been promised, proposed and passed.

The most immediate developments occurred in federal employment and contracting, where a hiring freeze and the repeal of fair pay and workplace safety and health rules will disproportionately affect women.

Trump’s budget proposal promises to slash employment in federal agencies, where women predominate, while shifting resources toward traditionally male employment sectors such as military, law enforcement, and construction.  The budget also dropped Trump’s campaign promise of a $1 trillion investment in transportation, housing, and other infrastructure, which, if coupled with vigorous recruitment and retention programs, had the potential to benefit women as well as men.

The appointment of Ivanka Trump to a formal position in the White House sustains hope for innovation on family leave and other work-life policies, although we have no concrete proposals or statements of support from the President or Congress.  And, while criticism of low wages and poor working conditions in the fast-food industry helped undermine Trump’s first choice to head the Department of Labor, his second nomination and subsequent statements show little support for policies aimed at improving wages and working conditions in this or other heavily female employment sectors.

In its first hundred days, the Trump administration echoed a narrowly gendered conception of Labor and Family that the President had articulated during the campaign.

His first official statements withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and froze hiring in federal positions outside the military and public safety.   Jane Lawrence Summer points out that protectionist campaign rhetoric appealed to a particularly male concern for the loss of well-paid manufacturing jobs, although it is unclear whether those can be restored through changes in trade policy. The hiring freeze, however, had an immediate impact on an estimated 15,000 to 30,000 jobs held disproportionately by women.

The Administration’s emphasis on manufacturing, military, and law enforcement jobs reinforces a broader pattern of devaluing service and caring jobs that have historically been reserved for women.  For example, in late February, officials at two U.S. Army bases announced that on-base day care centers would be closed “as a result of staff shortage due to the federal hiring freeze.”  When it was pointed out that the freeze had actually exempted “positions providing child care to the children of military personnel,” base commanders explained that the staffing problems were caused by delays in background checks, medical exams, and other administrative jobs that were affected by the freeze.  The administration had recognized that child-care workers contributed to national security (an advance of sorts, no doubt), but not that health and clerical workers were vital, too.

In addition to shaping job creation policies, this gendered conception of the workforce informed the Trump administration’s approach to workplace rights and protections.

As the President committed to trade policies that would “promote American industry, protect American workers, and raise American wages,” he showed little inclination to improve wages or working conditions through regulation (he is, after all, a proponent of slashing regulations). In nominating fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder to head the Department of Labor and proposing a 20% cut to that department’s budget, Trump’s administration revealed a deep aversion toward labor protections that are particularly important for low-wage, mostly female, workers in service and retail.  The recently unveiled budget bill spares the Department of Labor from the most dramatic cuts, but slashes funding for job training and placement programs that, Debra Fitzpatrick points out, have previously been important routes for women and non-white workers into the construction jobs that Trump proposes to create through infrastructure development.

As part of that broader effort to repeal regulations enacted by the Obama administration, Trump also signed bills loosening restrictions on federal contractors with records of wage theft and workplace health and safety violations.  The administration’s opposition to workplace regulations also raises the stakes for local debates over the minimum wage and work requirements for food stamps and unemployment benefits.

One area where the Administration has displayed a more flexible conception of labor and family has been family leave and child care, perhaps because these issues have been relatively low priorities and because they have been pushed by the President’s daughter and advisor, Ivanka Trump.

During the campaign, candidate Trump promoted a plan, developed by his daughter, to provide workers six-weeks of paid maternity leave and an income tax deduction for child care expenses.  Still, by restricting the program to mothers and funding it through tax cuts and reductions in other programs, the proposal reflected the candidate’s conservative ideas about both gender and fiscal policy.

Since the inauguration, the administration has expanded the proposed leave policy to include fathers and unveiled a more specific plan for child care; it has met resistance on account of its high costs and because it benefits high-income families over the poor.  Ivanka Trump’s newly formalized White House position could give her more influence, and her office recently floated an expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Credit, which would benefit low-income parents more than a tax credit. It is unclear whether Congress or the President would support the change.


In summary, we can divide the administration’s actions on Labor and Family into three categories: promised, proposed, and passed.  They promised job creation in traditionally male sectors such as manufacturing and construction, with the possibility of opening those jobs to previously excluded workers and delivering egalitarian outcomes in leave and child-care policies.  Those promises were partially undermined by a proposed budget that emphasizes cuts to federal employment without increased infrastructure investments, and passed appointments and executive orders that slash workplace protections and anti-discrimination policies for both public and private sector workers.  The administration has, thus far, failed to pass the massive promised tax cuts aimed at stimulating economic growth.  Its first 100 days have built on Trump’s campaign, projecting both heady rhetoric and a high level of uncertainty about its approach to Labor and Family.

— William P. Jones is a Professor of History at the University of Minnesota

— Photo by Department of Business, Innovation and Skills

A Memestorm That Will Make You Think: “Wow, Trade and Investment Policy Is Inherently Gendered!”


The Trump Administration has made reductions in regulations a priority. Deregulation can be  popular, since some see regulations only as hindrances, unnecessary restrictions that slow economic growth and hurt job creation. Yet while regulations do limit what businesses can do and may cost them money, they are typically put in place to protect people, whether workers or consumers. The Administration’s stated goal of eliminating two regulations for every new regulation enacted might, then, have very negative consequences for workplace safety. These consequences may be especially deleterious for women, who are more likely to be found in occupations such as nursing, caretaking, and administration, which are not seen as “dangerous” jobs, but involve a tremendous number of injuries every year.

5. #BorderTax #CantStopWontStop #RobotUprising

The Administration aims to increase exports and reduce imports, and one lever they hope to use is a “Border Tax”. The argument is that American jobs are being shipped abroad to countries, such as Mexico, that pay lower wages, but the specifics, pros, and cons of this protectionist policy is a great mystery to most non-economists. Further, a border tax cannot stop automation, arguably a bigger threat to Americans’ jobs than inter-national wage disparities. Offshoring and automation are often seen as “men’s issues,” tied to old-fashioned manufacturing jobs, but offshoring and automation both threaten women as well.

4. #SameSameLaborStandards #EvenGenderEquality?

Following through on campaign promises, Trump has put re-opening negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) front and center with both Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and Mexican President Peña Nieto. Despite this attention, formal talks are not exactly imminent and there is considerable uncertainty surrounding what Trump will seek should they come to pass. One upside is that negotiations will likely involve the strengthening of labor standards, with demands for more stringent standards regarding minimum wages, union organizing rights, and workplace safety, in a bid to make American workers more competitive. Re-negotiations could feasibly seek to incorporate standards contained in the largely unenforceable side-agreement – the North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation – which calls on parties to promote cooperative activities regarding gender equality in the workplace; eliminating employment discrimination, including gender-based; and requiring equal pay for women and men.

3. #KOforTPP? #IDK.

Largely a symbolic move on the part of the Trump administration, the executive order “unsigning” the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement was met by glee on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, as an opening to perhaps `Make China Great Again’. And although some feminist organizations opposed the TPP as harmful to American women’s wages, the former acting deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Wendy Cutler, praised it for including a section calling on states parties to undertake a number of cooperative activities to help women access the benefits of the agreement.

2. #CurrencyQuidProNuclearQuo

Formally labeling China a “currency manipulator” — keeping its currency artificially low to help its exports — has been a political talking point in the U.S. for years. Recently, Trump has stated that his government will hold off on such a label, as long as China cooperates by corralling nuclear North Korea. The politics of currency and how it relates to trade imbalances can have particularly negative consequences for women (who handle most consumption decisions) and people in lower socioeconomic brackets, since a decrease in cheap imports would hurt their pocketbooks most.

1. #NotAllJobs

Trump recently declared that “the war on coal is over,” and has emphasized the large number of jobs saved by its efforts. Yet despite the emphasis on saving jobs for Americans, the Administration has not focused any of its energy on saving the tens of thousands of jobs being shed in the retail sector. This may be because the service sector tends to be comprised largely of women and non-white men, whereas the factory jobs and coal mining jobs that are ostensibly being saved are jobs held mostly by white men.


Cosette Creamer is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota and affiliated faculty at the University of Minnesota Law School.

— Jane Lawrence Sumner is an Assistant Professor of Political Science.

Gender and Violence at 100 Days

As you might expect in an Administration helmed by a president who has bragged about sexually assaulting women, the first 100 days have raised concerns about gender violence.  The most obvious questions involve the future of government programs directly targeting gender-based violence, but other policy decisions, from immigration to education, have implications for gender violence as well. The effects ripple outward from leadership to policing reform, transgender rights, campus sexual assault efforts, and programs designed to help the victims of intimate partner (or “domestic”) violence and beyond.

Violence in the President’s Inner Circle

When, on March 31, the President signed an executive order declaring April National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, it felt more than a bit ironic.

Allegations of gender violence have long dogged Trump and members of his inner circle.

At least fifteen women have accused Trump of sexual assault, and during the campaign, the nation was shocked when, just before the election, a tape in which he boasted about grabbing women by the genitals surfaced.

Steve Bannon, the President’s chief strategist, and Andrew Puzder, nominee for Secretary of Labor, have both been accused of intimate partner violence. Bannon remains part of the Administration (though, by some reports, in a less prominent role), while Puzder withdrew his name from consideration.

President Trump reinforced the impression that he is unconcerned about gender-based violence when, on April 5, when he declared Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly a “good man” in response to news that O’Reilly had settled cases in which five women alleged sexual assault or sexual harassment. O’Reilly has since left the network.

Violence Against Women Act

What might happen to the Violence Against Women Act is a particularly troubling question.  VAWA was first passed in 1994 and most recently reauthorized in 2013.  It offers substantial funding for police, prosecutors, courts, civil legal services, and community-based agencies working with victims of gender-based violence.  Under the Trump administration, funding for these programs may be in jeopardy.  The “skinny” budget floated by the Administration before the inauguration in January eliminated funding for the Office on Violence Against Women and all VAWA programs.  Subsequent budget documents have backed away from that position, but

VAWA is scheduled to be reauthorized in 2018; at least three members of the Trump cabinet—Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions—voted against VAWA’s 2013 reauthorization.

Other policy priorities are quite clear, however. The Trump administration is already hurting victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault.

Endangering Undocumented Victims of Violence

Throughout the campaign, the President made it clear that deporting undocumented people would be a priority in his administration.

As promised, on January 25, the President issued an executive order on border security and immigration enforcement.  It had almost immediate, significant implications for people subjected to gender violence.

Two weeks after the order was signed, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested an undocumented woman seeking protection from intimate partner violence in the El Paso County Courthouse.  Within weeks of the arrest in El Paso, prosecutors in Denver, Colorado, Travis County, Texas, and San Antonio, Texas were forced to drop domestic violence cases because the undocumented victims and witnesses in those cases feared deportation if they came to testify.

Women legally in the country are also affected by these actions.

Legal residents and citizens partnered with undocumented men may be leery of calling police for fear of seeing their partners deported.   Some women subjected to abuse rely on their undocumented partners for economic, parenting, and other forms of support and would be left destitute if their partners were deported.  Others fear the destruction of their families through deportation.  And undocumented men may be using the specter of ICE intervention to prevent their partners from seeking assistance, warning that they will increase their abuse if their partners expose them to deportation.  By preventing victims of gender-based violence from seeking assistance, immigration “crack-downs” hold long-term consequences for the health and well-being of many women.

Transgender Protections and Violence

Similarly, it took little time for the incoming administration to pose a threat to protections newly granted to transgender people.

On February 22, the Administration revoked guidelines allowing transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identities.

As a result of the White House’s roll-back of Obama-era protections on transgender issues, the Supreme Court remanded G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, a case involving a transgender high school student’s right to use the boys’ bathroom in his high school, to the Fourth Circuit.  The case was subsequently dismissed, though, as Senior Judge Andre Davis noted, G.G.’s case was about “much more than bathrooms…. It’s about protecting the rights of transgender people in public spaces and not forcing them to exist on the margins.”  President Trump’s actions first 100 days have jeopardized the safety and dignity of transgender people.

Policing and Gender Violence

Under President Obama, the Department of Justice increased its scrutiny of police departments.  The DOJ found evidence of unconstitutional police practices in a number of jurisdictions, including Baltimore, Maryland, New Orleans, Louisiana, Missoula, Montana, and elsewhere. In Puerto Rico, for example, the DOJ found that police officers were not being disciplined for committing intimate partner violence (in some cases, despite multiple arrests). In New Orleans, Missoula, and Baltimore, the DOJ found that the handling of rape and sexual assault cases was deeply problematic. Those jurisdictions and others entered into agreements with the DOJ, called consent decrees, to remedy these problems.

Gender-biased policing was among the issues covered in those consent decrees; police departments agreed, for example, to obtain specialized training on trauma-informed interviewing and investigation of sexual assault claims.

President Trump’s choice for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, though, has been publicly skeptical about the value of these consent decrees, and would not, in his confirmation hearings, commit to their continued enforcement.  On April 3, Sessions ordered a review of the consent decrees to determine whether they were consistent with the administration’s goals of working with law enforcement to ensure public safety.  The review has raised doubts about the Administration’s commitment to police reform generally and combating gender-biased policing specifically.

Reproductive Health and Victims of Violence

The Administration’s international and health policies are troubling, too.  On January 26, the Administration reinstated the “global gag order,” a rule preventing organizations receiving U.S. funds from providing abortions or information about abortions, even in cases of rape and sexual assault.

On April 4, the U.S. blocked all funding for the United Nations Population Fund, which provides support to women experiencing humanitarian crises, including rape and sexual assault and has, in the past, provided medicine to prevent HIV infection to victims of sexual assault in South Sudan.

And on April 12, President Trump signed legislation designed to cut off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions (despite the fact that it has never been legal for these groups to use federal funds to pay for abortion services). If these policy changes were made with any attention toward their impact on victims of intimate partner and sexual violence, that consideration was apparently dismissed.

Sexual Assault on Campus

It remains to be seen whether the Trump Administration will continue to support efforts to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

During her confirmation hearings, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to commit to continued adherence to what is known as the “Dear Colleague” letter, a document from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights which stresses that sexual assault is a form of sexual harassment actionable under Title IX.

The President’s nominee for general counsel to the Department of Education, Carlos Muñiz, represented Florida State University in a Title IX action brought by a student who alleged that she had been raped by FSU’s star quarterback, Jameis Winston.  During that case, Muñiz made it clear that he did not agree with the DOE’s decision to independently investigate the matter.


Anti-violence advocates had grave concerns about the Trump Administration.  Its first 100 days have done little to allay those fears.  Instead, we’ve seen a stunning lack of concern regarding the impact of leaders and policies on gender-based violence in the U.S. and internationally.  If the Administration wanted to change the perception that it cares little about gender violence, fully funding VAWA, committing to continued enforcement of criminal and civil laws, and protecting the health, welfare, and dignity of those subjected to gender-based violence would be a good start. For victims of gender-based violence, such support cannot come soon enough.

– Leigh Goodmark, Professor, University of Maryland Carey School of Law

— Photo by U.S. Embassy Pakistan

A More Inclusive Trade Agenda Must Include Gender

Yesterday, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström accepted the Association of Women in International Trade’s prestigious woman of the year award in Washington, D.C. In her acceptance speech, “Building bridges, smashing glass ceilings”, Commissioner Malmström emphasized that trade liberalization and gender equality are mutually supportive, noting that the two most trade-enabling countries in the world —The Netherlands and Singapore— are also “highly gender equal” when it comes to wages. This point is an important one to emphasize within the current debate on the costs and benefits of trade agreements to which the United States is a party, and is supported by research.

According to late University of Chicago Economist Gary Becker’s classic model of discrimination, costly discrimination cannot persist with increased market competition. Because trade promotes international competition, it may also reduce firms’ ability to discriminate against women.

In fact, studies in the U.S. have found that the residual gender wage gap narrowed more quickly in trade-affected manufacturing industries that experienced larger increases in competition with trade reform. The Council of Economic Advisers’ 2015 Economic Report of the President similarly demonstrated that U.S. industries with larger decreases in tariffs experienced larger relative income gains for female employees between 1989 and 2009. These findings are important to remember, particularly in light of the fact that at current rates, the gender wage gap in the United States is not projected to close until 2059.

Not only may trade contribute to greater gender equity, studies have also found that advancing women’s equality could add 12 to 28 trillion dollars to global GDP by 2025.

Although many recognize that gender equality and economic growth are mutually supportive, this relationship is seldom studied and as Commissioner Malmström notes, there is “too little data on how trade can impact on women’s opportunities.” Indeed, a joint report released in early April by the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, entitled “Making Trade an Engine of Growth for All”, contains a mere paragraph on gender.

This World Bank Report argues that we must respond to the increasing calls for inward-looking economic policies by the current U.S. administration and other countries around the world with a more “inclusive” trade agenda.

If inclusion is truly the goal, then this response must entail more than a passing reference to gender equity.

In Commissioner Malmström’s own words: “In an age when there is increasing – and justified – attention on those who seem ‘left behind’ by globalisation…we shouldn’t forget those who have been – or continue to be – left behind in other ways.”

Cosette Creamer is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota and affiliated faculty at the University of Minnesota Law School

— Photo of Cecilia Malmström by Johannes Jansson