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Justin Trudeau: I will raise my sons as feminists

Leaning in: Justin Trudeau with Sheryl Sandberg at Davos Image: Remy Steinegger

Ceri Parker
Previously Commissioning Editor, Agenda, World Economic Forum
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Davos Agenda

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke of raising both his daughter and his sons to be feminists, at a session on Progress Towards Parity at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos.


The leader, who unveiled the world’s first gender-balanced cabinet when he took power last year, said that his wife told him that as well as encouraging his daughter to be ambitious, he should “take as much effort to talk to his sons... about how he treats women and how he is going to grow up to be a feminist just like Dad.” Trudeau, who has a daughter and two sons, added:

“We shouldn’t be afraid of the word feminist. Men and women should use it to describe themselves any time they want.”

At a session that focused on how women can get ahead in the workplace, Trudeau revealed the obstacles he had to overcome to appoint a 50/50 cabinet – with the famous justification “because it’s 2015”.

“People have to know that before I could say, ‘because it’s 2015’, an awful lot of work went in to get to that place,” he said. Because women tend to be less confident at putting themselves forward than men, Trudeau ran a campaign called “ask her to run”.

“Study after study has shown that if you ask a man if he wants to run for office his first question is ‘Do I have to wear a tie?’, but a woman will ask ‘why me’?”

Trudeau revealed that “it took an awful lot of arm twisting” to persuade Chrystia Freeland to take on the role as trade minister.

Quotas are a controversial tool for encouraging gender parity. Trudeau said that he faced criticism about not appointing a cabinet based on merit alone – but that this faded once his selection was unveiled.

Canada’s minister of democratic institutions, 30 year-old Maryam Monsef, came to the country as a refugee from Afghanistan. Trudeau said that, during a cabinet meeting on the refugee crisis, Jane Philpott, the health minister, turned to Monsef and said:

“While hearing you speak, all I could think of is right now there is a 10 year-old girl in a Syrian refugee camp who could be at this table in 20 years.”

The Annual Meeting is taking place in Davos from 20-23 January, under the theme “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

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Institutional update

World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

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