Widely quoted yesterday was our newly sworn-in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s succinct response when asked why appointing a gender-balanced cabinet was important to him. “Because it’s 2015,” he replied, to the delight of many. And so it was, as promised – a federal cabinet of 15 women, 15 men, and Trudeau himself.
Leadership sets the tone, and much of what Trudeau has been doing in the public eye is just that. He appears to be setting the stage for a government that is open and balanced, where people are encouraged to consider a diversity of viewpoints, and where efforts will be made to listen to the voices of all Canadians. While we still have a ways to go in other forms of diversity (most notably, racial diversity), our new cabinet is certainly a step in the right direction.
The women of Trudeau’s cabinet are:
Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Judy Foote, Minister of Public Services and Procurement
Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Trade
Jane Philpott, Minister of Health
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie
Mélanie Joly, Minister of Heritage
Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue
Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
MaryAnn Mihychuk, Minister of Employment Workforce Development and Labour
Maryam Monsef, Minister of Democratic Institutions
Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport, and Persons with Disabilities
Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science
Patricia Hajdu, Minister of the Status of Women
Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism
Gender representation in federal cabinets:
With the new cabinet, Canada is now tied for third place (with France and Liechtenstein) in female representation of ministers. Sweden and Cape Verde come in second, with 52.9%, and Finland tops the chart at 62.5%. Further down the list is the United Kingdom with 33% women, and the United States with 25%.
Since the millennium, we have wavered between 22%-29% representation of women, rising to 31% in Harper’s latest cabinet, and now sitting at 48%.
A history of federal firsts:
1918: Canadian women over 21 who were “not alien born” became eligible to vote in federal elections.
1919: Women were allowed to stand for the House of Commons.
1921: Agnes Macphail became the first woman Member of Parliament elected to the House of Commons (Progressive Party of Canada).
1929: The Privy Council of England ruled that women were eligible to be appointed members of the Senate, overturning a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada.
1930: Cairine Wilson, Canada’s first woman senator, was sworn in (Liberal).
1957: Ellen Fairclough was appointed by prime minister John Diefenbaker to Secretary of State, becoming the first woman to serve in the Canadian cabinet (Progressive Conservative).
1960: First Nations women were finally afforded the right to vote.
1980: Jeanne Sauvé was appointed by Pierre Trudeau as the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons (Liberal).
1984: Jeanne Sauvé was subsequently appointed Governor-General, the first woman to hold the post.
1989: Audrey McLaughlin became the first woman to head a major federal political party when she was elected leader of the NDP.
1993: Kim Campbell became Canada’s first woman prime minister (Progressive Conservative).