Why a 50/50 Male:Female Cabinet Doesn’t Mean Equality

Justin Trudeau's Cabinet

On November 4th, 2015, Justin Trudeau was officially sworn in as Prime Minster of Canada and announced his cabinet. The cabinet is diverse as the nation, including aboriginals, minorities and gender neutral – comprised of 15 males and 15 females. This 50/50 ratio signifies to many, gender equality, and when asked about his gender neutral cabinet, Justin Trudeau’s response was simply put, “Because it’s 2015”.

For a feminist such as myself, this should be a dream come true, right? But alas, I beg to differ. Yes, the cabinet for the first time ever is comprised of equal number of male and female ministers, however that to me isn’t equality. Equality related to social issues isn’t dignified by simple 50/50 statistics that look good on paper, it’s deeper than that.

When running a nation, there is something off putting about having a perfectly even cabinet. It’s as if the best candidate for the job was overlooked at the expense of making a statement pro equality. What are the odds of having a perfect even male to female ratio and they also happen to be the best applicant in the pool? Very unlikely! A 40:60 ratio is a lot more realistic, regardless of which gender is in the majority, because simply put, that’s reality.

Equality is living in a world where men and women are regarded as equally capable human beings. A stronger statement of pro equality would be appointing a female in a previously male dominated role. Canada has never had an elected female Prime Minister. The second most important minister after the Prime Minister is the Finance Minister, and we have yet to have a female be appointed Minister of Finance. With the exception for a short 6 month stint by Kim Campbell in 1993, the role of Minister of National of Defense has been occupied exclusively by males. The President of The Treasury Board has always been appointed male with again an exception of a single 9 month term by a female.

On the flip side, as women in politics became more prominent, no male has been appointed Minister of Status of Women since 1980. One may argue that a woman is better suited to lobby for women’s affairs, however Emma Watson’s game changing speech to the United Nations in September 2014 about “HeforShe” invited males to make gender equality their issue as well.

I work at one of the largest asset management firms in Canada, where the CIO is female, disproving any doubt that men are more adept financial professionals. Never having a female Minister of Finance is a stark fact of how today’s concept of equality is guised in statistics, while stereotypes are still heavily embedded in this nation’s culture.

As a proud Canadian, I can’t help but notice that all of Canada’s elected Prime Ministers have been Caucasian Males. Even America has re-elected by Canadian definition, a visible minority. We have yet to have a female lead a party that is actually a real contender for forming a Federal Government, while Hillary Clinton currently stands as the leading candidate for the Democratic Party for the upcoming Presidential Election. Considered as one of the most progressive nations in the world, we legalized same-sex marriage a decade before the United States; but we have yet to have shattered glass ceilings on this nation’s leadership. Perhaps we’re winning the war on love, but it seems we are still behind our neighbour on the war of equality.

Image courtesy of www.macleans.ca

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