“We shouldn’t be afraid of the word feminist”: Canada’s Justin Trudeau talks gender equality at Davos

Trudeau takes the stage.
Trudeau takes the stage.
Image: Reuters/Ruben Sprich
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If any single country stole the show at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland this year, it was Canada. The country’s energetic, newly installed prime minister Justin Trudeau—who brightened the gloomy atmosphere of the conference with ardent optimism—used his platform to, among other things, push for gender equality in business and politics.

Speaking at a session on gender parity alongside Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and other major business leaders on Friday (Jan. 22), Trudeau explained his intention to raise both his sons and his daughter to treat their peers equally. Everyone, he said, deserves respect and encouragement for their ambitions. To widespread applause, he added:

“And by the way—we shouldn’t be afraid of the word ‘feminist.’ Men and women should use it to describe themselves anytime they want.”

Before Davos, Trudeau had already cemented himself as an equal rights advocate. In an interview on the night before the election that won him the prime minister role, he announced that he was “proud to be a feminist.” Right after taking office, Trudeau also set up his cabinet comprising 15 men and 15 women—including journalist and former Reuters managing director Chrystia Freeland and Afghan refugee Maryam Monsef. It was the first time in Canada’s history that the cabinet had been split equally between men and women.

His now-famous response when asked about the decision: An isn’t-it-obvious shrug, accompanied by the simple words: “Because it’s 2015.”