Gender-balanced cabinet unveiled again: students and experts weigh in

Having a balanced federal cabinet is helping bridge the male-female equality gap, according to some Langara students

Justin Trudeau addresses the media after the unveiling of the federal cabinet. Photo via cpac.ca
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By Soubhik Chakrabarti 

Business student Sophie Slater said the equal-gender balance in the federal cabinet helps her find hope in a world where she said women are still underrepresented and underappreciated.  

For the second time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled on Nov. 20, a 50-50 gender-balanced cabinet, containing some new faces with others moving on to different roles, such as Chrystia Freeland who has effectively become the deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs.

Trudeau retained his position as prime minister after the Liberals were reelected Oct. 21, this time with a minority government. 

The student perspective

First-year student, Slater, was looking for equality in a cabinet which she said would be fair for everybody in order to balance out a world that isn’t always fair for women, for her that meant a 50-50 gender split.

“There is still that old guy at the office who thinks his secretary should be paid $12 an hour,” Slater said. “It’s ridiculous, it’s almost 2020. Is this seriously still an issue?”

‘Easier said than done’

Eleanor Fast, executive director of Equal Voice, said creating a male-female equal cabinet was easier said than done.

“We are making good strides, but there is still a long way to go,” Fast said.

Equal Voice is a non-partisan organization that is dedicated to equality in gender representation in all facets of Canadian government.

A record 98 women were elected to Parliament in this year’s election, this is however a far-cry from equality of genders in the house. Women represent a mere 29 per cent of all seats in the House of Commons.

Lisa Sundstrom, associate professor of political science at UBC said that assigning women to important cabinet portfolios is something Trudeau excels at. Historically, she said, women have been given a less crucial portfolio to manage and in turn have had less power. 

“[Women] are all in what we call the ‘caring policy’ area like health or welfare,” Sundstrom said. “Whereas [in 2015] you had a strong foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland.”

Fast said that while Equal Voice understands change takes time, she as well is happy with a gender balanced cabinet similar to 2015. 

“It’s extremely important to have [women] in high profile positions,” Fast said. 

The first session of the 43rd Parliament will begin on Dec. 5.

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