Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, has called on men and women to embrace feminism to improve decision-making in politics and business.
Speaking on a platform discussing gender parity at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday, Trudeau said: “We shouldn’t be afraid to use the word feminist. Men and women should use it to describe themselves whenever they want.”
Trudeau appointed a gender-balanced cabinet after he became prime minister in November, made up of 15 men and 15 women. At the time, he explained his decision by saying: “Because it’s 2015”.
“I personally convinced a number of extraordinary women to step forward, as well as a number of extraordinary men, at a time when politics can be very very divisive.
“Study after study have shown that if you ask a man if he wants to run for office his first question is likely to be: ‘Do I have to wear a tie every day?’ And if you ask a woman if she wants to run for office, her first question is usually, ‘Really, why me?’ Let’s start rewarding politicians and companies who aren’t driven by a macho approach,” Trudeau said.
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, told the delegates that gender inequality began at a young age. “Little boys do fewer chores at home and get paid more. We assign our chores to our children in the United States so that the boys are taking out the trash; it takes less time than cleaning the dishes and they get higher allowances,” she said.
Resisting calls for quotas, Sandberg said that in Norway the requirement for boards to be 40% female had not made much of dent at the top of big companies. “It’s not trickling down,” she said.
It was a not a view shared by Chinese businesswoman Zhang Xin, who set up property company SOHO with her husband. “I think quotas are an effective way of breaking old habits and bias,” she said.
While changing mindsets can take a long time, Trudeau predicted that the citizens of 2036 will look back disapprovingly at the world today. “Even within our own society, if you look back 50 years or if you leaf through a magazine from the 70s, you see horrific sexism that is overt in a way that would be unacceptable today.
“Even today, hopefully 20 years from now, people will look at what we think is acceptable today and find it horrifically off-base.”
The panel also tried to address why girls were less likely to study subjects such as mathematics and science, and it was asserted that it depended on whether their father supported them. Melinda Gates said she always made sure there were science projects for her husband, Microsoft founder Bill, to do with the children on Saturdays. Their two daughters have ended up interested in maths and science.
Originally appeared on The Guardian