The theme of advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment wasn’t necessarily a fait accompli. Equality-seeking organizations were, therefore, strongly encouraged by its inclusion.
To fortify this focus, a Gender Equality Advisory Council for Canada’s G7 Presidency has been struck. It is mandated to “promote a transformative G7 agenda and support leaders and ministers in ensuring that gender equality and gender-based analysis are integrated across all themes, activities and outcomes of Canada’s G7 Presidency.”
These are ambitious words, if not marching orders, and there is every expectation that this prime minister, with his celebrity status and international credibility, will be able to set the bar with their support—and succeed.
Melinda Gates. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia
That’s likely why the advisory council is being overseen by two heavy hitters, Melinda Gates (of the Gates Foundation) and Isabelle Hudon, the ambassador of Canada to France and Monaco. At the same time, the council also includes well-respected Canadian advocates, Rosemary Ganley, Roberta Jamieson, Michael Kaufman, and Farrah Khan, among others
It is one of the most interesting configurations of advocates and senior non-governmental leaders affiliated with a G7, and there’s no doubt the expectations are high among this group.
But it’s not just council members who are paying close attention to these meetings. The international Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society is an prestigious global network of female and male leaders, elected and non-elected, who seek to cultivate women leaders’ distinctive capacity to create positive changes for their employees, communities, and societies.
Cherie Blair. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia
In particular, the forum is determined to foster discussions critical to women’s economic empowerment and advancement in order to change the conversation around the world, not to mention business and government policy and practices. A selection of Canada’s federal ministers has regularly attended these international forums, including most recently Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly who participated in the Women’s Forum’s global meetings in Mexico this past November.
Headquartered in Paris, the Women’s Forum has made a strategic decision to host a special conference in Toronto on May 9-11 in advance of the G7 official meetings in June. This is not just another conference, however, but a deliberate move to challenge leaders of the G7 to think creatively about harnessing the transformative potential of women’s leadership to shift economies, cultures, and political institutions.
Eight hundred influential leaders from the G7 countries and beyond plan to gather in Toronto to engage in high-level debates and to move towards concrete solutions. Inclusive and equitable trade, scaling investments in women-led businesses, urban planning as a tool for inclusive climate action strategies, the social implications of technology, and the positive impacts of women’s increased representation across sectors are among the agenda items.
Roberta Jamieson, centre, pictured with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, left. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
Participation from a high-level, mostly female Mexico delegation, as well as many U.S.-based women business leaders is also planned, leading one to wonder if NAFTA’s troubles could be solved if Canada’s very capable Freeland had the benefit of such formidable female talent to keep talks on track.
Speakers also include Cherie Blair of the Blair Foundation, former Quebec premier Jean Charest, World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva, TD Bank Group’s Norie Campbell, World Travel & Tourism Council President Gloria Guevara Manzo, Unifor President Jerry Dias (Canada’s largest private sector union), Arancha Gonzalez of the International Trade Centre, CEO Roxanne Joyal of the made-in-Canada We to Me movement, and groups such as Move the Dial and Equal Voice (who will host a Welcome Reception).
More are expected now that the Labour-7 (L7) trade union leaders have also wrapped up their G7 related meetings with Trudeau and a collection of largely female ministers, including Patti Hajdu, Maryam Monsef, François-Philippe Champagne, and Chrystia Freeland.
A selection of Canada’s federal ministers has regularly attended these international forums, including most recently Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly who participated in the Women’s Forum’s global meetings in Mexico this past November. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
In Canada, the convergence of government, labour, private as well as other public leaders to focus specifically on innovative practices around women’s advancement and gender equality is not as frequent as one might think. Owing to the size of the country, limited (and sometimes cautious) private capital, as well as the tendency for equality advocates, corporate leaders and governments to function in silos, the G7 and Women’s Forum meetings represent an unprecedented opportunity to identify synergies and dialogue in new and different ways.
It’s another reason Canada’s hosting of the G7 should, if all goes well, create positive impacts for women here and abroad that endure well beyond the official meetings themselves.
Nancy Peckford is the national spokesperson and executive director of Equal Voice.