Accelerating Progress for Women, in the Boardroom and Beyond

The new face of feminism looks an awful lot like Justin Trudeau. Recently we attended the Catalyst Awards Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, where Canadian Prime Minister, The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau was the evening’s featured speaker. Catalyst is an organization dedicated to accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion, and each year they honor initiatives that address the recruitment, development and advancement of all women. This year’s honoree was Gap Inc. for its global initiative and strategy dedicated to promoting gender equality in the workplace. Prime Minister Trudeau, who recently made news for establishing Canada’s first gender-balanced Cabinet, gave a moving speech on gender equality. We appreciate his dedication to gender equality and inclusiveness, and we are delighted that he is a self-described feminist!​​​​​​Prime Minister Trudeau’s speech centered around four values: empowerment, accountability, courage and humility:
​Empowerment ​​​​Prime Minister Trudeau acknowledged that empowerment is a concept that is easy to discuss, but difficult to put into practice. As an example, he noted that in Canada, many women would not consider running for political office, questioning why they would be qualified to run. To address this, Prime Minister Trudeau led an initiative called “Invite Her to Run,” designed to encourage and facilitate women running for political office. It was the significant amount of time and effort invested into that initiative and others like it that paved the way to Canada’s first gender-balanced Cabinet. ​​​As you know, “empowerment” is one of those concepts that’s easy to talk about, but challenging to put into practice. Anything that fundamentally shifts a power balance is going to take time, and a lot of hard work.Accountability ​​​​Prime Minister Trudeau stressed that meaningful change cannot happen when only fifty percent of the population is working towards it. He emphasized that men must get comfortable describing themselves as feminists. ​​Because at the end of the day, we are all accountable, women and men. We are all responsible for making sure that the change we want to see around the boardroom table is a topic of discussion around the dinner table.
​Courage ​​​Prime Minister Trudeau emphasized that it takes courage to advance gender equality in the workplace. He gave a few examples of “true courage” in actions that inspiring women take every day: running for political office; fighting for equal pay; and standing up and demanding better representation, treatment and opportunities.  
​Humility ​​​Prime Minister Trudeau concluded his speech by emphasizing that while we can relish the strides Canadian society has made for women, we must remain mindful of the work that still needs to be done to address issues that impact women, such as achieving parity in gender representation in all political offices and eliminating violence against women. He recognized that those with privilege should remember to challenge the status quo and to demand inclusivity. ​​​We must use our privilege to be advocates for change, both within our own communities and on the international stage… it is our responsibility to be more inclusive, to expand opportunity, and to always demand better – of ourselves and others.
​The Catalyst Awards Dinner was a moment for us to acknowledge the work that our predecessors have done, the progress that has been made, and the privileged role we possess. We were inspired by Prime Minister Trudeau’s speech and his call to action to challenge the status quo.   
​​​Sandy Tomasik and Jessica Polebaum are associates in Debevoise’s New York office.​​Comments? Suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Send us an email at women@debevoise.com.​​​​RELATED CONTENT