'To me that is leadership': Melinda Gates on PM Trudeau putting gender on G7 agenda
OTTAWA – World-travelled philanthropist Melinda Gates is commending Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for being the first world leader to use their G7 presidency to elevate gender equality as a priority.
"The fact that Prime Minister Trudeau has been willing to bring gender for the first time to the G7 as one of the top issues, that if he wants to do that, and I can help support that, and help support the many, many, many thousands of women I reach around the world, or talk to, that I should," said Gates in an exclusive interview with CTV National News.
Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was in Ottawa to participate in the Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Summit in Ottawa Thursday.
Gates is a member of the gender advisory council created by the government to inform them on applying a feminist lens to the international gathering happening in June in Charlevoix, Que.
She said it was important for her to be a part of the summit to help see women’s voices amplified on the world stage, a priority she said her and Trudeau share.
During his remarks at the summit, Trudeau said Canada will be "leading efforts around the G7 table to ensure that girls’ access to education is a key focus and that real progress is made so that girls are not left behind."
Gates recently met with Trudeau alongside Canada’s Ambassador to France Isabelle Hudon, and French President Emmanuel Macron, to talk about how to continue the gender conversation at future G7 events.
"To me that is leadership," she said.
Her praise came on the same day as Trudeau faced pointed criticism from the One Campaign foundation co-founded by U2 frontman Bono. In the video, Trudeau is called out for talking a good talk on gender equality but not having a solid plan for the G7.
In a sit-down interview with CTV National News Ottawa Bureau Chief Joyce Napier, Gates discussed how gender cuts across all major world issues, and the trickle-down impact of movements like #MeToo.
Napier: He was saying, the prime minister that it was his job now to convince the G7 leaders that will gather here in Quebec, in Canada this summer, to make gender an issue. … It is usually big issues that preoccupy these leaders, right now I can think of Russia, cyber-attacks, North Korea, Syria, migrants. … So how do you then convince these people that the gender issue has to be as prominent as these ginormous problems?
Gates: "The G7 has typically taken up economic issues, security issues, and environmental issues. … So everything you spoke about, you’re right it fits under that lens, but it’s up to the host of the G7 to decide what one additional topic should be on the list, and Prime Minister Trudeau has chosen gender, and I think he’s chosen it rightly, because gender cuts across all of those issues. … Women are half the world."
Our G7 countries are going through an incredible change with this #MeToo. It’s something that’s affecting and actually changing things in our societies. Our prime minister in 2015 when he appointed his cabinet, he was asked why a gender balanced cabinet? He said: ‘Because it’s 2015.’ … But most women in the world don’t live with #MeToo, and many of them if not the majority of women hadn’t heard the prime ministers’ ‘because it’s 2015,’ so how do we go from us, from the #MeToo women, how do we transfer that and help women who are way far behind?
"I think it’s movements like that. When I have travelled around the world, the women who have heard about #MeToo—and I’ve actually been astounded how many women around the world have heard about #MeToo—They hear that message and they say ‘oh my gosh, me also.’ That’s going on in those high income countries, that’s going on for an actress, that’s going on for a woman who has a seat at the table, but me too. It’s happening in my village."
"We know these issues affect everybody and it’s our job to help with the trickle-down effect and it’s why we need to measure things like sexual harassment at the village level and all the way at the corporate board level, and at the political level. It’s why we need to then make investments in grassroots movements."
Do you believe that he [Trudeau] is the right leader to do what you want the G7 to do, in other words to listen and understand that women are just as important as any crisis they’re dealing with?
"Most definitely. I mean, if not him, who else? Who else? He believes this, he’s actually willing to put it on the G7 agenda. No one has ever done that before. There have been other male leaders who could’ve done it."
You have a president who has not made women’s issues a priority, in fact, he’s quite the opposite. He’s a president who does not believe in foreign aid as his predecessor perhaps as much. Does that make it more difficult when the American president… the most powerful member of the G7 is not on board? How difficult does it make your job?
"Well, that will be the job of Prime Minister Trudeau for certain at the G7, but he is surrounded by likeminded people. Chancellor Merkel believes in this stuff, President Macron believes in these issues. … They also represent the younger generation. … And I think they will surround President Trump and show him what the world is actually asking for."
When is it going to be time for a woman president? Would you consider running for office?
"I think it’s high time we had a woman president. I definitely think there will be one in my lifetime. I will not be a woman president. I don’t plan to run, but I certainly think in my life time there will be a female president in the United States. It’s long due."
I want to ask you about the Bill Cosby verdict… There was a first trial and that was before #MeToo, and now we’re seeing that this guilty verdict is coming sort of on the coattails of the #MeToo movement. What are your thoughts about that?… Do you think the #MeToo movement changed that? Made it more unacceptable?
"There is this societal movement that things that we have swept under the rug before, or allowed to go forward because women didn’t have their voice—they are no longer acceptable. I see men all over the world saying 'whoa it’s a new day on these things,' whether they participated or they stood by, or they didn’t use their voice on behalf of women. It’s a new time in the world."
A good time?
"Absolutely, never a better time in the world to be a woman. We have a lot of things we need to do. I’m impatient for things to get better faster for women because it means things will get better faster for the whole world, but I’m also optimistic. We’re starting to see a lot of the right things happen."