Speaking before an international audience today, Canada’s Prime Minister said, “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and frankly, the results have been a pleasant surprise.” Indeed they have. Speaking with Members of Parliament today, there were a variety of responses to the presence of equal numbers of female MPs and Cabinet ministers. Said one MP, “well, the parliamentary restaurant looks a little more like the cafeteria at IKEA with all the high chairs, but I guess we’ll get used to it.”
Italian MEP, Licia Ronzulli MEP (Credit: European Parliament, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
On a more serious note, several MPs noted a shift in their work culture. “I used to feel sick going into question period—you know, you really had to be ready to take a beating. But now it’s a lot calmer. I think we’re actually getting more done.”
Canada’s Finance Minister has also noticed substantial benefits to the Canadian economy. “With the increased participation of women in the workforce we’ve seen our GDP growth outpace the rest of the G7. More revenues and more consumer spending are making our economy unbeatable.” She went on to note that with increased revenues, the government can afford to do more for everyone: “we can afford universal child care and a stealth ski-doo. It’s win-win!”
What do folks in the private sector think? To find out, we spoke to several top Canadian CEOs at a recent business sector event. Said one CEO, “With this whole emphasis on equal parental leave and accommodating family life, I really thought productivity would take a hit. But it turns out, with the increase in retention of employees, we’re saving a bundle in hiring and training costs.” The CFO of a major Canadian bank added, “And our meetings all end on time now. It’s better than making everyone stand up. Now everyone has to get home to pick up the kids. So everyone makes an effort to be prepared and to get things done.”
And for everyone else? We dropped in at a local coffee shop to ask them. One professional in his 30s offered this, “I’ve noticed now that everyone’s got to do stuff at home, you know, like, equally—the guys come into work now and they’re like ‘I did six loads of laundry, wrote a memorandum to cabinet, and made bread this morning.’ And someone else will be, like, ‘but did you use organic spelt flour?’” The other men at the table laugh. “Plus, my girlfriend is, like, so much happier to see me when I’ve cooked dinner.” “If you know what I mean,” he adds with a wink.
*Too bad we won’t see it happen for real until April 1st, 2240.
Kate McInturff is a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and the director of the Centre’s initiative on gender equality and public policy, Making Women Count. You can follow Kate on Twitter @katemcinturff.