Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, gestures while speaking during a special session on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

Trudeau Urges Business to Hire More Women, Tackle Harassment

(Bloomberg) -- Canada’s prime minister said businesses should hire more women and clean up systemic sexual harassment in a speech at the World Economic Forum that highlighted the need for gender equality.

Justin Trudeau, who named as many women to his cabinet as men after taking power in 2015, warned some of the world’s most powerful figures that change is needed and that the issue extends beyond salary levels. 

“Equal pay for women does not mean equal opportunity, or equal treatment, or equal sacrifice,” Trudeau said Tuesday in Davos, Switzerland. “Paying a female employee the same as a male employee doesn’t even begin to touch issues around family planning, promotions, or job security.”

He also cited the recent groundswell of popular resistance to egregious behavior by men, specifically the Me Too and Time’s Up campaigns. “These movements tell us that we need to have a critical discussion on women’s rights, equality, and the power dynamics of gender,” Trudeau said. “Sexual harassment, for example -- in business and in government -- is a systemic problem and it is unacceptable.”

‘A New Age’

The speech echoes one Trudeau gave last year in Hamburg. The Canadian leader, who has made gender equity a hallmark of his government, on Tuesday cast the need for more diversity within the context of growing economic uncertainty and inequality.

“We’re in a new age of doing business, you need to give back,” he said. “Too many corporations have put the pursuit of profit before the wellbeing of their workers. The gap between the rich and the poor is staggering. All the while, companies avoid taxes and boast record profits with one hand while slashing benefits with the other. But that approach can’t and won’t cut it anymore.”

The pace of technological change is faster than ever and has stoked anxieties, he said, adding that people now demand more of governments and corporations.

“If you’re anxious, imagine how the folks who aren’t in this room are feeling,” Trudeau said. “People have been taken advantage of, losing their jobs and their livelihoods. Governments and corporations –- we haven’t done enough to address this.”

Trudeau also confirmed that a deal had been reached to salvage the 11-nation Trans Pacific Partnership. Canada’s push to add so-called progressive elements to trade deals, such as gender provisions, has met with mixed success. It stymied a launch of free trade talks with China last year, and is one of the sticking points in talks with the U.S. and Mexico to revamp the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. A sixth round of negotiations on that deal are underway in Montreal.

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