Dear Future President of the United States:
As you may have heard, Canada's new prime minster, Justin Trudeau, filled his cabinet with an equal number of men and women. "It’s important to be here before you today to present to Canada a cabinet that looks like Canada," he told reporters. When asked about his choice of 15 men and 15 women to advise him, Trudeau simply said: "Because it’s 2015." If I'm not mistaken, that is also true in America. Which is why you, the future president of the U.S., should follow Trudeau's lead and appoint a gender-equal cabinet.
Regardless of your gender or party, your cabinet should reflect the American population, just as Trudeau's reflects Canada's. Everything the presidential cabinet members discuss affects both men and women, so both sexes should have equal part in the decision-making process. The days of old white men running the country should be over. There are people of every race and gender working in Washington now, but the highest positions of power continue to be given to men. Women will never be adequately represented until half of the government is female, and America will never achieve gender equality if the government continues to have a patriarchal structure. This begins with the presidential cabinet.
President Obama's current 15-member cabinet consists of only four women, and of the additional seven positions of cabinet rank, three are women — all in all, seven of his 22 cabinet-level advisers (not including the vice president) are women. George W. Bush's cabinet also included four female secretaries. Bill Clinton's included only three. So we have made a bit of progress in the past 22 years, but adding one more woman to the president's cabinet in two decades is a minimal improvement. It's time to make a much larger change.
Women make up half of this country, yet only a fourth of the cabinet and 20 percent of Congress. The president obviously doesn't control Congress' gender breakdown, but they do control who's in their cabinet. There's no better way to get more women in Washington than to personally invite them. A predominantly male group should not be making all the country's decisions — they have no idea what it's like to be a women in America, and therefore shouldn't have so much power over women's lives.
Appointing a gender-equal cabinet, as Trudeau has, would show Americans that you value women, make it easier for more women to enter politics, and set an important precedent for future administrations. If we wait for the government to become half female on its own, it will take decades. Setting an example with the cabinet will spur other parts of the government to do the same, and encourage more women to run for elected positions. First a gender-equal cabinet, then a gender-equal Congress, then a gender-equal government, then a gender-equal society — that should be the goal. Choosing to make a bold feminist statement with your cabinet would help you begin your first term with the support of American women.
If none of this convinces you, then let me ask: Do you really want to let Canada beat us at something? It's already a much more feminist country than the U.S., from mandated paid maternity leave to having a female prime minister decades ago. The least you could do to catch up is match Trudeau's pledge to accurately represent the country through your cabinet.
However, you should really want to include women without the added benefit of competition with Canada. Do it for half of our population.
Lauren (and American women everywhere)