Barack Obama And Justin Trudeau Are Redefining The Definition Of Feminism

The simple definition of a feminist is someone who supports feminism – Someone that defines, establishes, and helps achieve political, economic, personal and social rights for women.

This includes establishing equal opportunities for women in education, employment, as well as funding access for female entrepreneurs.

There may be a somewhat misguided view that most feminists are female, dating back to 1837 when Charles Fourier, a French Philosopher, is credited with having coined the term “féminisme.”

There are two great examples of powerful men who are self-proclaimed feminists: Former US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A Progressive View from the North

Back in March of 2016, Trudeau appeared on the Vox news site series 2016ISH, and told correspondent Elizabeth Plank, “If you’re a progressive, you really should be a feminist because it’s about equality, it’s about respect, it’s about making the best of the world that we have.”

Trudeau has given more than lip service to his support of gender equality. His Liberal party won the Canadian general election in October of 2015 in a decisive victory. He started his administration by naming a gender-balanced cabinet.

His appointment of 15 women to cabinet positions fulfilled a campaign pledge. But the quota also sparked a debate after several observers argued that merit, not gender, should be the only consideration when doling out ministerial portfolios.

He went on to tell Plank, “Quite frankly I talk about the fact that I’m a feminist as often as I can, and every time I do it gets a huge reaction… I will keep saying that until there is no more reaction to that when I say it, because that’s where we want to get to.”

Trudeau urged men to be feminists back in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

A Similar and Powerful View from the White House

In August, Obama wrote an essay about Feminism for Glamour Magazine. The Huffington Post noted that it was a piece that, “Every man needs to read.” The former president made some bold and straightforward points, especially in light of his political position:

We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.

We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online. We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.

We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatizes full-time dads, and penalizes working mothers. We need to keep changing the attitude that values being confident, competitive, and ambitious in the workplace ― unless you’re a woman…. We need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color.

He summarized his point in the final sentence of the essay:

That’s what twenty-first-century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.

At the White House’s United State of Women meeting back in June, Obama went on record as being a feminist.

We Need an Even Playing Field for Female Founders

In a column on Forbes.com Geri Stengel wrote earlier this year, Sometimes, it seems as if as much as things change for women entrepreneurs, they are standing still. That paradox couldn’t be more true than when discussing high-growth women entrepreneurs and their ability to raise capital.”

David S. Ricketts, Senior Innovation Scholar at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard observed, Raising Capital is the #1 challenge women face when starting and growing their companies.”

His comment was based on a survey of high-growth women entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists, government representatives, media, academics, researchers and corporate executives who attended a Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Research Symposium April of 2015, in NYC.

Rickett’s statement in the Symposium’s summary document also rang true:

The time is now for women entrepreneurs to tap into the abundant business opportunities available to entrepreneurs today. As a significant part of the entrepreneurial community, women have the power to grow businesses, create jobs and develop sustainable, scalable solutions that will change the world.

The sad truth is that many women can’t achieve this goal without greater access to funding to start and then scale their new businesses.

Men and women coming together and embracing what it means to be a true feminist, can help create great opportunities for women to succeed in the 21st Century.

Or to use a phrase that’s been passed at numerous male bastions like golf clubs and professional sporting events; it is “time to man-up.”

In this case for the venture investment community to start doing the right thing for women entrepreneurs, and provide them greater access to funding.

Profile photo of Neelam Brar
Neelam Brar

Neelam is an accomplished female entrepreneur, financier, and start-up adviser. She is the founder and CEO of District CoWork, one of the hottest hub for innovation in NYC and Empress, an empowerment platform designed to mentor and support women. Neelam founded Empress to unite the strongest stakeholders behind the economy: Women. Empress is the nexus of content, community and capital. With a dual MBA from Columbia Business School and London Business School and experience raising capital and advising growth companies throughout the US, Canada, Singapore, Mumbai and Hong Kong, she has tremendous first hand insights on several topics relevant to entrepreneurship and innovation. Neelam did investment banking and private equity for over a decade raising billions of dollars of capital and advising on high profile M&A transactions in the domestic and international markets across industries. She is a veteran deal maker and growth advisor with proven entrepreneurial experience and a firm commitment to support the progress of women.