When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the White House on Monday, jobs and trade are expected to be at the top of his agenda. But following their Oval Office meeting, Trudeau and President Donald Trump will meet with female leaders for a roundtable discussion as the two countries work to launch the United States Canada Council for the Advancement of Women Business Leaders-Female Entrepreneurs, the Associated Press reports. The new project is a mouthful, but signals the ascension of women's economic issues on Trump's priority list.
The discussion of women's issues that's expected to take place on Monday is, in part, the handiwork of First Daughter Ivanka Trump, who touted women's empowerment issues during her father's campaign and is said to have pressured the then-candidate to introduce a paid maternity leave proposal. Ivanka Trump does not have an official role in the Trump administration but in recent weeks has convened meetings with numerous business leaders to discuss women's economic issues. For instance, a week before inauguration, she hosted a small, private dinner at the penthouse apartment of Wendi Murdoch, ex-wife of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, that was attended by the likes of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert, Xerox chairman Ursula Burns, designer Tory Burch, and television host Mika Brzezinski. At the dinner, Trump explained that she wanted to learn about what the leaders were doing in areas like entrepreneurship, equal pay, paid leave, and education.
Another group of high-profile women from the U.S. and Canada will attend Monday's meeting, including General Electric Canada CEO Elyse Allan, TransAlta Corp. CEO Dawn Farrell, Accenture North America CEO Julie Sweet, and Monique Leroux, chair of the board of directors for Investissement Québec, according to the AP. GM CEO Mary Barra will be represented by Carol Stephenson of GM's board of directors.
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Katie Telford, Trudeau's chief of staff, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, and Dina Powell, an assistant to President Trump and a senior counselor for economic initiatives, will also be there. The trio is responsible for setting up the new council and recruiting participants like Barra, GE vice chair Beth Comstock, and Catalyst CEO Deborah Gillis.
On the campaign trail, President Trump entered unchartered territory for a Republican by advocating for a policy that would mandate six weeks of paid maternity leave for new moms. But for all the directives to come from the White House in the first three weeks of his administration, none have touched on women's issues.
Members of Congress, meanwhile, have been more active, with both sides of the aisle introducing their own paid leave bills. On Tuesday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) announced plans to reintroduce the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which guarantees workers at least two-thirds pay for up to 12 weeks when they take time off for their own health conditions—including pregnancy and childbirth—or to care for others. On Thursday, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) introduced two pieces of legislation related to women's advancement. The first—geared toward equal pay—would make it illegal for women to be fired for sharing or asking about salary information in the workplace. The other is a paid leave bill that would create a two-year tax credit for companies that voluntarily provide their employees with at least two weeks of paid leave.
Monday's meeting is expected to touch on maternity leave as well as childcare, the recruitment and retention of women, and how to better aid female entrepreneurs.
The AP reports that an official from Trudeau's office reached out to Trump's team to talk about working together on women in the workforce, since the subject seems to be a shared interest of the two leaders. After his election in 2015, Trudeau drew praise for appointing a cabinet that, in his words, "looks like Canada," with half the seats going to women. Trump has not followed suit. There are just four women among his 22 cabinet members who require Senate confirmation.