10/19/2016 04:35 EDT | Updated 10/19/2016 04:42 EDT

Gender Equity Enables More Canadians To Live Their Optimal Lives

Caucasian woman holding red maple leaf under yellow tree
Jeremy Woodhouse/Holly Wilmeth via Getty Images
Caucasian woman holding red maple leaf under yellow tree

The following are based on remarks from Women In The House: The Persons Day Panel held in Ottawa, on October 17th, 2016.

On Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of the election that brought us Canada's first 50/50 cabinet, a day after Person's Day and heading into the final weeks of the U.S. election, we are at a peak moment to assess how we doing both in terms of getting women into public life and politics and why it matters.

October 18th was Person's Day -- it recognizes the 1929 decision by the British Privy Council to include women under the legal definition of "persons."

It was a nudge move, but the culmination of a decades long struggle, with a powerful ripple effect.

In Canada we are almost nine decades removed from this case but still, genuine cultural personhood remains a continuum for women -- shaped by race, culture and socio-economic circumstances.

Skeptics of this view should just consider the comments of Justice Camp, the media handling of the Stanford rapist or what the rates of MMIW says about who and how our system still sees as "persons."

And then there's the U.S. election which has unleashed toxic levels of misogyny, which as First Lady Michelle Obama powerfully pointed out last week, are both painful to confront but dangerous to ignore:

"The shameful comments about our bodies, the disrespect of our ambitions and our intellect, the belief you can do anything you want to a woman? It's cruel, it's frightening. And the truth is that it hurts. It hurts."

Here, in Canada, at the election anniversary, and in the wake of a new "50/50" tone from the top, we seem to be a different, more optimistic moment in our history.

And it's a moment we should all look to leverage and engage with through a concerted and shared effort to change the ratio of women across the political and public landscape. Harnessing this momentum will be the fastest and most effective way to create a structure that will create not just better policy, but enable more Canadians live their optimal lives.

As we've seen in other domains, positive change is catchy. It sets the tone for what is possible and eventually expected across other organizations, sectors and industries.

The transformative power of a catalytic example is not to be under-estimated. We're already seeing results. Cultures can be tipped.

The second is that gender equity across public life is a foundational step for more Canadians being able to live their most optimal lives.

Overwhelming data shows that when women are at the table with real authority (meaning numbers over 30 per cent) results improve, creating better businesses, public and policy choices. We get healthier, safer and more prosperous communities for everyone.

It's the ultimate win/win.

Reva Seth is a best selling author, the founder of the Optimal Living Lab & a senior associate at Canada 2020.

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