Putting the X in External Affairs

Putting the X in External Affairs. Where are Canada's international Women of Influence?
By: /
November 23, 2011

In an era when women are playing an increasingly important role in global politics –  when Christine Lagarde’s Chanel suits are the new power ties, Hillary Clinton makes feminist foreign policy fashionable, Susan Rice dubs intervention the new black, and Melinda Gates wears the World Bank’s pants – Canada’s X- chromosome credentials are no source of shame. It’s too bad, then, that so few of Canada’s global gals made Women of Influence’s list of Canada’s top female influencers.

I commend the magazine for honouring a group of remarkable Canadian women, and I congratulate these women for proving to young Canadian women like me that female mentors are not wanting. But when I think about Canada’s “top influencers… whose successful achievements contribute to the Canadian and global economies” [emphasis added], I think of Canadian women in international affairs.

In my role realizing OpenCanada’s mandate to bring the best international affairs content into Canadian discussions, I have discovered that women represent one of Canada’s strongest bridges to the world. Sylvia Ostry, Louise Fréchette and Huguette Labelle helped to pave the way; now many Canadian women are walking it. Here are thirteen women I think should be added to Women of Influence’s list. This is just a start, so please tweet me at @anoukdey with names you think I missed.

Here’s to a Canadian foreign policy with hips!

  • Sally Armstrong, journalist and member of the UN’s International Women’s Commission: If Thatcher made feminist foreign policy unpopular, Armstrong is bringing it back.

  • Louise Arbour, International Crisis Group: The Canadian with the biggest impact on human rights is not a bachelor.  

  • Lyse Doucet, BBC: The Canadian government may have had little role in the Egyptian Revolution, but, for many people around the world, the voice of the Arab Spring had a Canadian accent.

  • Chrystia Freeland, Thomson-Reuters: If you buy Freeland’s argument that Bill Gates and Peter Munk have more power than Stephen Harper and John Baird, then don’t underestimate the power of the woman who keeps the pulse of the global elite.

  • Moya Greene, Royal Mail: Delivering Canada’s message to her international audience.

  • Naomi Klein, author: Occupy Wall Street has a Bay Street (Dundas West?) leader.

  • Margaret MacMillan, University of Oxford: One woman changed the way we think about the three men who shaped the post-WWI peace.

Read Margaret MacMillan's answer to the question, "Can Diplomacy be Transparent?"

  • Barbara McDougall, International Development Research Centre: The woman with the most influence on Canada’s international development efforts would not let “not” slip by her.

  • Marie-Lucie Morin, World Bank: In the war between the U.S. dollar and the yuan, Morin holds the loonie.

  • Stephanie Nolen, The Globe and Mail: Whether in Afghanistan, the Congo, Iraq, Rwanda, or South Africa, Nolen keeps Canada’s internationalist brand alive.

  • Samantha Nutt, War Child Canada: For too long, three baritone voices have dominated the global conversation about development. With Damned Nations, a Canadian soprano joins the ranks of Easterly, Sachs, and Collier.

  • Janice Stein, Munk School of Global Affairs: When something happens in the world, it’s pretty neat that Steve Paikin and Peter Mansbridge look to the Munk School’s leading lady for answers.  

Photo courtesy Reuters.