Women Leaders in World Trade: A Conversation with Kirsten Hillman

Women Leaders in World Trade: A Conversation with Kirsten Hillman, Canadian Assistant Deputy Minister of Trade and Negotiations

On May 25, 2017, The Women’s Congressional Staff Association and the Women in Public Service Project at the Wilson Center co-hosted a private conversation with Kirsten Hillman, Assistant Deputy Minister of Trade Agreements and Negotiations for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. 

Gwen Young moderated the discussion with Ms. HillmanGwen K. Young, Director of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative and Women in Public Service Project, started off the discussion with a question on gender parity within the Canadian government. Speaking from personal experience, Ms. Hillman discussed her own path from a lawyer by training to becoming a lead trade negotiator of the country. Not only did she lay out the challenges that women had to face upon entering the trade world, Ms. Hillman also emphasized the key elements that would tremendously help women navigate the field. Among the most important factors were working together as a team, establishing interpersonal relationships with partners, and acknowledging the need to encourage women to participate and build up confidence in their capabilities. Following the sharing session, Ms. Hillman answered questions from the audience about different approaches to improve women leadership in trade negotiation as well as the ongoing gender analysis, as part of the overarching effort to bridge the gender gap in multiple industries in Canada.

Ms. Hillman discussed women representation in the male-dominating field of trade and negotiation.

The conversation provided a unique perspective from a woman leader on the global stage. Ms. Hillman’s remarks emphasized the importance of women’s leadership in all aspects of decision-making and the need to break down the “glass walls” that restrict women leaders to “soft” sectors such as social and health policy.