International Women's Day 2016
Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Australian Institute of Management flagship event - International Women’s Day Great Debate. The event is held annually and is widely anticipated as one of the premier events on the IWD calendar.
The debate topic this year was “Men and Women: Equal at Last”, and the panel of 6 people included:
- Kirstin Devitt - Managing Director of KDPR, with a background in broadcast journalism.
- Tom Potter – Founder of Eagleboys Pizza, the largest privately owned pizza company in Australia and New Zealand.
- Monica Bradley – management consultant with experience in strategy and global advisory, as well as a portfolio of non-executive directorships and advisory roles.
- James Baker – Communications Director at Boeing Defence Australia, with a background in the Australian Army and media advisory roles.
- Dr Kathleen Turner – Head of Strategy at Griffith Asia Institute, President of the Australia Indonesia Business Council in Qld and national Vice-President of the United Nationals Association of Australia.
- Peta Pitcher – Director of the Lady Musgrave Trust and Executive Manager – Family & Member Support for Playgroup Queensland.
The negative team arguably had the easier task of the day, with the back-up of statistical evidence on exactly why women are not equal; which had many on our table questioning the choice of topic - especially given the MC (CEO of AIM, David Pich) in his opening remarks, cited many reasons which pointed to the fact that men and women are nowhere near being equal, in the workplace particularly. Interestingly, the two men on the panel both argued the same point - that women are not equal to men, they are superior - despite being on opposing sides of the debate!
The affirmative team tried their best, however without a compelling team strategy, they weren’t a match for the negative team who won convincingly.
Whilst the debate was the main focus of the day, the highlight for me was the presentation given by the CEO of the charity partner of the event - Karyn Walsh of Micah Projects. Micah Projects is a Brisbane-based charity whose aim is to tackle the rising problem of homelessness across Brisbane, by providing housing for individuals and families who for a range of reasons, have found themselves without shelter. The video presentation that was shown by Karyn was both confronting and powerful, depicting before and after images of people they have helped to secure accommodation - some who have been homeless for 20 to 30 years.
It was a stark reminder of the battles being fought by some people in our community and that whether men and women are equal in the workplace is somewhat insignificant to those who are struggling to provide the basic necessities of life for themselves and their children - a warm and safe home, and food on the table.
Listening to Karyn speak was a truly humbling experience as she is an inspiring woman working tirelessly to help others achieve what most of us take for granted, and making a real difference to people’s lives.
So whilst I was disappointed that the debate fell a bit short of the mark in providing a challenging debate of the issues surrounding female equality in the workplace, learning about the meaningful work of Micah Projects made the event a very worthwhile experience.
Written by Nea Fraser of Harrison Human Resources.