International Women’s Day Great Debate Melbourne envisions: “The future is gender-blind”




Pictured (left to right): The negative team – Tracey McPherson, Daryl Browning and Georgie Harman


The Institute of Managers and Leaders’ (IML) annual International Women’s Day Great Debate in Melbourne has concluded that “the future should be led by a feminism that is gender-blind”. On Thursday 8th March, six successful Australian leaders were pitched head-to-head at the sold-out lunchtime event, debating the topic “The Future is Female” to raise funds for IML’s IWD charity partner, YWCA.


Inspired by the iconic feminist slogan, ‘The Future is Female’ – a 42-year-old phrase which first appeared on t-shirts designed in a New York feminist bookstore – the Great Debate asked not whether equality will be achieved in the future, but how it will be achieved. Teams engaged in a comedic, insightful and empowering debate that argued whether the future of diversity and inclusion.


Ultimately, the event’s attendees voted by acclamation for the powerful and creative arguments of the negative team. The negative team argued that gender will be completely irrelevant in the future, while the losing affirmative team maintained that eradicating male dominance does not equate to female superiority.


“The future has to be gender-free,” argued the negative team’s Georgie Harman, CEO of beyondblue. Using the prevalence of artificial intelligence in future workplaces as the gender-free symbol of the future, Harman used her iPhone’s AI system, Siri to illustrate her argument.


“Siri, are you female?” asks Harman.

“Well, my voice sounds like a woman’s, but I exist beyond the human concept of gender”, answers Siri.

“Fair enough but Siri, is the future female?” enquired Harman.

“Huh? I just don’t get this whole gender thing”, answers Siri.


The Great Debate in Melbourne was emceed by writer and social commentator Jane Caro who is most well-known for her unflinchingly honest voice on television, radio and print.


“Every year it is funnier, fiercer and naughtier than the one before”, said Caro.


Attended by more than 2,300 in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, the sold-out debates raised a total of $51,000 nationally for the YWCA, supporting women and children often in escaping domestic violence through shelter, food, education and mentoring. Built on a legacy of women being activists for equality, safety and empowerment since 1855, YWCA continues to strive for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls to attain a vision of peace, justice, freedom and dignity. In Victoria, YWCA provides 100,000 nights of safe housing annually with 65% of women survivors of domestic violence.


“We couldn’t be prouder to be supporting YWCA this year on International Women’s Day to create a world where ‘every girl can find her possible’”, said IML Chief Executive David Pich FIML. “On the 21st anniversary of the Great Debate, we’re focusing on the future of leadership. With our debates spotlighting the importance of a future that includes more women, the Institute is taking action on an important issue that affects the futures of so many women and girls around the country. It’s time to break the chains of domestic and family violence and ensure all women receive equal respect, voice and opportunities.”


“Thank you to all our Great Debate attendees, partners and members of the Australian management community for your generosity and support. Thank you for contributing to the conversation around a future with more women in leadership. Through events like the IWD Great Debate, we seek to change Australian society for the better. Change is needed and it couldn’t come soon enough.”


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