International Women’s Day Great Debate Sydney envisions: “The future is equality between genders”




Pictured (left to right): Lucy Turnbull AO, Margot Smith and Sarah Hill


The Institute of Managers and Leaders’ (IML) annual International Women’s Day Great Debate in Sydney has concluded that “the future should be led by a feminism that equalises”. 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. With two popular approaches to feminism dividing the world in the movement for equality, teams engaged in a comedic, insightful and empowering debate that argued whether the future should be led by a feminism that liberates, or a feminism that equalises.


Ultimately, the event’s attendees voted by acclamation for the powerful and creative arguments of the negative team. The negative team argued that the future should be inclusive of all, favouring “collaboration over dominance”, while the losing affirmative team maintained that all genders benefit from breaking down and being liberated from patriarchal culture.


“We believe the future must be, and can only be equal,” argued the negative team’s Katrina North, Diversity and Inclusion Leader at EY. “This is not a zero-sum game, and by being inclusive, creating an equal society, and equal economy, an equal workplace, we all win,”


The Great Debate in Sydney was emceed by media personality, comedian and journalist Gretel Killeen, for her strong humorous voice in Australian households through popular TV programs such as Ten’s The Project, ABC’s How Not To Behave, Nine’s Today and Seven’s Sunrise.


“This event is a true celebration of female wit, wisdom, power and ratbaggery,” said Killeen.


The event was attended by Lucy Turnbull AO, Chief Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission and the first female Lord Mayor of Sydney.


“[International Women’s Day] is a celebration of all the achievements of women to date. We have come a long way, but still have more to do. I recently visited a historic house in Paramatta and they had signs up saying what women used to go to jail for in the early 19th century. Women used to go to jail for not getting their husbands’ breakfast, and they would be sent to the female factory for not washing their linen. I’m really glad to say we have come a long way. We have to celebrate the journey, it was hard along the way but we’ve made a lot of progress”, said Turnbull.


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.


“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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