The event was helmed by Jane Caro, author, novelist broadcaster and erstwhile Leadership Matters columnist. Caro spotted a man in audience wearing the distinctive pink pussy hat and declared he had set the dress standard for men at IWD events for years to come. The audience roared their approval and the scene was set for the debate to begin.
Clad in the purple, white and green suffragette colours, the team arguing the affirmative case were Joanna Hayter CEO Women’s Development Agency, Adam Hennessy, secretary of the Victorian Government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Department and senior scientist Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea. On the negative bench were Associate Professor Tony Walker FAIM, CEO Ambulance Victoria, Angel investor and CEO of Xchange Caitin Iles, and Div Pillay, co-founder and CEO of MindTribes.
The teams parried fact and figures, including the dearth of women in senior scientific roles: only 17 per cent of senior researchers are female, a mindset that starts disturbingly early. Dr Evans-Galea, pointed to research that shows children, when asked to draw a scientist, overwhelmingly drew bald white males in lab coats. Evans-Galea, an awards-winning scientist, confessed that even her own daughter’s renderings matched the Dilbert-style stereotype.
The negative team, noted the rise of women in senior positions the business, legal and political worlds and put the case that legislation supports gender equality and the only barriers are psychological. This was effectively shot down by Joanna Hayter in her closing address, “this is fake news and it’s time for Australia to stand up”.
The affirmative team was not the only victor on the day. AIM’s charity of choice for IWD, Project Futures, with the mission to fight slavery, brought the audience up to speed with the current day horror that is human trafficking. Slavery is not just a developing world problem; there are more than 4,300 people in slavery in Australia, the so-called lucky country. The audience dug deep and raised $8,200 for the charity in Melbourne alone. Around $43,000 was raised at the three AIM IWD debates in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to educate and empower a generation to end human trafficking.