It’s easy to forget how much progress we’ve made toward gender equality over recent decades, so if you need some reminding just take a look at the evolution of topics at the Institute of Managers and Leaders’ (IML’s) International Women’s Day debates.
In 1998, when the event first started, the debate topic chosen was: ‘Women Want it All– Work and Family’. Participants argued whether this was a fair enough pursuit given the traditional expectation that women stay at home.
Fast forward to 2018, and the pendulum had swung to a completely different conversation. The debate centred not on whether women could maintain fulfilling careers and families, but rather how we get to the point where this was the absolute norm– ‘The Future is Female’ after all.
This year, panellists will discuss the subject of women’s success and the extent to which this is predicated on male support. Debates will take place in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and feature a host of impressive female leaders and celebrated MCs including, Comedian Corinne Grant (Brisbane), TV personality Jo Stanley (Melbourne) and Newsreader Tracey Spicer AM (Sydney).
Ann Messenger FIML, a chartered accountant and chair of IML’s board says the Institute’s Women’s Day Great Debates have come a long way and continue to align with the IML’s ongoing advocacy of diversity and inclusion in leadership.
“We believe that a diverse workforce reflects the rich diversity of Australian society,” she says.
“Leaders have always had such an important place in campaigning for women’s equality. As people in positions of great influence – organisational, political, community or otherwise – we have a social responsibility to support those who have supported us. Which is why the Great Debate is so important.”
“Leaders have always had such an important place in campaigning for women’s equality.”
The event gives leaders from all sectors the opportunity to come together and discuss gender equality progress in a relaxed, stimulating and inspiring atmosphere.
“The Great Debate luncheons are a powerful showcase of innovation, passion and wit,” says Messenger. “Every year, attendees from around the world join us to enjoy the entertainment, network with like-minded women, and celebrate women in leadership.
This year’s theme is particularly emotive given last year’s backdrop of #MeToo and women’s empowerment globally.
“Women have made it clear what they want – equal representation in power, pay parity, equal opportunity, and no more discrimination on the basis of gender. However, across the world – from the workplace to education to politics – women are still facing prejudice, intolerance and inequality in 2019,” says Messenger.
“Women have made it clear what they want – equal representation in power, pay parity, equal opportunity, and no more discrimination on the basis of gender.”
“With global campaigns to empower women and girls relying on the support of men to advance the cause, it is frustrating to so many communities around the world to see the lack of progress in gender equality in our social, cultural and economic systems. Thus, this year, the Institute challenges the notion, “do women need the cooperation of men to succeed in 2019?”
Despite the numerous hurdles still at play for women at work, Messenger reflects on the beginning of her career, when she was forced to “cut her teeth in the male dominated finance sector” and believes things have improved since then. Nonetheless, as the chair of the Institute of Managers and Leaders she’s committed to pushing for progress and “leading the corporate space by example.”
“The Institute’s board and leadership team is represented by 60% women, and we continue to invest in developing and championing women in leadership by hosting national events like our International Women’s Day Great Debates,” she says.
“Despite how far we’ve come, I can see we’re still not quite there yet in 2019,” says Messenger, noting pay parity is of particular concern.
“The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Pay Gap Report finds that at our current rate of progress, gender parity is over 200 years away! Of course, there are some leaders around the world already working to make equality a reality much sooner, such as Iceland who moved in 2018 to make it illegal to pay women less than men.
“My hope for the next decade is simply that Australia follows in Iceland’s footsteps and enshrines pay parity into legislation. It’s a small achievement in the global scheme of equality, but I fiercely believe it will be an action that ripples across the world to change the lives of future generations of working women for the better.”