2015 AIM Great Debate

2015 AIM Great Debate


Our team recently attended AIM’s Women in Management Great Debate in Canberra – “Today’s Women are Expected to do it all.” It was a fabulous event, with two teams of well known leaders from both government and industry presenting their powerful and often hilarious arguments as they tackled this provocative topic.

For the Affirmative team, we were entertained by:

  • Gai Brodtmann, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence.
  • Julie McKay, Executive Director of the National Committee for UN Women and Gender Advisor to the Chief of the Defence Force.
  • Joe Roff, CEO University of Canberra Union (UCU) and retired world cup winning rugby player.

For the Negative, and just as entertaining were:

  • Amanda Whitley, CEO of HerCanberra.
  • Annette Owttrim, General Manager of Aspen Medical.
  • Kate Carnell, CEO Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

What a show our teams put on, starting with Gai who referenced Pandora, the first woman on earth according to Greek mythology, who unleashed a range of evils into the world, but also the most valuable trait we can have, hope. She reminded us to challenge expectations, those imposed by history, by others and by ourselves.

Amanda Whitely countered – it’s actually men who have it much tougher. They are expected to be the bread winners and contribute to the chores, all without complaint. As she reminded us, there are no quotas and positive discrimination for men, they are just expected to get on with it quietly. Her presentation also included some very nice pics of her husband unloading the dishwasher and looking after the children – (clearly staged for the purpose of the argument though)!

Again for the affirmative, Joe Roff was hilarious, describing himself as the one, token, beer-swilling, Neanderthal, washed-up footy playing bloke amongst all of these intelligent, successful and beautiful women – huge applause for Joe of course!! He argued, quite convincingly, that women do have the weight of expectation on their shoulders, simply because if they don’t do it, the job simply won’t get done, especially if you leave it to a bloke.

When it was Annette Owttrim’s turn for the Negative team, she shocked us all by revealing her superwoman costume underneath her day clothes – fabulous!! Her argument was very persuasive and funny! She countered that women do feel an incredible weight of expectation, but that we impose this on ourselves. According to Annette, it’s a mutation of the X chromosome, a mutant gene that men don’t have – it’s called the ‘GUILT gene” or “SUPERWOMAN syndrome”!!

Our final speaker for the Affirmative team, Julie Mckay, who attended the debate in her very fetching pyjamas, showed her great sense of humour and quick wit. She discussed the many and overwhelming expectations on today’s women, beautifully illustrated by the fact that for her, today, something just had to give, so she decided not to get dressed!!

Our final speaker for the Negative, the feisty Kate Carnell, announced her horror at the Affirmative team’s arguments. She ran through her ‘tongue-in-cheek’ list of things that women just aren’t expected to do including being CEOs, CFOs, Chairs of the Board, Ministers in the Abbot government (that one was for Gai)!! But, by far the most telling and defining was that women certainly aren’t expected to do the BBQ’ing, not in any household!!

It was a difficult task to pick the winner, but judging from the applause on the day, the delightful MC, Genevieve Jacobs, ABC morning radio host, awarded it to the Affirmative by a pinch – it was a great event!! Thanks AIM!!

Fiona Stockwell