Dr Julia Baird was the keynote speaker at this year’s Drinks Association’s International Women’s Day event. The broadcaster and author has survived cancer, heartbreak and the fierce newsrooms of Australia and New York, and now hosts one of Australia’s most esteemed nightly current affairs programs, The Drum on ABC Television.
Baird has written books on the representation of female politicians by Australian media and Queen Victoria but her keynote speech for the Drinks Association centred mostly on her growing interest in the science of how human interactions with nature, and its wonders, benefit our physical and mental health; building up our sense of connectedness, resilience and strength. For Phosphorescence, Baird researched writings, philosophies and learnings from indigenous people, ancient philosophers, astronauts, and the abundant literature and experimental findings from natural and environmental scientists.
Baird actively searches for awe and wonder in nature, from cuttlefish, to whale song to phosphorescence. She strongly believes that seeking them out helps her to find her light within. Baird observed, “We don’t talk about awe and wonder nearly enough,” and challenged us to “make that part of our every day, not as an optional extra but as something we really need to do”.
Following the keynote speech, Baird spoke with Embrace Difference Council Chair, Simon Durrant when the conversation turned to newsrooms and the male dominated environments that they have been. Baird shared two insights: firstly, that when women are in those newsrooms, conversations change and the idea of ‘what is news’ changes.
Secondly, she said that when television networks lost huge numbers of female viewers to the internet, the definition of 'news for broadcast' needed to change. Baird said that female viewpoints, expertise and experiences must be included in news making: they speak to half of a broadcaster's potential audience. Perhaps that's part of the reason that Baird has felt nothing but supported by her male counterparts when pulling together stories about domestic violence and other 'women's' issues.
On The Drum, the production team ensures just over 50% of panellists and guests are women and there are various mechanism in place at the ABC to ensure that balance is achieved. She said it requires a deliberate and conscious effort to ensure a diverse set of voices are at the table every time.
She said that "women’s voices, really always change the debate. But you have work to get them to that position. You have to encourage and coach and train women.” Whereas men will eagerly agree to appear in panel discussions, her production team often work hard to convince female guests that their expertise and experience is important, needs to be heard, and moreover, that there is an audience who wants to hear what they have to say.
The industry panel for this year’s International Women’s Day event was comprised of Brown-Forman, Vice President, Managing Director, Eveline Albarracin; Treasury Wine Estates, Chief People Officer, Katie Hodgson and Hurley Hotel Group, Managing Director, Peter Hurley AO. Treasury Wine Estates’ George Samios was our most excellent facilitator.
Hosting the event as a virtual presentation meant that the annual Drinks Association’s celebration of female achievement was open to a national audience for the first time ever.
The Drinks Association is grateful to all panellists and to those who watched the presentation. Here's hoping that in 2022 we can celebrate together in person, as well as broadcasting the event right around the country. We will strive to ensure it remains an all inclusive event.