In line with the #BeBoldForChange theme universally adopted for the 2017 edition of International Women’s Day, the City of Melbourne, has taken action by agreeing to install female pedestrian figures in ten traffic lights located in the city’s CBD.
The push for change was organised by the Committee of Melbourne who are calling for gender equality. The Committee represents over 120 Melbourne business and community groups and is headed by Chief Executive Martine Letts. Letts, was quoted by Australia’s ABC News, as saying “The idea is to install traffic lights with female representation, as well as male representation, to help reduce unconscious bias.” Ultimately, “The aim is to move towards one-to-one male and female representation across Victoria” she adds.
The installation of female figures on the ten Melbourne CBD traffic lights is part of a VicRoads approved 12-month trial. It costs an average of AUD 8,400 to change six traffic lights but the initiative is being funded by the Committee and locally based company Camlex Electrical. No taxpayer money has gone into the initiative which should help to allay any concerns about money from taxpayers about their money not being used to fund other services perhaps seen as more important than changing already working traffic lights.
However, despite the initiative not being taxpayer funded, some people have still questioned the change. Letts states that the change has already received the backing of Victoria’s Governor, Linda Dessau, saying “Some people have already expressed a little scepticism wondering whether it’s gesture politics rather than having any real substance.” She adds that “These symbols are a practical and meaningful way to demonstrate than in fact 50 per cent of our population is female and should therefore also be represented at traffic lights.”
One sceptic appears to be Robert Doyle, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor. The BBC quotes him as telling local newspaper, the Herald Sun, “I’m all for doing anything for gender equity, but really? Unfortunately, I think this sort of costly exercise is likely to bring derision. It also reported criticism of the initiative which had been aired on social media channels.
International Women’s Day is a global day, held on an annual basis on 8 March each year, to celebrate “the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”