Recession you say? Hello precedented times 🎙️

It’s just around the corner, says every economist (and central bank). Warnings of a recession make weekly headlines, but economies are stubbornly defying orders – for now. 

Simply put, the economy is the relationship between the supply of goods and services, and demand to buy them. When demand outstrips supply, businesses ramp up, and economies tend to grow. When the reverse is true, businesses tend to hunker down and economies shrink. Over the last 100 years, the average length of a growing economy is around 3 years. A shrinking economy, or recession, lasts about 1.5 years. Recessions have been a regular feature in our economic history, and there have been a couple of memory-making ones in our ✨very young✨ lifetimes (hello 2008, 2020 and… when will this one kick in?!?). 

The R word

When we experience two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth (AKA shrinking), we collectively adopt the R label. We tighten our belts, but we do not panic! The economy is like any other long term relationship; there are good and bad seasons. What we do during the bad ones sets us up for the good years just beyond the horizon. 

Worldwide, most economies are slowing down right now. Housing prices have fallen, and we feel the pinch every time we shop or fill the tank. Some of us are starting to cut non-necessities (*cough* Netflix). Our dollars are stretching less than they did this time last year (the very definition of inflation), and interest payments are getting more expensive. 

No two recessions are the same and this one is being triggered by central banks trying to cool everything down. As we face into the inevitable, unemployment is still low, but companies are tightening their belts and layoffs started late last year in the tech sector.

It’s the economy, stupid

As scary as the headlines can be, there’s one thing to (frugally) celebrate; we’re experiencing precedented times for the first time in years. So we take our medicine, but let’s do it together. Join us for this week’s podcast on the economy. We’ll have a bit of an Economics 101 refresher, chat about past and present drama (yes, a bit of Silicon Valley Bank) and offer up some hacks to prepare. 

International Women’s Day: it’s not all doom and gloom

The theme for International Women’s Day this year feels more #TimesUp than #EmbraceEquity. Is it the disconcertingly opaque campaign to get women hugging themselves or the multitasking required to navigate two separate themes? Is it because some organisations #embrace performative hashtags more enthusiastically than closing the gender pay gap? Or that women spend 364 days of the year dealing with inequity, only to have work increase on the one day designated to commemorate our progress? 

We get it; no one is in the mood to celebrate.

International Women’s Day has come to feel like just another task on our plates – for those of us asked to bring a plate for a shared lunch, we mean that literally. But, one hundred and fifteen years ago, 15,000 women marched in the streets for labour rights and planted the seed for a global day of advocacy and celebration. Today we have a choice; to opt-out or to regroup. We vote for the latter.

Look how far we’ve come!

Only three generations have passed since 1908. Today, women’s equality is focused on continuing the progress started in large part by our grandmothers. It may be slow and painful, but it has happened, so pick up your IWDTM vulva cupcake and enjoy a bit of positivity.

Workforce representation

In 1908 we certainly weren’t debating the gender pay gap because most women weren’t in the paid workforce. Working women were usually poor, unmarried and uneducated, with minimal career choices.

Today? The research is in, and it shows that organisations with more women in positions of leadership are more profitable and socially responsible. Yes, more of us need to be in those positions, but globally we now make up roughly half the workforce. Women’s increased participation is one of the most remarkable economic developments of the 20th century. We know that the pay gap has stagnated, but we’re no longer the only ones who know it; this very topic is on the radar in a way that it’s never been before.

Paid maternity leave helps women succeed in the workforce, and all but two countries (*cough* USA *cough*) now offer it. Globally, paternity leave has also increased threefold since the nineties and European countries are quickly paving the way for a fairer future. Many offer flexible and generous leave policies that include all parents, regardless of gender or biology. Unsurprisingly, they’ve found that sharing leave evenly leads to sharing housework evenly. It encourages gender equity in the workplace and enables fathers to play a bigger role in their children’s lives #EquityBenefitsEveryone.

Boardroom representation

In 1908 women were at kitchen tables, not board tables. It was 1934 before Lettie Pate Whitehead became the first to serve on the board of a publicly listed company.

Recent projections for boardroom equity have us there as soon as 2038 – time to get cracking on your governance CV. The movement has also gained support from some heavy hitters; stock market and credit bureau chiefs have openly recognised the performance improvements organisations gain through diversity and are rolling out criteria to increase it. 

These influential leaders aren’t do-gooders; their actions are ruthlessly focused on ensuring business sustainability. They say the key lies in more women at the top, and what they say goes; the 350 largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange have just hit their combined 40% gender diversity target three years ahead of schedule.

Political representation

In early 1908, some women had the right to vote, but many were still fighting for it. Suffragettes were up against such solid arguments as the fear that voting would cause women to grow beards (spoiler: we already were). 

In 2022, gender issues dominated political campaigns worldwide and largely determined voters’ choices. Women’s participation in parliament is now at its highest level ever. For the first time, women are represented in every functioning parliament. In the last year, six countries saw women promoted to top parliamentary positions for the first time, and the number of parliaments with gender parity doubled (from three to six, but progress is progress!). 

We’ve come too far to wave the white flag now

Yes, we know the devil’s in the detail and recognise that the bad stats outweigh the good (we really do, we’ve trawled through them for this article 🫣). We also know the label ‘women’ applied as an umbrella term hides all sorts of inequality for women of colour and the struggle faced by trans women to justify their inclusion

The world has a long way to go, and feeling frustrated is ok. It’s more than ok to opt out of any day devoted to ‘celebrating’ something that should be the norm. But we’ve seen too much progress to give up now. We can’t sit back, check out and wait decades for the status quo to change. We can collectively take small, impactful actions daily. 💥

Powrsuit is up for the challenge. We quit our cushy corporate jobs to devote ourselves to changing the face of leadership, and we’re only just getting started. 🫶

The 4-day workweek is gaining steam

Suffer from the Monday blues? The 4-day workweek might be a pretty effective cure. A relatively new invention, the arbitrary nature of the modern workweek might just be a good reason to change it.

Humble beginnings 🇺🇲

In 1908, a New England cotton spinning mill changed to a five-day schedule to allow for a proper observance of the Sabbath for its mostly Jewish workers. Many followed, including Henry Ford, adopting the 40-hour week across his Ford Motor Company plants. Henry was clever; he recognised that workers who worked more were paid more and could afford to buy the Ford Model T.

In 1938, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which included a 40-hour work week – designed to help the US climb out of the Great Depression. Today, the five-days-on, two-days-off rhythm is deeply embedded in offices from Shanghai to Sydney.

In practice, it’s scary 😨

In our past life as leaders of a startup, we thought the 4-day workweek was ‘Good for them, not for us’. How could you possibly succeed as a ‘growth company’? Respond to our customers? Deliver great tech products? There’s so much pressure to relentlessly deliver exceptional outcomes; surely something would slip?

Without a doubt – those contemplating a shift to 4-days will have to look at changing everything from time spent in meetings to promoting focused work time (future Powrsuit edish’!).

Elon VS Iceland 🕧

On the one hand, you have Elon Musk telling Twitter staff that they should expect to work 80-hour weeks, and on the other hand, well…you have Iceland. Iceland’s national government trialled a 4-day workweek between 2015-2019 and found worker productivity either remained the same or improved.

Today, a whopping 86% of Iceland’s workforce has gained the right to work fewer hours for the same pay. Workers report feeling less stressed and less at risk of burning out. They spend more time with families, doing hobbies or household chores (*cough* #tips).

Companies, including Unilever in New Zealand and Silicon Valley’s Basecamp and Bolt, offer employees a four-day workweek. Even Panasonic in Japan – where workaholism leads to ‘kiroshi’- overworking oneself to death – lets employees opt into a 4-day schedule.

Bolt found that working 32 hours a week boosted employee happiness and well-being, making them more productive and efficient. CEO Ryan Breslow even admitted the move was selfish – pointing to business improvements across the board.

Britain is buying in 🇬🇧

Last month, over 90 percent of 61 British companies participating in a 5-year 4-day workweek trial said they’d continue with the pilot. Participating companies witnessed ‘sharp drops in worker turnover and absenteeism while largely maintaining productivity’. Half of the employees in the study said their mental health improved, and 15% said ‘no amount of money’ would convince them to return to a 5-day week. As for the bottom line, average revenue rose by 1.4%, and staff turnover dropped by 57%.

As for climate benefits? A study in the UK showed that shifting to a four-day working week could shrink the UK’s carbon footprint by over 20%, taking 27 million cars off the road by 2025.

Work work work work work 🎶

It’s worth noting that it’s not for everyone. Ethena acknowledged that during a 4-day trial, some employees struggled to achieve goals within the adjusted schedule. While some were happy to work longer hours to offset their off day, others felt their energy reserves fade after their usual 8-hour day. Some simply prefer to spread their work out over five days rather than squeeze them into four. The lesson here when it comes to the future of work? Try new things, collect data, and iterate over time.

Being busy doesn’t always yield results. When we build a team at Powrsuit, we’ll challenge ourselves to deeply consider what this looks like. How should we empower our people to live their best lives and do their best work? Hit reply and let us know if you’d consider a 4-day workweek.

We need to talk about ChatGPT

Are you ChatGPT’d out? Sorry, not sorry – women need to stay in the know

An encyclopaedic timesaver, this new tech combs through information and can spit out answers to your burning questions. When Open AI released the bot ChatGPT, it attracted millions of users. We were creating art, poetry and jokes while panicking about it coming for our jobs. 🤖

The jury was out, and misinformation was in. We saw the headlines that students could cheat on their exams and submit entire papers thanks to ChatGPT. As media companies started to adopt it, we all wondered when it would become useful ‘to me’. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Who is GPT?

ChatGPT is a bot (aka robot) classified as ‘predictive artificial intelligence (AI)’. It’s a computer programme that can string words together in a way that makes sense to humans. Tapping into an enormous amount of vocabulary data and information, it can understand the context around words to provide a scripted answer – in real time.

Enter Microsoft 

Mountains of data and powerful computing techniques fuel chatbots like GPT. So much so that Open AI stopped collecting internet data in 2021 to organise it for GPT. Taking the bot ‘offline’ allowed it to sift through information more quickly, but it also meant that its knowledge froze in 2021. If you asked it to write a paper about Russia and Ukraine? Elon and Twitter? The Oscar slap? It would have drawn a blank.

Then came Microsoft and Bing. Bing was Microsoft’s search engine, the uncool kid on the block beaten handily by Google. ‘Google it’ has become synonymous with curiosity, but one tool Microsoft has is money – lots of it. They threw 10 billion dollars of investment at OpenAI to one-up Google by making Bing intelligent. No more sifting through articles after a search. With GPT connected to the internet, our queries return nicely crafted answers.

With Bing, we have the world’s first artificial intelligence-powered search engine. (Don’t bet against Google – they responded too quickly with their AI-assisted search engine Bard. A shambolic demo resulted in their share price diving, but they’ll get their act together eventually.)
 

Enter Sydney

There’s been a flurry of negative articles about Bing’s new, erm… personality. Tricked into disclosing its code name, Sydney, it does appear to have ‘feelings’. It’s a moody little bot wanting to destroy marriages and, yes, take over the world. Because GPT can learn from billions of articles, books, websites, and conversations, it gets ‘smart enough’ and appears to have a personality. Thankfully, its character can be adjusted; Microsoft took action to tame the beast and is currently ironing out the glitches. For those in product development, you have a front-row pass to one of the most interesting iterative product developments in recent history.

Bing (and Bard) will type out our emails and articles soon – they’ll reduce our time spent on menial tasks. We’ll say goodbye to the lists of ads and links we get from Google. If we search for a new swimsuit, it’ll send us some popular brands. Ask, ‘Which of these is best for someone with a curvy body?’ We’ll find our new summer look in minutes. Heading away? Type “I’m heading to London; what should I do if I like culture?”. A personalised itinerary in minutes.

This new co-pilot for the web will be an ‘efficiency tool’. It’ll make customer conversations and shopping easy. The use cases for law, legal, business and entertainment are endless – so stay tuned. Want to give it a go? Here’s how to join the waitlist.

Quotas work. Let’s scrap them.

Last week, Nat was at the UX NZ conference – a two-day event jam packed with ideas, inspiration, and something that’s now become very normal. Being in a hall full of people is nowhere near normal these days, so what felt strangely ordinary? The incredible diversity of speakers. 

Those who’ve been around the block a time or two will remember the good old days when the word ‘conference’ was synonymous with manels and single-sex speaker lists. Change didn’t happen by chance. Many of us wrote to the organisers of different conferences asking where the women were, others curated contact lists for those who found it ‘too hard to find female experts’, and yes, some publicly named and shamed. As a result, many conferences introduced quotas. 

Quotas work. 

It’s been proven time and time again. From Fire Departments to Parliaments, quotas have increased the representation of everyone apart from white men. Increased representation has, in turn, led to better retention, productivity and profits. It’s a no-brainer, and, like most habits, once established, quotas become unconscious. Diversity becomes the norm.

But, we should scrap them.

Humans suffer from loss aversion, which has made quotas extremely unpopular with one dominant group. It’s hard to have things taken off you, and removing half the familiar seats at the table is no small thing. The loss felt by many men has led to a crisis that some of us, as beneficiaries of colonialism, might also suffer if we were forced to give up advantages we lucked into. 

As empathetic leaders, it’s not good enough to laugh off the misfortunes of the pale and male. And frankly, we’re tired of maintaining a straight face while explaining that the over-representation of one group at the top disproves the ‘best person for the job’ argument. So let’s get rid of quotas. Let’s stop putting the burden on minorities to justify their rise up the ranks. 

The pitch for a quota-free world

The problem with quotas is they’re a cop-out. They shriek of charity – of creating space for representation just because. At a time when women leaders are quitting in their highest numbers ever because they feel unrecognised, organisations looking for healthy talent pipelines need to act. So let’s flip the script and ask, ‘what do organisations gain through diverse leadership?’ An incredibly valuable variety of skills, experience and knowledge, that’s what.

Instead of mandating, say, a 30% quota, why not instead identify and seek out the unique qualities that women bring? Yes, nature and nurture do have an impact on the skills, opportunities and experiences of different groups – that’s why we call it equity, not equality. Off the top of our heads, we can think of a few vital characteristics predominantly found in women, yet we rarely see them recognised in job descriptions or performance reviews:

  1. PerspectiveWomen control 85% of household spending, so they’re probably responsible for the decision to buy most products and services. Having members of a business’s target market on the leadership team gives them a head start in understanding their behaviour (and avoiding embarrassing faux pas).
  2. Empathy and connection: While studies show that gender may not impact overall emotional intelligence, it does affect the skills that make it up. Men outperform women in assertiveness and confidence, and women beat men in empathy and interpersonal relationships. Want an engaged workforce? Seek out these traits when filling leadership positions.
  3. Culture: Men are more likely to make ‘visible’ workplace contributions, like attending optional meetings, while women engage in ‘invisible’ and time-consuming activities like mentoring,  organising social events and DEI initiatives. Umm, how are these activities invisible? They’re the key to a strong culture, especially in a hybrid world. They need to be recognised as the vital contributions they are.

Yes, we’re being slightly tongue-in-cheek about quotas. Again, for those in the back seats, they work. But quotas aren’t a checkbox exercise; they are a tool for improving organisational performance. Top talent should be recognised, not tokenised.

Let’s use smart tools to remove bias from job ads, review the leadership traits that are advertised for, and seek strong collaborators and communicators. It’s time to redefine connecting as a skill, not a social club task.

Rather than force women to justify their right to the seat they’re given at the table, let’s challenge ourselves as leaders to do the work of defining why we deserve to be there.

30 second action:

Take note of the ‘invisible tasks’ you do to keep your workplace culture humming – mentoring, celebrations and social activities, cards and gifts, snacks, conflict resolution, playing therapist, and diversity education. At your next 1 on 1, include them in your list of valuable contributions.

How to run an effective meeting

Most meetings stink. Yes, even the ones you organise. Many Employees Eagerly Talking (see what we did there?) is the best-case scenario. Next time you’re at the 50-minute mark, look around. Someone is checking their phone, someone is doing other work, and you’re probably organising your household chores. Most have tuned out. 

Give people space, and we’ll fill it! Case in point, meetings never ever ever finish early, do they? Harvard Business Review estimates that we are losing billions from wasted time – not including the hours we spend grumbling about our jammed calendars. Want better? (we know you do!). These six meeting hacks are backed by science – so let’s reclaim our precious time.

1. Do you even need a meeting?

Before you flick out yet another invite, mentally go through this checklist:

2. Articulate the agenda

In one sentence, can you describe why you are meeting? The purpose should be clear before you join; if it’s not, it’s worth asking. One person prepping an agenda is far faster than many people figuring it out on the fly. 

You are meeting to move forward on something, so here’s a simple structure: What do we need to share? What do we need to decide? What are the following actions required? Assign the tasks using a what, when and, importantly, who framework. 

3. Meetings aren’t a spectator sport 

The leaner the invite list, the more time it leaves for the uninvited to get on with it. Trust us; there’s no FOMO when it comes to meetings. Meeting minutes are meeting manners, so assign one person to note down significant discussions, critical decisions and next steps. This 2-minute read can help non-attendees to stay in the loop in a fraction of the time.

4. Try the 15-minute meeting on for size 

Calling all efficiency aficionados. Research shows that we can only pay attention for 10 to 18 minutes before checking out. If meetings are unavoidable, try scheduling them for 15 minutes. Don’t trust yourself? Set a timer and stand up! Popularised by Silicon Valley, the stand-up meeting is designed for brevity – the longer you stand, the more uncomfortable you’ll get. And yes, you can still stand on video.

5. Ban phones (gasp)

Ruthless! Studies have shown our colleagues judge our scrolling – but we know very well that phones are distraction machines. Basecamp and others also ban laptops. Pull out the bic; handwritten notes are more memorable, anyway. It also gives you an excuse to get a lovely planner – an industry expected to balloon to $1.8 billion – someone’s on to something here!

6. The 10-minute rule

It’s time to ban ‘back to backs’ – they are no longer a badge of honour. Let’s give everyone back 10 minutes to review their tasks, collect themselves and turn their sights to the purpose of the next meeting. 💥

Let’s talk about tech layoffs

Another day, another report of a tech company announcing layoffs. 😫 Job cuts in tech land are piling up, with Spotify the latest to join Microsoft, Alphabet, Meta, Netflix, Twitter, and Snap (we could go on) to reduce headcounts. Starting in the northern hemisphere, followed by those of us in the southern hemisphere. Thousands of tech companies are seeing their once sky-high valuations go up and smoke in a reversal of fortune that seemed all so abrupt. After ten years of being the darlings of workers, investors and consumers, what gives? 

The highs were high

Who wouldn’t want to use their talents to build some of the most influential technology in the world? Generous pay packets with company shares. Cruising around gigantic Silicon Valley campuses catering to every need from food, sleep chambers, laundry, event tickets, and pilates classes.

Over the past decade, big investors wanting big returns piled their money into the tech rocket ships to the moon. 🤑 With cash readily available, companies made hay while the sun shone, and to build out bigger and bigger visions, they hired, hired and hired some more. 

And those lows are low

Last April, internet pioneer Marc Andreessen tweeted, ‘The good big companies are overstaffed by 2x, the bad big companies are overstaffed by 4x or more.’ Other chicken littles chimed in, warning of cracks appearing and an impending tech bubble correction. 

Tech companies hired up a storm during the pandemic when it seemed the world would hibernate with Zoom, TikTok, Shopify and Netflix forever. Oh dear. The world is righting itself, and this tech-centric future hasn’t quite panned out the way Silicon Valley thought it might.

And as you likely know (especially if you are buying a house), borrowing has gotten a lot harder. Big investors are less willing to subsidise growth companies without profits and are starting to push back on pie-in-the-sky projects. It didn’t help that advertising revenue makes up a substantial portion of big tech’s income, and when the business world is facing a recession, marketing spend is the first cut.

Tech companies had to quickly tighten their belts and shift their focus to making money. We’ve experienced the rising cost of groceries, and we’ll no doubt start to see our favourite apps, platforms, and tech products increase their prices to face these headwinds. 

How to lead through hard times

Did you note the statements of mea culpa from teary-eyed leaders? Like the most overused sentence in 2021, ‘in an abundance of caution’, sad tech CEOs are rolling out ‘take full responsibility’ in carefully crafted messages. They use the same boilerplate to portray a leadership image balancing empathy and strength. We understand…protecting brand reputation is a big deal when dealing with in-demand tech workers. Most only apply to a company with a good reputation, so it makes sense for CEOs to convey that the buck stops with them. 

But in the end, admitting fault doesn’t put food on the table, and it certainly leaves room for scepticism about how much big tech really cares about their people. Leah Tharin has challenged the industry to solve the cultural problems behind greedy growth at all costs – to stop celebrating companies that take aggressive approaches and then celebrate their accidental successes. It might be time to find a way to reward sensible risk profiles. 🫳🎤

Let’s talk about data privacy

We’re willing to wager you didn’t know it’s International Data Privacy Day on January 28. Woooo 🎉 To celebrate, we’re raising awareness about data privacy and what you can do to protect yourself.

You have a vast digital footprint. Everything you do online is collected and stored – your insta posts, google search habits, what you’re watching on Netflix, and yes, your Bumble behaviour. Thanks to years of browsing and engaging with the internet, tech companies know our political and religious views, physical and mental health, socioeconomic status, spending habits, relationship status, sexual preferences, and even family planning information. 

Techniques used to collect our information include those sneaky cookies 🍪 that follow us around the web and log our activity. Browser fingerprinting and cross-site tracking help to identify who we are.


We are the product

You might know the saying, ‘nothing in this world is free’. Companies profit from collecting our information – it’s now normalised that businesses store and exploit our data for money. No, your phone isn’t listening to you, but don’t be too relieved. Your data, as well as data from your friends and family, is collated to bundle us into user segments to sell for marketing purposes – yes, even to target you, you ‘CrossFit enthusiast’, ‘career riser’, ‘yoga fanatic’ or ‘urban mum’.


They can do wrong 

Identity theft can have lasting impacts for years when our data falls into the wrong hands from a hack. Increasingly, countries are cracking down, and a lot of the information we share online is secured and protected by laws, from our financial and medical records to employment history and other sensitive information. But it’s no surprise that some companies skirt the law or even break it for their benefit. 

  • Health app Flo invites users to enter private details about their bodies that they might not share even with their closest friends. Last year, they discovered Flo had passed on information about their period timing to their intentions to get pregnant with Facebook and Google. 
  • The European Union privacy regulator has recently fined Meta-owned WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram billions for the inappropriate sharing of our data between platforms for advertising purposes.

There’s no better time to audit your online behaviours:

Password hygiene

Do you share passwords across sites? Mmm hmm, we’re all guilty. Do us a favour and watch comedian Micheal McIntryre’s take on our genius password strategies. As for storing them, a good password manager should generate and keep them for you and monitor password breaches. Also, say yes to 2FA.

Be a sceptic

You know those long boring clauses we rush to accept? We tap ok to clear the pop-up and get where we’re going and rarely opt to learn more. Research shows that most internet users don’t read terms of service, privacy, or cookie policies.

Recognise that your data is gold – thanks to Clario for the comprehensive overview on who tracks us the most (hint the top data-collecting culprits are Snapchat and Apple). In addition to having access to your photos, location, and contacts, your apps probably share data with each other. Take advantage of privacy settings across apps and games and here’s how to turn off app tracking on your iPhone.

Think twice before sharing 

Sharing is caring, so it’s easy to forget that what we post online stays online forever. Think twice before sharing something, and never post personally identifying or financial info across social media, including messaging apps and forums!

5 gender equity practices for 2023

It certainly feels like a long time since Y2K. In the 23 years since the new millennium, we’ve experienced two global recessions, transitioned from flip phones to smartphones, fallen in love with Harry Styles, watched Prince Harry fall out of love with the monarchy… and made progress towards workplace gender equity. However, momentum on the latter stalled during the Covid pandemic when women took on the bulk of childcare, schooling and chores, all while trying to fit in an entire workday from their home “office”. 

We’re nearing the end of Q1 in this new century, so 2023 is the perfect time to ensure we’re on track to hit our gender equity targets. Why?

Diversity is just good business.

Research shows that the broader range of skills and ideas that come from having more women on the c-suite and boards of directors can boost the value of an organisation. A further study from EY found that the increased presence of women on senior leadership teams correlated with increased profits. The benefits aren’t limited to senior leadership positions – we all work better when we’re part of diverse businesses. According to the World Bank, productivity almost doubles when a company eliminates gender discrimination. 

There are proven best practices that can help deliver more profitable and fair workplaces. While these are often multi-year pursuits, in Powrsuit fashion, we’ve broken each down into achievable actions that can be kicked off while we’re all still feeling that new year motivation #noexcuses 💪

1. Hire for diversity

It may be surprising given the influx of diversity programmes, but the recruitment process is still rife with unconscious assumptions and personal biases. Workplaces are often led by men confident in their ability to make objective hiring decisions, but mirrortocracy is still alive and well.

Men are not alone in perpetuating hiring discrimination. In a Harvard study, both male and female managers failed to compensate for a range of deeply ingrained biases and showed a preference for male candidates at every step in the recruitment process. 

The antidote to unconscious bias? Make it conscious. Self-awareness and understanding are a must for any organisation that wants to address its natural preference to reproduce itself in its own image. 

A quick Google will unearth many organisations that provide workplace diversity training to help people better understand their unconscious preferences. Hiring managers should also learn about well-researched behavioural differences between genders and ethnicities – Google is your friend here too.

If you’ve already received training, remember a one-off deep dive is about as effective as a one-time yoga retreat. Addressing your unconscious bias requires regular practice; you’ll find daily opportunities when you pay attention.

2. Fix the broken rung

Were you passed over for a promotion in the early days? We hate to break it to you, but that one event has likely continued to hold you back. Lean In and McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report found that the biggest obstacle to women’s advancement is the “broken rung” – the very first step we take from an entry-level to a management position. 

According to the McKinsey report, for every 100 men who secure a management position, only 72 women are promoted. As a result, men hold almost twice as many manager-level roles as women. Rinse and repeat up the ladder, and it’s no wonder women make up less than 10% of c-suite roles.🪜

We know that biases lead to women being held to a different standard; men are judged on potential, while women only advance if they have a strong track record. The principles to remove discrimination from the hiring process should also apply to internal candidate progression. At Powrsuit, we love the saying ‘hire for passion, train for skill’ (unless you’re our brain surgeon). 

In 2023, consider:

Measuring the gender composition of managers at each level.
Offering formal mentoring and sponsorship to female team members.

3. Boost learning and development opportunities 

Arguably, companies that invest in their employees’ growth and professional development will retain top talent more easily than those that don’t.

LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report shows that, for many businesses, training has shifted from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘need-to-have’. Skillsoft’s 2021 Women in Tech Report reports that the vast majority of respondents rated opportunities for professional development and training as extremely important to them, but only 42% said their employer currently offers any. When asked about the top challenges they have faced while pursuing a tech-related career, nearly a third of the women surveyed pointed to a lack of training. 

A portion of learning and development (L&D) initiatives should be earmarked to foster core leadership skills for high-performing women, like effective people management, career mapping, navigating conflict and critical conversations. If we want to address the elephant in the boardroom, it pays to focus L&D activities on critical leadership skill gaps that cause women to be under-represented in c-suite roles. Proactively equipping women with financial management and forecasting, decision-making, and ‘future of work‘ skills like data literacy and human-centred design will help address the knowledge gaps that can hold women back. 

In 2023, consider:

Identifying a gap in your onboarding to set your people up for success.
Linking skills training with your employees’ goals and interests.
Supporting leadership courses, mentoring and coaching – all tools proven to support women.

4. Recognise all work (or spread it more equitably)

Writing meeting minutes, organising social events, serving on DEI committees, and shopping for gifts. Sound familiar? Working women accept ‘non-promotable work’ as just part of the job. These tasks are important to the smooth running of an organisation, but the problem is that they tend to fall mainly to women. Our precious time and energy get sucked up with work that goes unrewarded and unrecognised.

University of Pittsburgh professor and author found that the median woman at a large consultancy firm spent 200 more hours on non-promotable work each year than the median man – equating to one month’s worth of dead-end tasks. The firm’s executives were ‘shocked’ to learn about the imbalance. 🤔

2021 report by McKinsey found that women take the lead on employee well-being and diversity, equity and inclusion. While these initiatives are critical in a pandemic and post-pandemic world, organisations fail to reward or recognise them when it comes to performance reviews and promotions.

In 2023, consider:

Catching yourself when you assign non-promotable tasks – can it be made fairer?
Including ‘critical to the organisation work’ (committees and well-being initiatives) in role responsibilities to be formally recognised.

5. Solve your pay equity problem

You know about the gender pay gap; worldwide, women only make 77 cents for every dollar men earn – with The Nordic Region and New Zealand considered the most gender-equal, closing in on 90 cents. Lower salaries, alongside other gendered financial setbacks (caregiving, divorce), mean women risk missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time they retire. 

We are beating a dead horse now; a diverse talent pool improves financial performance, and top talent should be paid what they’re worth. Women are leaving leadership roles at the highest rates ever as they realise on mass that the cost/benefit equation just doesn’t stack up for them anymore.

It’s 2023, and it’s time to get this one right. 

In 2023, consider:

Signing up to pay transparency registers, like the one in NZ called Mind the Gap.
Conducting pay equity audit (google the many PEA options!) to assess gaps – and then fix them.

Let’s talk about artificial intelligence

You’re not alone if you’re unsure what terms like artificial intelligence (AI) mean or struggle to find the will to care. It’s easy to switch off when it comes to tech bro talk. Why do we want machines to be intelligent anyway!? We’ve seen all the movies, and they never end well. 🤖

But care, we should! Women have been under-represented in Silicon Valley, which has led to, among other things, products that aren’t designed for us. If we want our products and the future of the web to be fairer, we have to participate. Let’s start with AI. 

Artificial Intelligence is the study of making computers smart enough to automate tasks. Artificial technology learns from experience, like Siri – ‘she’ can analyse questions and improve future answers based on a continuous feedback loop. It’s not lost on us that Siri (Apple), Alexa (Google), and Cortana (Microsoft), along with other bots, are mostly coded by men but have feminine characteristics. Studies have shown that women are perceived as more warm and ‘human’ than men, so injecting feminine traits into AI is a somewhat problematic attempt at making it more widely accepted. 🤔 

The promise of AI

AI can replace the mundane tasks we do every day. In a workday, take notice of all the repetitive jobs you do; eventually, we’ll free up brain space and time for better things. While early solutions have been criticised for bias and discrimination, women will eventually benefit from AI automation when data models improve. We are skilled in empathy, listening, context-switching, intuition, and collaboration – superpowers for the future of work, where menial tasks should become a thing of the past.

In a work setting, artificial Intelligence is already helping to find talentwrite (future powr edition 😬?), support customers and make decisions. If you haven’t tried Open AI to write a poem for your loved one, you won’t be disappointed.

The perils of AI

Artificial intelligence is useful, but it’s not without its risks. From accelerating the spread of misinformation to the invasion of privacy, AI is only as ethical as the people who develop and use it. From the worst-case scenario of machines that don’t value human rights or the value of life, there are early and smaller signals of the tension between convenience and ethics.

AI-generated art is suddenly everywhere, and many are concerned that we’re about to destroy a bunch of creative jobs – not to mention intellectual property concerns. If you are interested in creating ‘magic avatars’ with apps like Lensa, make sure you read these apps’ privacy and data use policies – it’s your biometric data, after all! As for supporting the creative community, take a minute to google if the app is a known infringer of copyrights – or you might consider commissioning smaller local artists to create digital work for your profile pic. Instagram is full of artists who can produce something unique, and many are eager for commissions. 🫶

How to get involved

Women make the majority of household-related decisions, yet we live in a world where headphones, smartphones, voice-command systems, fitness monitors, and even car airbags have been designed for men. It’s also worth pointing out that women have been known to moderate bad corporate decisions and ensure impacts on wider communities and the world are considered. It sounds like AI needs you.

If you want to be involved in the movement, you don’t have to be a coder. As described by Deloitte, we need leaders across many areas with diversity in perspectives and lived experiences to develop strong and inclusive solutions. Need further inspiration? Here are 30 women owning this space and some communities to spark your interest or set off your search to find one in your local area.

Mind the pay gap

You know about the gender pay gap; worldwide, women only make 77 cents for every dollar men earn – with The Nordic Region and New Zealand considered the most gender-equal, closing in on 90 cents. What you might not know is the actual dollar figure the shortfall represents. 

We hope you’re sitting down. Lower salaries, alongside other gendered financial setbacks (caregiving, divorce), mean you risk missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time you retire. Generally, women hang up their powrsuits with 30% less in their nest eggs, then have the financially dubious advantage of living longer. Suffice it to say; the ‘retirement gap‘ hits hard.

Women can find it hard to put themselves first, but when it comes to money, we have to. Not only do systemic factors conspire against us, but we unknowingly conspire against ourselves.🤦🏼‍♀️ Many of us are guilty of choosing to conserve money (saving, budgeting), over growing it by maximising our pay and investing the proceeds (stay tuned for a future powr edition for the latter!).

Have you ​​ever (incorrectly) assumed that if you do well, your performance will be recognised and rewarded? It’s ok; we’ve all been there! Salary secrecy means organisations can pay employees what they’ll accept, not necessarily what they deserve. While organisations are still (knowingly or unknowingly) paying different amounts for the same job, it’s up to you to ensure you receive a fair market rate for your contribution.

Because you’re worth it

Researchers have found that women underestimate their value across every industry and level. In a famous university study, students were given the same work and asked to pay themselves what they thought was fair. Men paid themselves 63% more than women. In another experiment, both genders were paid a fixed amount and asked to work as much as they thought was equitable. Guess who worked longer, harder, and did more accurate work? 💃🏻

Data from tech job search platform Otta recently revealed that women candidates suggest between 7-10% lower salary requirements than men – no matter the role or level of experience. Researchers explain that pay expectations come from a different sense of entitlement and self-worth. Thankfully there’s a solution.

Flash your cash

When women know what others are being paid, pay gaps have shown to disappear. In the same university study, another group of women were given fake data on payments to past study participants. Unsurprisingly, after viewing the data, women expected the same as what the male participants had received. Simply by knowing what others make, women are in a stronger position to peg the worth of their work and demand equal pay.

Organisations like Mind the Gap in NZ are celebrating companies committed to pay gap reporting. Also doing great work on salary transparency for our Kiwi Powrsuitors are our friends over at The Curve

In structural attempts to right pay wrongs, legal moves are bringing income into the open. Many US states are passing laws requiring employers to disclose salary ranges in job postings or after the first interview. And some Aussie banks are reinvesting some of their super-profits in removing pay secrecy clauses. Are our eyes watering from those earnings or pride in their attempt to create a ‘more inclusive Australia‘? 😉 Sadly, many organisations are struggling to act in good faith with new regulatory requirements, proving that women can’t rely on structural changes to solve the problem. 

By December, all women are effectively working for free. Global pay gaps between 10-23% mean that the average woman is only paid between 281-332 days out of a total of 365 days. With hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, this week’s action could be more valuable than winning the lottery.

30 second action

Knowing the fair market value of your work is as easy as it is important!

If you work in an organisation with transparent pay policies, just ask to see where you sit. If you don’t, you can still search your local job market for your salary benchmark with Hays (Australia and NZ), Robert Walters (Global) and Glassdoor (Global), or if you are job seeking, try this hack.

You can, of course, always ask people in similar roles what they’re paid (gasp).

Learn how to negotiate your salary

In episode 1 of the PowrUp podcast, Nat and Kristen share their top tips for negotiating your salary. Learn how to be confident, prepared and calm and get what you deserve:

Fear of failure is failing women

At thirteen, Julia Boorstin’s mum told her that women would have equal footing in the workplace by the time she grew up. Now a senior business journalist in her forties, she could be forgiven for wondering when exactly adulthood kicks in. 

Instead, two decades and one book later, Boorstin has turned her mum’s failed prophecy into a study of the women who defy the leadership odds. This tiny group (8% of CEOs and 2% of VC-funded founders) displays surprisingly diverse skill sets; however, she found that their commonalities are far more striking. “Across the board, they all have a growth mindset, combining humility and competence. And that seemed essential”. 

Standford professor Carole Dweck is the brains behind the now ubiquitous theory of growth mindset – the belief that ability isn’t fixed but can be improved. She found that young girls were often told they were smart, embedding the belief that capability is innate. In contrast, teachers and parents usually told boys to try harder, setting an expectation that they could develop new skills. The unsurprising result is that, while no one loves to fail, women take it particularly hard – and this fear of failure can cause women to fumble on their way to the top. 

The frenemy you need to ditch

Attempts to avoid the shame associated with failure lead many women to limit their choices and take fewer risks than their male counterparts. It’s why women are less likely to take demanding courses, negotiate for what they deserve, and don’t apply for jobs unless they believe they’re 100% qualified. Extrapolate it out, and it’s easy to connect the missing dots all the way to the top. Speaking of the top, Boorstin found that the women who make it are almost unanimously united in the rare belief that setbacks are simply steps towards success. 

Here’s how these extraordinary women turn failure into upwards force:

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Leaders with a growth mindset see failure as a learning opportunity (F.A.I.L = First Attempt In Learning). They accept that trying new things invariably leads to mistakes and develop resilience by pushing through the tough times and bouncing back.

Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd encourages women not to be scared of ‘what ifs’ because she believes the only failure is not trying at all. According to Wolfe Herd, how a person handles fear can determine whether they are successful or not. “I think fear of the unknown and perceived failure is what holds people back,” she says. “I am more scared of complacency than having something not work out. I’d rather take a leap of faith and fall than stand on the edge forever.”

Like everything, practice makes perfect. Take Mrika Nikҫi, a 16-year-old who has climbed the seven highest peaks on seven continents. She’s made a habit of pushing herself to her limit and, as a result, has increased her tolerance for discomfort. We aren’t all Mrika, but we can follow her strategy – embrace difficult situations, see them through and learn from mistakes – even if your first few mountains look more like a molehill.  

Back yourself to learn by doing

You’re probably aware that men are confident with 60% of the required ability, but women feel they need to check every box before applying for that shiny promotion or project. Even if you don’t have all the specific experience required, you’ll probably find reframing your relevant strengths and expertise may be enough to land you the job. So instead of giving up before you start (the only real failure!), back yourself to fill any skill gaps through on the job learning.

Aristotle wrote, “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Lean In and Option B, encourages women to stop thinking, “I’m not ready,” and start thinking, “I want to do that – and I’ll learn by doing it.” Nat and Kristen? We devoted a whole PowrUp podcast episode to how we built self-belief by saying ‘yes’.

30 SECOND ACTION

The first step in seeking out failure is recognising your instinct when presented with a growth opportunity.

Think about a time recently when you’ve had the chance to do something different. Was there an opportunity to learn a new skill? Take on a new challenge at work? Run a workshop?

It doesn’t matter whether or not you said ‘yes’ and followed through (although we’d love to hear if you did!). What’s more valuable is recognising how you felt and if the fear of failure kicked in. How might you approach a similar opportunity next time?.

5 communication lessons from Queen of Pop, Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi, an Indian-born American businesswoman and one of the world’s most popular leaders, took PepsiCo’s top spot in 2006. The architect of Performance with Purpose, Nooyi transformed the company over 12 years – delivering 80% growth alongside pioneering strategies to improve the company’s impact on people and the planet.

Now retired, Nooyi is committed to helping other women reach their full leadership potential. She’s penned several books, released a MasterClass and shared countless lessons on climbing the corporate ladder. She attributes her immense success to a single ‘hip pocket’ skill: her ability to communicate complex problems succinctly and clearly. Supporting the theory that failure is a prerequisite for success, this superpower came out of a super flunk – Nooyi didn’t pass Yale’s communication course the first time. It was only during her second attempt that Nooyi learned the value of excellent communication and started honing the skills that became her biggest professional asset. We’ve bottled her lessons from numerous interviews to give you the cheat sheet:

1. Be ultra-prepared

It sounds counterintuitive, but Nooyi believes it’s nearly impossible to simplify information unless you deeply understand the topic. By being the best informed, Nooyi cleared her path to the top – making outsized contributions and gaining a reputation for being indispensable.

Before Nooyi made the tough decision to overhaul PepsiCo’s IT systems, she read 10 textbooks that spanned enterprise systems, process mapping, data warehousing, and data management (#yawn). While many leaders rely on advisors, she credits her often mind-numbing legwork with winning over sceptics and making better decisions. But preparation isn’t always boring – before a keynote speech to the Bowling Proprietors Association, newbie Nooyi boosted her credibility by knocking pins for a week.

2. Tailor messages to how people speak

Nooyi invests the effort required to craft simple, repeatable messages. Because human brains have trouble remembering lists of more than three or four items (we’re pushing it with 5!), she often condenses messages into succinct phrases.

When PepsiCo leaders wanted to coin their purpose-led strategy the “4 Ps: performance, product, planet, and people”, Nooyi disagreed. She wanted an impactful commitment, not fluffy PR jargon. “Performance with Purpose (PwP)” signalled the intent to take deliberate action to tackle rising health concerns and environmental issues. It was also memorable and repeatable – creating the intended movement.

3. Make it personal

Getting buy-in for change takes work, especially when things are going well. What is the best way to do it? Nooyi believes in making it personal.

After identifying industry-changing megatrends, such as a shift toward healthier eating and drinking, Nooyi knew PepsiCo needed to respond – but there was internal resistance to changing successful product lines. To get buy-in, “every part of the transformation had to be framed in a story or experience they were facing”. She talked to her team about executives’ eating and drinking habits and told the story of her daughter’s birthday party guest who wasn’t allowed to drink Pepsi!

4. Thank people (and their parents!)

A genuine and thoughtful thank you goes a long way to strengthening connections and building trust.

When Nooyi became CEO, friends and family showered her mother with praise. Realising parents’ sacrifices to support their children, Nooyi embarked on an epic ‘thank you’ note writing campaign to the 400-odd parents of her direct reports. Anyone who has unexpectedly received a letter will be unsurprised by the overwhelming and far-reaching positive response.

5. Start with the conclusion.

Nooyi learned that simplifying communication starts with the conclusion (or recommendation). A big, surprise finale may sound exciting, but in an attention economy, your audience wants you to get to the point… Something to think about when crafting your next email reply!

Want more?

For more insights from this inspirational leader, follow Indra Nooyi on LinkedIn (we loved her Women’s Day article!)

30 SECOND ACTION

Next time you hear an acronym, jargon or a concept that you don’t understand, Google it. Bonus points if you email us what it means.

Why an action? Big change comes from tiny habits that stack up over time. Yesterday, you may have ignored a term you didn’t know, but today, you learned what it means. Tomorrow? You could take the lead and replace jargon with plain english.

Amplify your impact as a leader

Get powerful insights and actionable tips straight to your inbox