5 simple ways to learn by doing 🎙️

We’re all familiar with the research: as women, we are less likely to put ourselves forward for promotions. We expect to know the whole job before starting (and undersell what we already know!). Our comfort zones are, well, comfy. The unknown? Not so much. 

The power of ‘yes’ 📣

You know the thing you’ve been holding yourself back from? It’s time to say ‘yes’ to it. The latest PowrUp episode challenges you to challenge your fears and GO FOR IT – take the risk opportunity and back yourself.  

It’s like riding a bike 🚴

Remember when you first rode a bike (or learned to swim, climb, and tie your laces…). You probably watched others, got some advice, mastered trial and error – and did all of this as a five-year-old! Yes, you’re already an expert at learning while doing; you already know how to problem-solve your way to success. You’ve mastered the ability to digest information, put it into practice, reflect and analyse, and then give it another go (*rinse and repeat*). 

You’ve heard the term, ‘fake it ’till you make it’? We prefer ‘you got this; it’s ok to learn while doing’. Here are five ways to back yourself to do it:

1. Act with confidence

From superhero poses to documenting your successful track record, there are lots of hacks to boost your confidence. However, researchers have found that the fastest way to build confidence is to make the choice to have it

2. Focus on the fundamentals

You don’t have to get a PhD on every subject, a broad understanding of lots of things is a superpower in itself. When tackling something new, identify the most critical elements of the role/task/skill – and just focus on those. Managing people for the first time? Master the 1:1 meeting before perfecting the art of delegation. 

3. Talk to people who’ve done it

Look through your network (and the networks of your network), and identify a few people that have ‘been there, done that’. You don’t always need to get a formal mentor, sometimes, coffees with a handful of experienced people will give you everything you need to know about how to master the new role/skill/task. 

4. University of Google

Between Medium, Reddit, Linkedin, businesses and experts who openly share their expertise – the internet has you covered. Want to learn how to ‘successfully manage a project’? The 1.3 billion results on Google are there to support your efforts. ‘How to budget and forecast’? 152 million results. You’ll be amazed at how much you can digest in 2-3 hours of focused research. 

5. Hone your observation skills

Be the most curious person in the room. During meetings, focus on who’s leading well and why. While at events, analyse the speakers to understand who is nailing body language and delivery. Witness someone diffuse a challenging situation? Spot a person with effortless networking skills? Observe and apply. Eventually the skills you mimic will become your own.

Take action

You know when you’re faced with an interesting opportunity, you can feel it in your gut. Next time one is presented to you (no matter how small it is), practise taking action. If things work out, you’ve learned you can do more than you thought. If they don’t? You now know you can handle more than you think. 

Want more examples, insights and tips?

On episode 5 of PowrUp, we share our stories of saying yes to the unknown, and how we built self-believe through three simple tools. Listen now

What if it all works out? The power of positivity

Michael Jordan is perhaps the best basketballer of all time – and half of one of the world’s most profitable partnerships. He’s athletic, talented and driven, but these are traits shared by every professional sportsperson. So, compared to the best, what gave him an almost superhuman ability to stand out?  

His mindset.

Jordan isn’t superhuman – he battled nerves like the rest of us. What set him apart was a supreme mastery of self-doubt. He wasted very little time imagining things going wrong and focused all that energy on planning for it to go well. He had such control of this ability, and he could turn almost anything into fuel. Critical feedback? It was catnip. At the mere suggestion, he wasn’t good enough; he could find a new gear and achieve seemingly impossible physical feats. 

We’ve heard enough success stories to know what you’re thinking. Good for him. With his incredible stature and talent, a bit of self-belief is easy. 

Incredible talent, you say? Are you talking about the guy who got cut from his varsity basketball team for ‘not being good enough’? Jordan’s place in history may now seem inevitable, but he succeeded despite experiencing the kind of setbacks that would make most people quit. Think about all the times you’ve doubted yourself after strong external invalidation of your abilities. Maybe Nat could have been an Olympic swimmer after all. 😉

Positivity is a practice

Last week, Kristen joined fellow Powrsuiter Jodi Willocks at the Wellington launch of consultancy Bastion Shine (yes, please send all the invites our way!). Also on the list were members of the world-champion Black Ferns rugby team. When we say world champion, we mean six-time world champion; these women are good. However, when co-captain Kennedy Simon stood up to speak, she recounted a tough period leading up to the world cup. They’d underperformed on a European tour, and despite overwhelming evidence of their abilities, self-doubt had well and truly embedded itself. 

Then they received this challenge: “what if it all goes right?”.

That (plus a lot of internal work!) was enough to change their mindset. And it led to a record-breaking performance that redefined the place of women’s sports in popular culture. Those of us who watched the final still tear up when talking about it, but perhaps instead, we should just tear a leaf out of their book and embrace the mindset that led to their success. Because if they can do it, why not you?

Get your hopes up!

Common knowledge (and more than a few studies) recognises that success in sports is 90% mental. It’s absurd how little we apply that philosophy to our own careers, and even more absurd how often we default to doing the exact opposite.

Thankfully, failure no longer correlates with death, but our brains don’t seem to have caught up. What may have served us well when looking into a prehistoric predator’s face is limiting when facing a career challenge opportunity. Even with very little on the line, women tend to shy away from situations that put us at risk of failing. We can default to negativity when applying for a new role, trying a new sport, or learning about topics like finance. We overanalyse all the ways things might go wrong but ignore how it could go well.

Here’s a wee truth bomb for you; when you want something, your hopes are already up. Planning for failure doesn’t protect you from the pain of it; it will still hurt. Why put the time, effort and energy behind the outcome you want the least? When we put it like that, it does feel counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

We talk a lot about having a growth mindset these days. Most of us now believe that our abilities aren’t fixed, and that we can learn and improve. Let’s go one step further and imagine the results. Imagine what that life will look like if it all goes right. 

Then go ahead and do it.

30 second action:

Think back to when you took a risk. Remember how you felt at the time? How did it turn out in the end? What did you learn from it?

Feedback is a gift, here’s how to give it with grace

For many of us, the only thing worse than receiving critical feedback is giving it. It doesn’t feel good to make someone else feel bad – and even worse? The Pandora’s Box of potential responses. Most of us have delivered feedback poorly – or given it well only to have a negative situation escalate. When tensions are high, the prospect of making a situation worse can be enough to convince smart people to stay silent. 

Silent, maybe, but not subtle. Our body language and behaviour always deliver feedback, even when our tongues are tied (or wagging in the wrong directions). In our attempts to avoid ‘confrontation’, women often turn to far more toxic tools like passive aggression or talking about people instead of to them. Guilty? Join the club. But the next time you catch yourself moaning about someone, why not try feedback instead?

Feedback is a gift that helps people succeed 

Fear of feedback means we fail to see it for what it really is: a powerful leadership tool. At Hatch, we used it to create a culture of radical collaboration. One of the reasons Powrsuit even exists is because of a piece of feedback between us; the internal processor told the external processor (we’ll let you guess who’s who 😉) she needed more time to digest information. Left unaddressed, these different styles would have led to miscommunications and resentment. Instead? The feedback established a foundation of mutual respect and trust lasting two startups and half a decade. 

A dish best served warm

Embedding feedback into a workplace culture takes time and is not always a smooth road. At Hatch, we hired a lot of people quickly, and many of them had never received quality feedback about their work before. They walked into an environment that was so comfortable with feedback it was given liberally, regularly, and without much of the structure, we now recommend. You can guess how well that went 🫣.

Initially, we were met with every adverse reaction you can imagine. It felt awful. But we took that feedback on board and iterated our approach. Over time, our team started actively seeking input from us and one another; they didn’t just endure it; they enjoyed it. And that’s the trick with feedback. It’s a trust-building exercise that can be built through trial and error and adopting tiny habits. The more (clear, kind) feedback we give and adapt to the feedback we receive, the more it becomes a beloved part of workplace culture. 

Clear is kind: how to give critical feedback without fear

We shouldn’t be afraid of feedback, but we should respect the importance of doing it right. All feedback should be specific, regular and timely. The positive stuff should be doled out like candy in public – people are amazing, and their talent should be celebrated. Critical feedback, however? It’s always a private conversation. Found a quiet spot? Here are five tips for delivering it in a way that builds bridges instead of burning them. 

1. Swap feelings for facts

The first rule of feedback is to assume the best intentions or, better yet, avoid assumptions altogether. Apply the disconnect principle; you know there’s a disconnect between what you expected and what happened – but that’s all you know. You don’t understand why someone delivered a substandard report, failed to send an email, or sat silently in a meeting. Any explanation at this stage is a story you’re telling yourself – one that will likely cause you to put feelings before facts.

2. Listen first

Once you’ve psyched yourself up to deliver feedback, it’s all too easy to dive straight into it. That is the wrong thing to do (yes, we learned this one the hard way!). People react to a negative interaction with their boss six times more strongly than a positive one. Most people are also aware when something isn’t going well. You can avoid much pain by simply asking about the situation first. Be curious, listen to understand, and prepare to be surprised by what you learn.

3. Ask for permission

If you agree with their perspective, you can avoid giving feedback altogether. Feel free to clarify anything or end the conversation there. If you disagree? Ask permission to share your perspective by saying something like, ‘I want you to succeed, so I’d like to give you some feedback. Is that ok?’. Instead of feeling blindsided, the other person can gather themselves and opt-in. 

4. Describe behaviours, not personalities

Remember the internal and external processor example above? That feedback could have been given entirely differently – e.g.’ you’re too dominant’ VS ‘I need a bit more time to digest’. Spot the difference? One assumes a personality problem, and the other focuses on a behaviour that isn’t working. No one should be expected to change who they are, but most of us are happy to adapt if given clear examples of what’s not working and how it impacts others: “When you interrupted me while I was explaining my point, it felt like my opinion wasn’t valued”, and “When you arrived late to the call, it meant we couldn’t complete the agenda”. No one loves hearing it, but critical feedback is far easier to swallow when it’s delivered tactfully.

5. Share the load

The purpose of feedback is to help someone or something improve, and it’s just the first step. When you give feedback, you’re volunteering for a spot on the solution committee, and you need to take that role seriously. The immediate next step is to check if the other person agrees with you by asking questions like “does that feel like a fair representation?”. Remember, this is a joint problem-solving exercise, so once you’re on the same page, agree on the next steps. These could be anything from taking a few days to reflect to agreeing to solutions. Regardless of the plan, it’s your responsibility to check in again and talk about how things are going. Hopefully, the next conversation will be pure positivity.

30 second action:

Give positive feedback! When you spot someone doing something you appreciate today, tell them in the moment. Timely, specific feedback can be actioned in under 30 seconds and should be practised regularly.

Welcome to our new podcast: PowrUp 🎙️

The world is better when more women are in positions of power and influence.

As the world emerged from Covid, we left Hatch and were shocked to find that, while we’d been growing our business, every gender equity metric had slid backwards. 🫣 We’re no spring chickens, but we still get ID’d occasionally, making us exceptional. We have high levels of self-confidence but take that claim literally: we are the exception to the norm. In a world where women-founded startups receive under 2% of venture capital, ours was acquired after 5 years. Women comprise a quarter of executive positions, and we’ve both held them.

But we shouldn’t be exceptional. So, we left our cushy corporate roles to open source the leadership playbook and get more women represented in positions of power and influence at every level.

Our newsletter was our first step, and our podcast, PowrUp, is the second. Think of us as your personal cheerleaders, providing the tools to equip yourself with the confidence and skills to shape your career on your terms. Of course, we hope to entertain, enlighten, and inspire you along the way. 🫶

In ep 1, How to negotiate your salary, we challenge you to get what you deserve. Learn the best ways to capture and communicate the value you bring to the table. Prepare for this critical conversation from giving yourself a pep talk to having a plan b.

In ep 2, What is the Metaverse? we demystify today’s digital worlds. This is your jargon-free (and tech-bro-free) guide to the new digital realm. Learn about the women shaping them and why, as women leaders, we must be across developments in virtual reality.

In ep 3, Imposter Syndrome, get unfiltered advice on overcoming the fraud in your feelings. Learn the surprising history and bust the myths behind this global ‘epidemic’ experienced by high-achieving women leaders.

You can listen to PowrUp in all its glory on any of your favourite podcasting platforms – make sure to hit subscribe or follow so that you get notified when new episodes drop each week!

How to be your own hype girl: The art of self-promotion

Do you suffer from FOIY (Fear Of Introducing Yourself)? Ok, the acronym isn’t a thing, but the fear really is. We’ve all been there, that moment when someone asks, “so, what do you do?”. Cue: a mind as blank as the faces that turn to stare at you.

Before your brain starts dishing out excuses for your inability to articulate your value: No, it’s not bragging. No, your work alone won’t prove your worth. Yes, you do have something important to say. Yes, people will think you’re more interesting if you (succinctly) tell them why they should.

Thanks to ‘likeability bias’, women are less likely to promote themselves. We expect men to be assertive; it feels natural when they partake in self-promotion – but when we try it on for size? It doesn’t quite fit. We are socialised to be kind, amiable, and pleasant. Those of us who stray too far from these delightful adjectives are labelled with even better ones like ‘passionate’, ‘intense’, ‘loud’, or ‘aggressive’. *wince*

In a classic catch-22, our lack of self-promotion is also responsible for the perception that we are less ambitious and decisive than our male counterparts. When we don’t articulate our value, we lose out on promotions, raises, and investor backing. Less than 2% of venture capital funding went to all-female founding teams in 2021. Yep, more bias.  

Your work may be excellent, but it’ll never be excellent enough to speak for itself

Systemic bias feels like a big topic to tackle, but hey, why not? Women have successfully changed hearts and minds regarding marathons, elections and credit cards; compared to that list, likeability seems an easy win. Just like the leaders before us, we have the opportunity to rewrite the self-promotion playbook and make it work for us. Unlike many of them, we can do without fearing anything but failure. So, put on your powrsuit because it’s time to sell like a girl:

LinkedIn: yes, we still hang there

LinkedIn can be a toxic mess of self-aggrandising and #BoastPosts. However, ‘quirks’ aside, it’s is a great place to build a profile (and following) by sharing relevant news or a recent experience – personal or professional. Put simply: it’s a must for personal brand management.

Like most platforms, LinkedIn is just a blank canvas – people make it what it is. Your future community are scrolling through their feeds, looking for inspiration and information. These people can help you get where you want to go, so tell them what you’ve done! Authentically share your successes and stories. Be visible, be genuine, be you. Let’s add some Big Female Energy to LinkedIn.

Powrsuiters showing us the way are Anna Parker, Candyce Costa and Samantha Gadd.

Rehearse your elevator pitch

People are busy; they want to understand who you are (and why they should care) in under 60 seconds. An elevator pitch captures what makes you uniquely you – and hints at what you can offer. 

Don’t have a pitch yet? It’s key to building networks (we know you’re networking now!). Think of it as a ‘short and sweet’ description of who you are, what you do, and what you’re working on. Once you have yours down, you can roll out a variation of it in any situation (cue: nodding heads and smiles). Kristen is the PowrPitchTM  master, so we’ve broken down her five components to provide a template for yours:

  1. Intro: Hi, I’m [your name here].
  2. One liner: I’m a [journalist, connector, problem solver, leader].
  3. Superpower: I get out of bed to [grow startups, simplify complex challenges].
  4. Evidence: Recently, I have [delivered an incredible project, solved a problem, or achieved a thing].
  5. Ask (optional): Right now, I’m looking to [find a new job, launch a new business, learn a new skill, meet new people].

Put it together and keep it short, sweet and conversational. You have our permission to switch up words and make it your own, but keep from going over 60 seconds. Struggling? Nail your superpower by asking friends and colleagues what they rely on you for. Make sure you also keep a running list of 2-3 success stories you’re proud of, polish them all and switch up your evidence depending on the situation.

You can (and should) be proud and excited; people are genuinely interested in hearing about the cool things you’ve done. And practice makes perfect, so test your pitch on friends, family, and the people in the elevator beside you – it’ll take a few tries to get it down. With that in mind, Kristen and Nat have volunteered to share theirs:


Hi, I’m Kristen –  a leader in the startup space. Solving problems at scale is an incredible place to be. I was a co-founder at the investment platform Hatch, and we’re immensely proud of its impact on Kiwi wealth building. After we exited to FNZ, I caught the bug to start something new with my co-founder Nat. We’ve just launched Powrsuit, a platform for women to amplify their impact as leaders. We’re currently learning about where we can have the biggest impact.

Hey, I’m Nat – a serial founder with a mixed bag of successes. Most recently, I co-founded Hatch to change the wealth stories of New Zealanders. An epic four years later, Hatch was acquired by FNZ, and it was time for the next challenge. When we came up for air, the lack of progress in workplace gender equity was glaringly obvious, so Kristen, my co-founder and I started Powrsuit to solve the problem at scale. Powrsuit is a platform for women to amplify their impact as leaders. Right now, we’re working on our first product.

30 second action:

Write a list of personal and professional accomplishments over the past 12 months. This will help form your elevator pitch (and remind yourself how fabulous you are!). Mega bonus points: Deliver a practice elevator pitch to a friend or record/write it and send it to us (go on, do it, we shared ours!).

The Rise of the Empathetic Leader

Many of us have worked in hierarchical organisations. You know, the sort where senior management sets financial targets, then divvy up tasks and budgets accordingly; the sort that refers to people as ‘resources’.

The effectiveness of this masculine leadership structure is not in dispute – it has undoubtedly led to the success of most of the world’s biggest companies. However, a new type of empathetic leader is emerging in a labour market that’s switched from brawn to brains. As the world grapples with climate change, automation, and disruption, we’ve learned that diverse workforces can solve pressing challenges more innovatively. And guess what diverse employees need? Empathetic leaders. 

Always be closing connecting

Empathetic leaders genuinely believe that people are their biggest asset – from employees and customers to a country’s population. They believe their role isn’t to be ‘in charge’ but to be responsible for those in their charge – to create an environment that inspires and enables people to perform at their best.

Rather than enjoying the power of being the boss, empathetic leaders focus on being great servants. Where a traditional top-down leader would convey their needs and expect employees to deliver on them, empathetic leaders seek buy-in and then look to supply what their people need to do their best work. Fewer KPIs and micro-management, more support and psychological safety. When someone underperforms? Empathetic leaders put effort into understanding why, then adapt around the health issue, childcare chaos, or other stressors – recognising that we can’t always operate at 100%.

Sound touchy-feely? Here are the cold, hard stats: highly empathetic senior leaders who care for an employee’s life circumstances double employee engagement. By creating a safe space for people to make mistakes, collaborate, and ask for help, they also increase the levels of innovation – sixfold. 

The disconnect between leaders and people

The post-pandemic world has highlighted a gap between leaders’ perceptions of their roles and what their people need from them. A 2022 BusinessSolver study found that while almost three-quarters of employees were more motivated under empathetic leadership, roughly the same number of CEOs worried that showing empathy would cost them respect. 

Fortunately, the post-pandemic world has also provided some real-world examples that should alleviate that worry:

When it comes to flexibility, employees won’t bend

Virtually every respondent in BusinessSolver’s study agreed that offering flexible hours demonstrates empathy. As the world opened up and organisations started to enact their ‘return-to-work’ policies, many miscalculated employee expectations (and their desire to hit rewind).

Having adapted to a new way of working, people expected their employer to protect this ‘new normal’. Fifty percent of organisations failed to meet this expectation, and this widespread lack of empathy was a key contributor to The Great Resignation. Conservative estimates place the cost of replacing an employee at up to twice their annual salary, so when competent women head for the exit, it costs a pretty penny.

Layoffs come at a cost

The decision to reduce headcount is a complex and sometimes necessary one. While organisations can mitigate negative impacts by treating employees with empathy, those that don’t send a loud and clear message, ‘we care more about our bottom line than you’. 

Aside from the potentially dangerous consequences for those who lose their jobs, poorly executed layoffs often don’t achieve the desired financial results. Recent tech layoffs (more on this below!) provide numerous case studies of the consequences of putting knee-jerk reactions before people. 

If you must make tough decisions in 2023, consider severance packages, accelerated share vesting schedules, and career coaching to help soften the blow. Comply with laws, act with integrity and take a page from Jacinda’s book: be kind. 🫶

Empathy is a trainable muscle

While empathy is an innate human trait – it’s why babies cry reflexively in response to other crying babies – psychiatrists attribute only about 10% to genetics. Leading with empathy requires practice, a challenge that a ‘boorish’ Steve Jobs accepted after being fired from Apple in the 1980s. And, when research consistently shows that the best leaders refuse to sacrifice compassion when seeking performance, there’s no better time to brush up on our ability to “do hard things in a human way.”

30 second action:

One of the easiest and most effective ways for leaders to cultivate empathy is to have regular agenda-less one-on-ones. In the next 30 seconds, book a catch-up, and turn up with the question: “How are *you* doing?”.

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.

Got a seat at the meeting table? Raise your voice

In the 1960s, executives spent less than 10 hours a week in meetings, leaving plenty of time in the workday for 3-martini lunches 🍸. Fifty years on, and in a classic bad news/good news scenario, long lunches have become as rare as housewives shooting birds

Women may now have a seat at the table, but it’s not always a comfortable one. Modern meeting culture was established half a century ago when women were still fighting for their place on the lowest rungs of the career ladder. In the years since, despite incredible technological and social advances, the biggest change made to meetings seems to be the amount of time we spend in them

While forward-thinking companies pave the way for a future free from back-to-backs, women face a present challenge. In ‘Women at Work’, a 2014 Harvard Business Review study, over half of the women surveyed reported being less effective in meetings than in other work situations. According to research by Catalyst, hybrid work has amplified the problem of women’s struggle to assert themselves. They found that 45% of women leaders said it’s challenging to speak up in virtual meetings, and 20% said they felt ignored or overlooked by workmates during video calls. 

While everyone agrees there is a gender problem, they disagree on the cause. Men interviewed for ‘Women at Work’ put the issue down to women not speaking loudly enough, not finding opportunities to break into the conversation, defensiveness, and apologising too readily. While these critiques can be easily explained by women’s attempts to avoid backlash by navigating expectations of how they should act, other insights can be actioned. 

And act we should. While it’s easy to get rattled when you feel drowned out, we can’t afford to sit back and wait for the world to wake up to the value of our input. We can and should use well-known strategies and techniques to establish our leadership presence at the table. Over the next few weeks, we’ll all be spending a lot of time at another, more food-laden table, so this could be the best time to get practising: 

Project confidence 

Our words have far less impact than our body language. If you’ve watched history’s greatest speech, read the transcript for a stark display of how words alone aren’t nearly as powerful as Martin Luther King’s masterful delivery. 

You have more control than you might think over the image you present to the world, and people respond to the confidence and authority you project. Those who lack confidence tend to shrink – so in meetings, do the opposite. Lean over the table or back in your chair with your shoulders relaxed. Place your arms on the table slightly away from your body and avoid fidgeting nervously with a pen (or nails and cuticles like Kristen and Nat). 

If you’re unsure how to authentically modify your body language, there’s a simple way to figure it out. Next time you’re in your element – hanging with close friends or family – take note of how your body moves. How you walk, sit, gesticulate, maintain eye contact, tone of voice, and show active listening. That’s the presence you bring to your next meeting.

Don’t be too humble

There’s a moment in most meetings where everyone gets a chance to contribute; during the introductions. While it can feel uncomfortable, this is your opportunity to make it clear that you belong. Women tend to undersell themselves, so don’t be fooled by the casual nature of a meeting intro. Practise yours because you have 10 seconds to assert your credibility and establish what you want from the meeting. 

You can make subtle changes to convey confidence during meetings, even if there are no upfront intros. Be more direct by cutting the “maybes” and “what ifs” and swap sentence starters like “How about…” with “I strongly suggest…”. 

Master the pre and post-meeting

While it’s tempting to see meetings as an interruption to your real work, it’s potentially more valuable to reframe them as your real work. Rather than racing in and out, act more like men and build in time at either end to get a good seat, chat with colleagues and build allies. Force yourself to have a buffer by updating your calendar settings in Microsoft or Google to block out 15 minutes on either side of every invite.

Meetings before meetings can also be where real value can be created. Before you go, you should have a good idea of what a successful outcome is (a decision?) and the specific value you can add. Informal conversations allow you to test ideas and garner support, making it easier to take an active part in the conversation once the meeting kicks off. 

Pre-meetings can be as simple as a shoulder tap followed by a question or two, or a quick email to share relevant information. Again, your calendar is your friend – lock in prep time so you prioritise it.

Know the facts

Building a well-formed argument is a powerful communication technique for a leader. You’ll project confidence if you do your homework and go prepared. Counterintuitively, preparing to ‘speak spontaneously’ is important. Write down some things you want to discuss. 

Plan to be rattled

Manterrupting is a thing, and it will happen to you. In fact, during fast-paced meetings, you may be challenged or interrupted, but that doesn’t mean your voice isn’t important – it could come down to different communication styles. If interruptions throw you, you should prepare for them. Here are some one-liners you can jot in your notebook ready to roll out in the moment: 

  • “I haven’t finished my thought and can’t wait to hear what you think about it.”
  • “I’m curious about your response; I’ll finish my point, and then I would love to hear your thoughts.”
  • Feeling confrontational? Kamala Harris used “I’m not finished talking” during the 2020 US Vice Presidential debate

In a video call, you can also raise your digital hand ✋to let other participants know you haven’t finished yet. The same hand also works if you have a point to make but struggle to cut in.

Your voice earns respect

Everyone hates meetings, but while they continue to play a critical role in our work, it’s worth making them work for you. If you’re in the meeting, you’ve earned the right to have your say in the policies, strategic direction or culture of the organisation you work for. So, put your imposter syndrome aside, and have your say. 📢

30 second action

Amplification is a tactic that was popularised by female Whitehouse staffers under President Obama. When a woman made a key point in a meeting, another woman would repeat it and give a nod to the source. The tactic worked – it prevented men from claiming all ideas as their own, and men, including Obama, began calling more often on women and junior aides.

For allies and overachievers: when you next spot a woman at the table with something to add, take your lead from an example in ‘Women, Find Your Voice’ and create a safe space for her to speak up.

Is Imposter Syndrome holding you back? 🎙

After publishing her 11th book, writer, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou admitted that after each one, she still thinks, “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody”. Liz Bingham, a diversity and inclusion champion and award-winning business woman has thought, “What are you doing here? What do you think you’re doing? You’re going to be found out.” Even Tom Hanks has admitted, “No matter what I’ve done, there comes a point where you think, when are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?”.

Imposter syndrome is a term coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes and describes a feeling most of us have experienced. While there’s no official diagnosis, the phenomenon is a form of self-doubt – and has a real impact on the 82% of people who experience it. An affliction of high-achievers, imposter syndrome is the fear that personal accomplishments are the outcome of luck or oversight, not merit and achievement. While imposter syndrome can affect anyone, these waves of doubt disproportionately impact women and women of colour

The double whammy: the role of overconfidence in leadership

A recently published study revealed that, when asked about past performance, men tend to inflate their results at double the rate of women. The study first asked students to complete a set of maths problems; the men and women performed about the same. When asked to recall their performance a year later, most students overestimated theirs. However, while women consistently exaggerated their performance by 15%, men did it by twice as much.

Next, researchers divided participants into teams and asked them to choose a representative to compete against other teams in a maths challenge. Both women and men were willing to exaggerate their capabilities to bag the role; however, because women didn’t do it to the same degree, they were selected a third less often than their abilities would indicate. 

If natural overconfidence is a factor in men being overrepresented in leadership roles, then the underconfidence associated with imposter syndrome is arguably a weight holding women down a few rungs. 🪜 Feel unfair? Both genders in the study mistook confidence for competence. We’re all guilty of attribution bias, so one thing we can do today is changing how we see and present ourselves.

Expose imposter syndrome for the imposter that it is

Change your critical inner voice

Most of us have an ongoing internal commentary, and this inner dialogue can skew to be harsh and judgemental. Anne Elder-Knight, a leading New Zealand-based leadership coach, often gets her clients to complete a simple exercise. They are asked to spend 2 minutes listing their flaws on a piece of paper, and then to do the same with their strengths. Set a timer and try it yourself to get an (often shocking) understanding of your internal dialogue.

Once you’re aware of your critical inner voice, you can start to change it. While positive affirmations may feel like the domain of influencers, scientific evidence supports their role in changing how you view yourself. Start small, and pick an affirmation to say when your feet hit the floor each morning (this article gives a nice overview of how it works). 

Seek out examples

Adding to our blindspots is the adage that you can’t be what you can’t see – minorities often lack visible examples of people like them succeeding in their chosen paths. While we can’t immediately change a top-heavy structure of white males, we can actively seek out examples of leaders who look like us or an environment that normalises our dreams. For the successful duo at Girls That Invest, this meant subscribing to endless podcasts before launching their own. Surrounding themselves with podcasts tricked their brains into believing everyone was already doing it, which made it much easier for them to think they could too.

Celebrate successes and share failures

People who struggle with impostor feelings tend to brush off their accomplishments, which only exacerbates self-doubt. While we think we know ourselves better than anyone else, research shows we really don’t. Numerous studies have shown that our coworkers are often better than us at picking our personality traits. Yet another reason is to ask for feedback – and pay extra attention to the good bits! 

Have you ever told someone something embarrassing about yourself? How often do you find out they have experienced something similar? Sharing failures can be a real confidence boost because most of us are guilty of comparing our insides with others’ outsides. Take Canva, for example. Just a decade after its launch, the company was valued at over $50 billion, and Melanie Perkins, the attractive, young founder, is now the second richest woman in Australia. All very glossy, but that story doesn’t include the 100 rejections Perkins endured on her path to the top. Starting conversations about failure makes us realise that we are all experiencing bumps along the way – and can put our abilities in perspective. 

30 second action

The next time you need to do something out of your comfort zone, spend 30 seconds beforehand talking to yourself in the third person as a coach might. Studies have shown that this simple action can change your critical inner language into what you’d offer as a supportive and helpful friend. 🫶

Want more on Imposter syndrome?

Learn the history and some surprising facts that might make you question whether this ‘syndrome’ is a syndrome at all. Listen to episode 3 of the PowrUp podcast:

I have some feedback for you…

Have you ever spotted someone with spinach in their teeth and didn’t say anything? You’re not alone. A recent study showed that over 98% of people withhold feedback, even when there’s very little on the line – despite most of us wishing we received a lot more of it.

If you’re one of 63% of employees wanting more feedback, our bet is that your workmates are falling short because they’re deeply uncomfortable delivering it. We live in a knowledge economy, where communication, critical thinking, agility and problem-solving are essential skills. Yet, leaders rarely receive formal feedback training and are ill-prepared to provide it. Madness.

Meaningful feedback directly correlates with high performance, so it’s vital to seek it out – even if “I have some feedback for you” are the six most feared words in workplace vernacular. The biggest impact you can have on the amount you’re given is by focusing on how you receive it, so here’s how to turn on the tap:

1. Short-circuit your defensive instincts

Think of feedback as a gift. The giver doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, and your response will hugely impact whether they’ll give you that gift again. 

While we all recognise that feedback is helpful, fear of failure can cause our lizard brains to initiate fight, flight or freeze mode. Our amygdala can’t tell the difference between physical and psychological threats and will jump in to ‘save’ us by overriding our logical brains – leading to an irrational (and sometimes embarrassing) response. 

We’ve all been guilty of defensiveness when hearing something less than glowing about ourselves – especially if it hits a little too close to home. Fortunately, the best antidote is mindfulness. If you feel your heart rate rising, start by saying ‘thank you’, then pause, take a deep breath and pay attention to the physical changes in your body. This will give you those vital seconds to gather yourself and convey your appreciation (even if you don’t feel it yet!).

2. Listen to understand

We all think that we are good listeners, but research shows we only remember 25-50% of what we hear. When it comes to feedback, active listening is critical to understanding the message, not just what you assume it might be. Not convinced? Watch Couples Therapy.

It can be hard to rearrange your features into a ‘tell me more’ expression when someone has just delivered an emotional sucker punch. So try this tactic: repeat back the key points as you heard them. It’ll force your brain to focus on listening to understand instead of thinking about how you’ll respond.

While some can immediately respond to feedback in an elegant manner, most of us are safer sticking with questions to ensure we digest the detail. It’s ok to finish the conversation with, “Thanks for the feedback! I’m going to think about it a bit more and get back to you”. Then take the time to go for a walk, drink, or cry because this stuff is hard. 🫶

3. Create and share your action plan

Your actions after receiving feedback are an excellent opportunity to develop your leadership skills. Even if you wind up disregarding some points (and that’s ok, you don’t need to accept everything!), you’ll likely identify a few things you’re happy to work on.

Firstly, validate the feedback. Opinions are always valuable, but they’re sometimes inaccurate. When dealing with a sample size of one, consider going over the key points with some trusted colleagues. It might be tempting to share your emotional response, or shoulder tap people who dismiss the feedback, but resist that urge! 

Secondly, develop a short list of improvements and start implementing them. Begin with visible actions, so your colleagues benefit from the immediate effects – they’ll respect your commitment to improving yourself. 

Finally, thank the person who gave you the feedback and share your actions. There’s nothing like creating a positive feedback loop to inspire more of it. 

Join the conversation on LinkedIn

30 Second action

Before your next meeting, identify one attendee you trust to be honest. Share that you are trying to improve your meeting effectiveness and ask them to spot something you might be able to improve. Put into practice what you’ve just learned about receiving feedback!

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