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!

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.

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!

Let’s talk about the Metaverse

When Facebook changed its name to ‘Meta’, it was a clear signal that they were throwing down the gauntlet in this new and misunderstood digital frontier. Many of us got distracted laughing at their new so-not-futuristic blue logo and forgot to learn what the metaverse actually is. So what can it offer those of us who prefer to exist IRL? 

The metaverse is a collection of digital worlds where our virtual selves can meet, chat, play games, and even shop. Goodbye airport security lines, sweaty concertgoers, and event parking woes – the principle of the metaverse is to eliminate the annoying friction we experience in the real world. Mostly accessible via VR (Virtual Reality) goggles, some metaverses exist today in games like Minecraft and the seriously addictive Fortnite

Word on the street is that ‘there’s gold in them there digital hills’. Will cryptocurrencies finally come into their own? You’ll likely need crypto to buy and sell items in the metaverse, like landclothing, and digital art – NFTs – to hang in your new digital pad. 

And for evidence of usefulness, early signs point to educators loving these virtual spaces to show rather than tell. Fashion designers are prototyping their latest looks, and some governments are considering the benefits of a virtual embassy experience.

The promise of the metaverse

The consensus is that, at least today, the metaverse is an iteration of the web. An immersive one where we can take part in the experience 24/7, think The Matrix, Wreck it Ralph, and Avatar. Why build baking soda volcanoes in the classroom when you can visit Mt Vesuvius? As for medical applications, Johns Hopkins Hospital performed surgeries on live patients using AR displays and found their ability to execute critical surgical tasks improved. Bill Gates believes that most meetings will eventually happen in the metaverse – solving some challenges of hybrid meetings where only some voices are heard.

The perils of the metaverse

While the metaverse operates on a principle of civility, not all humans are civil. Like the internet we know and endure, disinformation can be easily spread, and harassment and radicalisation occur. Think about extremism taken to the next level. Virtual ISIS training camps that won’t require travel but will offer a better educational experience. 😫

In 2020, women made up less than 25% of tech jobs at Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Apple. Augmented reality, driven by the gaming industry, is still very male-centric. We know unrealistic female body standards for video game characters prevail, and the concern is that the existing demographically homogeneous tech industry won’t shape the brave new world we deserve.

How to get involved

While still early, the potential threats of the metaverse require diverse thinking from a wide range of people across the gender divide – including academic and ethics researchers. The good news is that women participate more than men in fitness, education and live events in the metaverse. The bad news is that men are building it. In these very early days, it’s important to get more women involved to design a virtual future that’s fairer, more inclusive and safer for all of us.

The metaverse is inevitable in some form; we want it to be a safe space for women and girls, we need correctly sized VR sets to be available for all shapes and sizes, and we need to ensure the same career opportunities in immersive tech for women as for men. We love the work that Emma Ridderstad is doing to lead the charge; check out this great interview and her TEDx talk for some #techinspo.

Want more metaverse?

We dive into the metaverse on episode 2 of the PowrUp podcast:

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