Category Archives: Living a good life

Reducing the gender pay gap

Apparently 80% of the 12% gender pay gap in NZ ‘can’t be explained’… Which is weird, given since the latest stats were published, Ive heard plenty of explanations:

“Oh well, in those top, top jobs, it takes a certain personality type. Im not saying its a good type, it’s pretty aggressive, you know. Not very focused on soft skills…”

“I suppose it depends what side the stats came from. They differ depending on who does them.”

“Well equal pay for equal work is great, but maybe its just that some people get to the top of their pay scale because they are better? How do you ensure people are paid fairly?”

I think I’ve kind of had enough debating. We’ve been debating for years. How many times do the stats need to show that there is a pay gap and it’s caused by deeply ingrained ideas about gender? It’s not #allmen, it’s not even just #onlymen, it’s all of us and we have proven that we wont fix it just by talking about it.

More and more research has come out explaining unconscious bias, it pretty much nails the reason it’s impossible to change by talking about the gap:

“Most of us believe that we are ethical and unbiased. We imagine we’re good decision makers, able to objectively size up a job candidate or a venture deal and reach a fair and rational conclusion that’s in our, and our organization’s, best interests. But more than two decades of research confirms that, in reality, most of us fall woefully short of our inflated self-perception.”

So, let’s stop talking and just start acting. Worst case scenario, we’ll learn faster what wont work. Here’s 3 things I think we can do immediately:

1. Do an organisational diversity stocktake

Many years ago, I did some work for a Government group working to address the gender pay gap. One of their big findings was that people genuinely believed they had a 100% neutral hiring policy, the gender pay gap and gender stereotypes were not an issue in their organisation. This group offered workplace reviews and almost without fail, they found bias.

It’s not because people are bad and undervalue women, it’s because our brains use unconscious bias to create shortcuts when faced with millions of pieces of information. My mum was working when The Equal Pay Act was passed. When she started her career, it was expected that women were not the bread winners and it *made sense* to not pay them as much as men. In her lifetime, gender roles have changed so dramatically it’s almost impossible to really know how far our subconscious has moved forward and what assumptions our brains still make.

But if we live in a world of unsubstantiated assumptions, we don’t know what needs fixing. So create transparency, prove your organisation is as neutral as you think it is. Be the standard others aspire to. And if the results aren’t as clear cut? Well proceed to step 2.

2. Turn the tables. Justify why you didn’t hire or promote a woman.

Got a board, organisation or role made up of more than 50% males? Then do like PledgeMe did and hire a woman next.

Actively looking to fill a diversity gap may feel controversial. You may get asked why you don’t just hire the ‘best person’ for the job. Well, Anna answered that question for you too:

“Often that ol’ “most skilled person” line is used to justify the default stale, pale and male approach. This response indicates a belief that there aren’t women with those skills. It also shows an unconscious bias from the person using it. Like being on a board is akin to a mission to Mars where only rocket scientists need apply.”

I’ve heard a lot about the genuine desire to get more women to the top, except women haven’t been promoted fairly in the past. There is no one in the pipeline ready to go. Put them there. Make it organisational policy to know your company makeup at different levels. If there is an imbalance, and you hire someone who doesn’t address the imbalance, then the inability to find a suitable woman needs to be explained.

3. Check yourself

I talk a lot about all the things that feel so unfair about being female. The expectation that our last names are borrowed, that we will be the primary caregiver to children, we have to negotiate carefully to not appear ‘aggressive’, that we have to be careful when we earn more than partners to not undermine their confidence… The list sometimes feels endless.

A friend of mine made a really good point about the frustrating nature of negotiating gender roles during wedding/baby/career progression. We have been planning this stuff for years, but it is only now we are having conversations with the men in our lives about our roles. It seems shocking to me how many men genuinely haven’t questioned why women change their names when they are married, but her point is ‘why would they?’. It takes a huge level of empathy to spend time contemplating a social norm that doesn’t adversely affect you. We arrive to court with armfuls of evidence and face an opponent who hadn’t even been aware a crime was committed.

So, I get it. But I think we all need to try harder at actively contemplating social norms. We do a million unconscious things every day, we let a million things slide, we say things flippantly, we don’t stop and question why. We should do it a lot more. We should be actively paying attention when we are faced with a female CEO, male nurse or any situation where traditional roles are reversed or changed. We should be paying attention to our immediate reaction. We should be comfortable acknowledging that ALL of us will catch ourselves feeling some feelings that sit outside our conscious beliefs. And we should start working on them.

Six weeks sober

A couple of months ago, I decided to go on a health kick and give up drinking for a week or so. Six weeks later, I had my first wine.

Ive always been convinced I could never hide a pregnancy because sober-me would come as such a shock to those around me. Funnily enough (maybe due to my commitment to Spinsterhood), no one even thought that was the reason. In fact the support I received was almost scary, like everyone I knew had made a secret pact to get me off the booze.

During my sober-stretch, I stumbled on an article about ‘why women drink‘. The reasons they gave aren’t my reasons, but in the long sober nights, I had plenty of time to analyse my drinking, so here’s what I learned:

I drink because I love wine

I love the taste, the colour, the variety, the glasses. I love the whole experience of lying back in the gold lounge sipping red wine, or lounging in the sun cackling over a glass of sparkling. Wine is delicious and the associations I have with it in my brain hold strong. I can do those activities without wine, but in all honesty, they are just not as fun.

I drink because I love lively conversation

A lot of people drink to cure their social awkwardness, I don’t. I’m just not big on polite chat and quiet dinners. I learn through conversation and suspect I drink to get the chat flowing and to fill the gaps between. That was a tragic realisation and from now on, I have committed to just heading home if the vibe is not there.

I drink because I am a yes person

Before my six weeks of sobriety, I found myself out 6 nights a week. I’m not complaining, those were great times. But turns out wine is not as good for you as vegetables are. I struggle to say no. If anyone wants to hang out with me, my calm and considered answer is usually ‘YES PLEASE WHEN? CAN WE HANG OUT NOW? ILL LEAVE THE OFFICE IN 2 AND HEAD TO THE BAR’. Not drinking gave me plenty of opportunities to pause and decide if I even felt like going out. Funnily enough, sometimes, I just didn’t.

I drink because Im lazy

Yup, we should all organise walks after work and catchup over yoga, but what other activity is so low maintenance that all you need to do is to turn up with $10? In the last 6 weeks, I have largely just done what Id usually do, sans booze. It turns out, its not just the booze, its the ease of heading to a bar that’s appealing. I am working on some new interests, because I don’t want a more sober life to equal more tv time, but Im yet to figure out a plan for how to fill the hours. Yes, another tragic realisation.

What I have Learned

  • It’s a myth that our ‘drinking culture’ puts pressure on people. Not only did drinking very rarely even get a mention, when it did, it just wasn’t a thing. I suspect people don’t care about drinking as much as they do about a sad sack in the middle of the bar. ‘Go on, have a drink’ may just be code for ‘liven up a little’. Harsh but true.
  • I need to disassociate ‘fun’ from ‘alcohol’. In all honesty, Im not sure how
  • Drinking is very fattening
  • You sleep much better when you don’t drink
  • You get a lot of colds when you don’t drink. Or maybe it’s just this winter
  • Not drinking is not nearly as hard as I thought. Now Im back off the wagon, I still plan to keep it to a maximum of once a week and in the short term, only for ‘special’ occasions. I still think I have a lot to learn

What IS Sexist?

I think that a clear and comprehendible message is vital to the achievement of any lasting social change – give those you are fighting a chance to pass you off as crazy, and they will. When we throw around terms like ‘sexist’, it’s very easy to sound hysterical and politically correct to the point of ridiculousness and to me, this is quite a big deal. Despite our huge progress towards an equitable world, we are surrounded by situations that are completely unfair to women. I worry that when someone calls ‘sexist’ when they are personally offended, they define a serious and broad issue by the standards of an individual who got upset.

Sexism is roughly defined as “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.” Its a pretty broad definition but I don’t think its broad enough to cover, for example, a man opening a door for a woman (though rather than a strictly male to female thing, I think we should probably all be a bit more courteous to each other). Other’s apparently do and I have heard of men who get snide remarks when performing this lovely gesture.

Recently, I’ve come across a couple of other situations labelled as ‘sexist’ that I just can’t figure out. Often the people using the word are people I really admire and respect, so I’m genuinely struggling to see their viewpoint. I wonder if this is indeed a good sign – that people backing the removal of sexism from our lives are so varied, that our views of it are equally as diverse. My concern though, is that sometimes we face things that make us feel angry, and we reach for the first word we can find to define that feeling. ‘Sexism’ is an easy one to apply to any offensive situation involving women, but does it actually cover all these situations? Maybe it doesn’t even matter, but I think pulling out a term like ‘sexist’ brings a lot of serious connotations to an event that may have just made you feel offended.

Safety in Paradise

I was genuinely shocked recently to be told by someone that there was growing outrage among people I know that our national airline made the below video. Having watched the ‘Bare Essentials of Safety‘ (too naked?), ‘Safety Old School Style‘ (mocking our elders?), and bunch of others that swing from All Blacks to Aerobics, I think the video, if anything, is one of their better ones… Promoting a stunning part of our neighborhood, and a place that relies heavily on international visitors.

I understand the video features swimsuit models and aligns with the anniversary of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (maybe that’s where the offense lies?), but I’m probably not their target market and have never opened an issue. The only other reason I could see for the offense is that beautiful women were the central focus of the ad. I would understand if Air NZ only hired beautiful people, or indeed, only made videos featuring them… But their videos are varied and while I think their staff are perfectly fine, they don’t stand out as any more beautiful on average than anyone else.

Maybe you find it distasteful to view women in bikinis (though to me that comes very close to telling women what they can and can’t wear), maybe it’s a concern for the models involved, but I think their life choices are equally as relevant as any other woman’s. The big one I read was that we are forced to watch a safety video and therefore don’t have a choice about having other women’s near nakedness all up in our faces. I don’t know. I love beaches, bikinis are just not that uncommon in my life.

Because of my confusion, I assume others are also scratching their heads, which leaves me thinking that if we really want to hit sexism where it hurts, we may have missed the target.

Good Ole Paul Henry

The other night he had the wonderful Michelle Dickinson on his show to talk about what she does best: science. Because she’s such a superstar, she was recently invited to spend time with Richard Branson on Necker Island. At the end of an interview, Paul pulls up a pic of them in a fun embrace and asks “Michelle, did you have sex with Richard Branson?”.

Michelle responded impeccably, and from what I can gather, found it funny. She’s a smart cookie and Mr Henry has a reputation, I doubt she’d have turned up if she felt at all put out. So why did a bunch of other people cry ‘sexist’ and demand he be fired?

I would kind of understand the claim if I wasn’t 99% sure he’d have asked the same of any man in the same position. I would understand it if the question did in fact reduce her to being nothing more than a sex object. I would understand it for a million reasons… But, as far as I could see none of them were relevant.

I think a quote from Ricky Gervais (and sort of the point of this post) makes sense here:

“Remember, being offended provides no objective indication of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. It’s nothing more than a barometer of your own emotional control.”

You may have felt offended by his question. That’s fine, you have every right to be offended. But do you need to label it as sexist?

One of the things that makes those magazine format shows popular is you get to know the presenters, they feel human to you. You may not want to become buddies with a presenter, but they’ve got to be edgy to keep your eyes on the programme. I understand Michelle is a doctor and should be taken very seriously… But I think if you look at her career her whole point is to bring science to the people, to be a person, not a dry scientist. And unlike with a safety video, if you feel offended, you actually can just change the channel.

Care about sexism? Do any of these things?

I read this article a while ago “35 things men can do to support feminism“. It struck me then and now that maybe this stuff is the real issue, I read this article and immediately saw several examples Ive long since used to explain why I struggle in some relationships. Maybe it’s not an either/or situation regarding the examples above, but it does strike me that we’re quick to point out tenuous links to sexism, while happily wandering around living it.

Share the freaking footpath!

As Ive become older and less patient (it’s true kids, it happens to the best of us), I’ve launched a personal vendetta against footpath hogs. To save me from public meltdown, I’ve chosen the keyboard warrior route, because if you walk on footpaths and haven’t noticed any of this, you are probably DOING IT.

If you can’t multitask, don’t TOUCH your phone

There’s a lot of research that suggest no one can multitask… However it’s a special breed who still believe in their unique power to stumble along the street, eyes glued to their phone. You probably don’t even realise its an issue because everyone else is dodging and weaving to avoid your path of destruction.

It especially annoys me when I’m running UP HILL, at death’s door, hating every second, and IM the one who has to veer off course so some idiot can focus on selecting which Miley Cyrus song to listen to next.

I call for an uprising! Instead of dodging these people, stay on path. After a few shoulder barges, they may learn a life lesson.

Think of the footpath like a two-lane road

Those family groups who plan their saunter down main streets in rush hour, all in a row KILL ME. Want to walk in a row? Pay attention to your surroundings. Want to live like you own the place? Single file is for you.

Because my brain can’t help but extrapolate things out, when I see people doing this I reach all sorts of conclusions about how they live life… None of them good. Don’t be that group.

Please don’t stop for no reason

When rush hour hits and the streets are crowded with tired people trying to get home, I can’t for the life of me understand the brain connections that need to happen for someone to just pause on the street. Why stop? I genuinely can’t believe you can be on a busy street and not understand that if there are people all around you, chances are, someone is JUST BEHIND YOU. When you randomly stop, you create a human-sized domino effect of people trying to avoid ramming you.

Foot traffic is traffic. It goes two ways down a street and sudden stops or entering the flow without EVEN LOOKING is less dangerous but just as rage inducing as doing it on the roads.

So much psychology…

My brain has a huge disorder where it turns things like this into symptoms of a wider issue. Maybe it’s a loss of community, maybe (as a friend mentioned the other day) our brain sizes have shrunk as specialisation has enabled us to be dumber, maybe its because everyone is so angry.

Whatever your issue, keep it to yourself. Unless it’s the brain size thing. If you suspect that you are dumber than a caveman, REALLY focus when you walk down the street, it really is quite an easy task.

What to do about our animals?

After hearing about Facebook’s emotion manipulation study, I have to wonder if they’ve gone into overdrive.

Every second picture on my Facebook feed is of another travesty of human nature. From pig farming to duck and rabbit plucking, to elephant chaining, to every imaginable torture that we do to animals in order to clothe, feed and prettify ourselves.

Amongst the collective consciousness that seems to have suddenly come about in regards to what we are willingly ignoring is (for me at least), a total sense of helplessness.

I consider myself pretty up with the play. I remember refusing to eat non-free range eggs while friends and family tried to convince me it would never be economically viable, I went through several years where I was dirt poor, yet scoured the supermarket aisles and only bought toiletries that weren’t tested on animals. I wont even begin on all the other animal derived products that also contribute to the misery, but needless to say, I did a fair bit of research into how things are made.

It was hard.

Over time, I came to a level of comfort with the idea that it’s ok to eat meat, but *wherever possible*, it should be free range (not ‘legally’ free range, but marked by an independent authority like the SPCA as free range). If I can get cruelty free products within a reasonable additional price and quality, Ill go for them. If I’m out for dinner, I won’t bother. I relaxed on my morals for many reasons that Im still not entirely comfortable with. I am comfortable knowing that every time I break my old rules I do it with the full knowledge of what I am doing.

What really annoyed me in the last few days is that it seems like Im surrounded by similar people, and yet our very basic attempts to live a little bit better are thwarted at every step by a system that is legally allowed to hide the true reality of the situation. As with cigarette marketing, I think it’s about time we take a ‘an informed decision needs a dose of reality’ approach. And I do believe our Government should play a role.

‘Free range is a marketing term’

How is this even possible. How is it that in New Zealand, “There is no formal or compulsory auditing system for free-range egg farming.” How is it that consumers with a conscience are being routinely tricked and instead of improving the situation, harming it even further?

To me, this seems like a pretty easy thing to change. It shouldn’t be up to the likes of the SPCA to promote the fact that their stamp is the only auditing system (or lack thereof) we really have.

Same with animal testing. Why is it that it’s up to cruelty free providers to add it to their labels, rather than the opposite. Why do we legally make it easy for companies to cover up the cruelty?

Its just not economically viable

Well, lets give it a shot. Once again, I hate middle class people reverting immediately to the ‘poor people can’t afford it’ line. Sure, cool. Im also aware of economic disparity. That’s no reason why the rest of us shouldn’t sacrifice a little more of our plentiful cash to change these industries for the better. Lets just give it a shot and see huh? Eat less meat, stop throwing out leftovers, cut out a coffee. Prioritise becoming the sort of person who can still focus on things that they cannot see.

As a secondary economic argument. New zealand is tiny. While I dont think we live up to our ‘clean green’ image as much as we pretend, why not become the cruelty free marketplace of the world? We’re never going to be big enough to do it all, so lets become world leaders in a wonderful niche.

All our meat comes from NZ

In the middle of one recent debate, someone mentioned that we’re all so up in arms about NZ pig farming, while blissfully unaware that a lot of our Pork doesnt even come from here… And who knows the conditions those animals live in. Once again, packaging makes it easy to hide this and leave the onus on New Zealand brands to push their point rather than visa versa.

How do we fix this?

As much as Facebook has become a painful place to be and it’s so frustrating to look around and see a non-stop, overwhelming level of cruelty, it must be a sign of improvement?

Normally I’m not a fan of the ‘spreading the word leads to change’ philosophy, but in this case I think it works. Most of us have enough exposure to domestic pets to struggle to not connect the dots regularly. Obviously the public pressure is making an impact and I know that world over, countries are starting to ban testing for cosmetics.

The tragedy is, as one of my friends pointed out, it seems unlikely we can fix anything. A certain amount of willful ignorance is vital to surviving this world without falling into a deep depression. Because we can ban factory farming, we can ban animal testing we can do all the comparatively easy things, but we’ll still wind up with a 50% newborn chick death rate, a horrific end to the life of every cow taken to an abattoir and a group of people who just can’t live without their Mink coats.

Ultra-rich man’s letter: The Pitchforks Are Coming”

I just got sent this brilliant article by a friend (thanks Jemma!).

The general gist is that the 0.01% needs to start some serious change before the wildly unbalanced American society starts to fall apart… Typed by the hands of one of their own.

My favorite part sums up how I feel whenever anyone I know fools themselves into thinking that somehow they got where they got to off their own back. Especially those who are so quick to judge the ‘lowlife’ losers of this capitalism game for their acts of desperation… I’m a bit less forgiving of these types. Anyone who’s dumb enough to not understand some basics of society, in another life wouldn’t be selling fruit. They’d be sitting in the dirt starving.

“So forget all that rhetoric about how America is great because of people like you and me and Steve Jobs. You know the truth even if you won’t admit it: If any of us had been born in Somalia or the Congo, all we’d be is some guy standing barefoot next to a dirt road selling fruit. It’s not that Somalia and Congo don’t have good entrepreneurs. It’s just that the best ones are selling their wares off crates by the side of the road because that’s all their customers can afford.”

Very much worth a read and has a very interesting take on why minimum wages are the key to saving and growing our economies, and the job of the elite to change things before everything turns to custard.

Read the article

Willful Ignorance

I love the phrase ‘willful ignorance’ and I really love this video.

It’s making the rounds on Facebook, but I do wonder how many of those who ‘share’ and ‘like’ the video have modified their behavior or continue to remain willfully ignorant about this issue. There seems to be a lot of research happening now about how tools like Facebook speed information sharing so much that it makes us feel comfortable consuming without digesting it, so you have to wonder if the impact is in any way reflective of the amount of attention it’s getting. But that’s a side note.

One of the things I found fascinating about viewing the video and watching others watch it, is how humans have such a sense of self preservation that despite being confronted with our own faults, our brains still fight valiantly to convince us that the lecturer is STILL WORSE and therefore to miss the entire point of the video.

If you haven’t already, watch it. You may find yourself stuck wondering what could be considered a ‘reasonable’ effort in this day and age to be a little less willfully ignorant.

Getting back on (the running) track

tumblr_mm1nk5dtIk1rrjjxto1_500I recently had to confess to a friend that these days that I am a runner by name only. Moving to the ‘burbs and quitting the gym was always going to be a weak point in my motivation. Now its dark when I wake up, it’s REALLY hard to fight the internal battle of bed vs freezing cold, dark pavement pounding.

I REALLY struggle with motivation and I used to think I was alone. But several conversations later, I realise that everyone is in the same boat and the only difference between those who do and those who don’t is the ability to get on the shoes and walk out the door. Seems like a simple enough task, but man oh man walking to my wardrobe can be the hardest few steps of my day.

So I entered the Queenstown Half Marathon. I’ve done two half marathons before, slowly and when I was much fitter than now… But this time, I want to do it in 2 hours. I know that seems slow, but for me, that’s quite snappy.

Im two runs into my new training programme and it’s the first time I’ve actually followed one. Im starting with the 10km programme. I think I can probably run 10kms happily anyway, but when I wake up in the morning the first few times the 3km target feels way less of a commitment, and I think it’s important to get into the routine.

If anyone else is int he same boat, and wants to keep tabs on each other. Im keen. I need all the help I can get at this stage.

Spending strike

I’m constantly dishing out unrequested advice about budgeting and savings. For reasons even I don’t understand, it freaks me out when people reach 30 without a investment plan and I become a nagging housewife.

The other week I read an article (which I can’t find the link to) about the benefits of not spending any money for a week. Im not a huge fan of all or nothing, Ive never seen ‘nothing’ wind up in anything apart from ‘all’ very quickly… But I did like the idea of resetting your spending habits by significantly cutting spending for a week every month, or, you know, whenever you feel like it.

After an expensive start to the year, driven by my obsession with home decorating and overseas holidays, I awoke one morning sick of spending money (seriously, I have the least addictive personality ever, give me too much of anything and my brain rebels against it). So I thought I’d give it a go for a week. This was much to the amusement of my mother who noticed the sudden lack of parcels landing on her doorstep from all my online purchases (sent to her because I love NZ Post but hate my parcels sitting by my front door all day).

IT WAS HARD.

I limited myself to purchasing just groceries and entertainment. It was a bit of a copout because entertainment can really add up, but I like to ease into these things to avoid booming and busting. It’s important to note that even with these loose limitations, I still busted.

I believe the main reason is that I now have a mortgage overdraft account, which means the days of immediately transferring money to my savings when I get paid are over. When the number you are overdrawn is large enough, a couple of hundred extra spending is dwarfed and goes unnoticed. It becomes very easy to spend hundred of dollars more a week without noticing.

So out pops my custom budget spreadsheet, where I add actual target numbers week on week. So far this has proven a great incentive. I hate failing to meet targets.

Does any one else have any good budgeting tips?

Why school *is* important

Quite often I hear people say ‘school really doesn’t matter’. This statement largely assumes that the marks you get at school are the only value school offers and that even with below average marks, you can wind up doing ok. To me, the statement and the intent is not only incorrect, it’s a pretty terrible thing to say.

When you are in school, you have to turn up to day after day, you have to do homework, assignments and exams. There’s a lot you do at school that is not fun, interesting or easy. Sitting in a classroom can be boring, it may be hard to absorb all the information flying at you. You may find it all too easy… Regardless of your experience, up until a certain age, you have to do it anyway. If you have to do it anyway, then I believe your attitude to doing it speaks volumes about what you will or wont achieve in life.

When I hear people claiming they didn’t like school and that they didn’t try and they, as a result didn’t do well… I judge them. I genuinely don’t understand people who think its legitimate to just accept the fact they didn’t get anything out of school and didn’t do anything about it. The ability to knowingly waste that much of your life not doing what you want or figuring out how to turn it into something you want is an ability you do not want.

The people who complain that no one told them how to ‘do’ school, are quite often the same people who faced with a situation they don’t love now, seem to have no skills for getting themselves out of it. They are people who tend to muddle through life letting it happen to them, they trained themselves at school to take no responsibility for their circumstances and think it’s perfectly legitimate to continue to sit back and complain about life happening to them.

If you didn’t enjoy school, you had three options:

  1. Figure out the best option available and get stuck in doing it
  2. Moan about how it was every one else’s problem and put very little effort in
  3. Leave.

Later in life, you will also run into hard situations, the least of which is holding down a job, relationship or any challenge or goal. You STILL have the same three options. The one you resorted to at school seems like the one that largely sets you up for life.

It strikes me that the most important thing you learned at school isn’t necessarily reflected in your grades, but your approach to sucking it up in and choosing to work hard or change what you are doing, even if it’s not that fun.