Category Archives: Ramblings

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.

An ode to Hilary

From day one, it seems like Clinton saw herself as president.

She worked harder than most of us could understand, she helped her less capable husband take on the role, she took on jobs that showcased her ability, she did more, for longer to prove that she had what it takes. She knew what she was up against.

She sucked up numerous personal and professional hits, and in turn she hit that glass ceiling every day, somehow finding the time in her unrelenting schedule.

To get here.

To be firmly put in her place by a country who, for numerous reasons were still unconvinced.

When people ask ‘why didn’t she come out and speak’ on election night, I think, because for just that one night, she couldn’t face us. For just that one night she couldn’t overcome the humiliating, frustrating reality that that the world rewards flair over hard work, allows myths to flourish until they become fact and that allows us to perceive the most qualified presidential candidate in history as a criminal.

But the very next day, she extends an olive branch and offers to get back to work.

Somewhere along the way, it was decided it’s acceptable to treat Clinton like a robot. We gave ourselves permission to simultaneously knock her down while expecting her to stand right back up and prove herself again to be a better sort of human than the rest of us.

Outside of everything else that happened during this election, the immensity of her personal disappointment must be crushing.

Early in her campaign, someone asked if I liked her because she was a woman. I’ve examined that question from every angle since then and realised the question is far more complex than intended. I support her because she is a woman, yes. Because I know that means she’s done this without a script, without anyone to look to for a playbook. She’s played in a man’s world while not acting like a man, she has had to figure out how to look the way people expect a woman to look, while furthering her agenda, while not betraying who she is. She has has to balance so many more factors in every action and reaction than a man in her position would have to do.

She’s had to do this in every role she has held, while acting like she’s not. The career she has chosen has been so much harder for her to succeed at than it would have been for a man. And yet she succeeded. She has been the first woman ever to get this close to the top. The fact that she even got here makes her a better candidate.

Yes, I want a world where there has been at least one female president and I want to see equal representation of women in all areas of society. But that’s irrelevant. Anyone who has ever experienced an iota of the things you experience being a woman trying to get stuff done has some indication of the immensity of what she has had to do every minute of every day. On top of that, she has to deal with the perception that it isn’t actually a thing, that there is ‘no reason’ why a woman couldn’t be at the top.

That’s what I mean when I say she was so much more qualified than any one else. That’s what I mean when I stand in awe of her ability. That’s what makes a lot of us more than a little heartbroken at the result.

This campaign wasn’t about the better of two bad candidates. There was always one shining example of progress, we just didn’t see her.

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

When sexual assaut becomes a terrorist act

To me, a terrorist act is one that attacks our way of life, that forces us to change our behaviour. I looked up the definition, and the only difference I can see anyone arguing between it, and the sexual assault that took place last Thursday is ‘political intent’. But sexual assault IS political. Sexual assault is not even about sex, it’s about power, women are overly represented in sexual assault statistics and virtually every aspect of the way women are perceived in our society is political.

Regardless of explicit political motive, the notion that any man feels it is his right to do what he did, where he did it, in a society that is fundamentally unequal, is political. He is saying to women that their choice to walk unguarded in a public area, makes them a target.

If this guy gets caught, he shouldn’t just be tried for the crime he committed against one woman, he should be tried for his act of terror on all women living in this country. He’s changed the rules, and the rules weren’t even fair in the first place.

It took this attack for me to realise how limited my life is. This is just a sentence but think about what it means: I have never experienced what it’s like to not be aware of my personal safety. So, so, many decisions are impacted by personal safety considerations, and it’s on my mind so much, I don’t even think about it any more. I’m not saying it’s a big deal, Im saying its always there. Always. It’s something women talk about as a fact of life. We are divided on whether we ‘succumb’ to the fear or whether we rebel against the fear and do it anyway. The thing is, I’m yet to meet a women who doesn’t feel the fear.

The world around us is different from the world that surrounds men. There’s so much written about what women can do to stay safe, whether the conversation should even revolve around what women can do, and even research that shows that regardless, arming women with personal safety tools works. The problem is, all of this relies on a woman’s ability to detect risky situations and act accordingly. And the reason Im so angry is that in Thursday’s rape, she did everything right.

What this monster did was take something we take for granted, and make it scary. For the foreseeable future, we have to add ‘popular walking tracks in broad daylight’ to the list of risky situations. He has forced us to change our behaviour. Yes, we may still walk, but we will no longer walk without keeping an eye out for strangers hidden in bush, without considering an escape route, without it crossing our minds that danger could be lurking.

Im so ridiculously angry, and I feel so violated that I keep stopping myself to question that maybe the fact that this is such a rare event makes my re-invigorated fears sound irrational. But then I think how long we’ve flown in aeroplanes, how many flights take off a day. And one horrific incident changed the way we travelled forever.

Jumping on bandwagons?

I LOVED this experiment from Jimmy Kimmel asking people who follow the gluten free diet what gluten actually is. It totally reminds me of the people who jumped on to cage free eggs, while not seeing the hypocrisy of loading their trolleys with caged chicken meat or pork.

Maybe a little reminder to research your fad?

The tale of two engagements

I probably don’t need to go into detail about poor Jennifer Anniston’s inability to tie a man down for years, while she desperately pursued her baby plans and was rejected by multiple lovers. I probably don’t even need to recount the skeptical feedback her engagement generated, and the ongoing rumours that she is struggling to keep a hold of her man and (finally) get him down the alter.

What probably will come as a shock is that not only has George Clooney been in the same boat, he’s been in that boat years longer. Leaving him EVEN older, and less successful in love, well beyond a socially acceptable child bearing age. The poor dude though, DID manage to somehow trick a wildly successful human rights lawyer into accepting his proposal, and I’m sure many of us are waiting with baited breath to see if he can keep her.

The race to the aisle is on. Which one of these miserable, desperate individuals will manage to make it?

Maybe it’s about time to look seriously at some of the stereotypes and double standards we’re a little too comfortable with? This article really sums up one of the most blatant, ridiculous and yet unchallenged beliefs we digest daily. Food for thought.

A cheeky refresh

So turns out I should have been a builder. I just checked that the last time I updated my website or blog was erm… too long ago. Just spent a bit of time doing some minor edits to drag it into 2013 (just in time for 2014 to roll around).

The major two points are:

1. Im not bankrupt, Im just too busy with other people’s sites to update my own sites.
2. I am using a default template for the blog now. I keep waiting until I have time to redo it, and it never arrives. So while I feel like a fraud using a default template, at least its usable until this magical day when I have spare time :)

Happy xmas everyone. Ill try and make my 5th post this year a round up :)

Surprising yourself

Recent life events have got me thinking about how we perceive ourselves quite differently to how we really are. You go through life thinking that you are good at some things, bad at others and have a fairly good idea of how you’ll react.

I come from quite tough stock, at the time of my life I needed toughness the most, it did not fail me. But since then, for smaller events, Im always sadly surprised by how much of a let down I am. Im a big believer in circumstances and understand they play a big role in the outcome of situations, and I believe firmly in mind over matter.

Recently, I found myself clinging to a steep gravel slope in tears, because at some stage, I lost complete control of my fear of heights and found myself unable to pull myself together. That was quite a surprise, after years of ‘heights training’, where I have learned to breathe deeply, calm my nerves, stop thinking and just do. It was really embarrassing.

If that wasn’t bad enough, my dad will be able to recount the sheer terror I fell into during the earthquake on Sunday. I called him with uncontrollably shaking hands and it took me several seconds to coherently explain that there was a big earthquake happening and I wasn’t sure how much bigger it would get (though, how coherent that was is debatable). I understand that immediate reaction now, my place was cracking up, things were falling over and moving and swaying. What I dont understand is how, for hours after, my body refused to stop shaking, I got cold, and suspect (also due to my inability to remember clearly the event itself now), that I went into some kind of shock.

Mind over matter totally failed me.

This isnt a pity post, it just got me thinking about the point that I crack. I know in other circumstances, Ive held it together and surprised myself with how I managed to do so. So far what Ive come up with is:

1. Being alone.

When you are alone in an unusual situation, the world very quickly spirals out of control. There is no sounding board or sense of normality to snap you back. I imagine this is the case in a lot of situations. Simply being around people can get you quickly back on track

2. Responding to others

If I was responsible for others in each situation described above, I wonder if things would have been different. I hear from parents that their first thought is helping their kids. Their brain doesn’t have room to be scared for themselves. On a smaller scale, when someone’s falling apart in front of you, you tend to automatically take on the reassuring role.

3. Having a plan

This is probably one of my crazy sides, but I have a plan for most things. Im one of the people who sits on a plane and actually does a mental run through of my emergency plan. Ive done the same on dark streets, I have a plan for what happens when someone grabs me, I revised that plan after a particularly dodgy experience in Melbourne. Ive researched how to get the best results. In the earthquake, I think this backfired. Id spent months trying to understand how it must have felt for those in Christchurch, so when it hit, I immediately assumed this was the ‘big one’.

4. Mental toughness

I think Ive replaced on this front recently. Ive spent good parts of my life being scared of one thing or another (managing staff, and ensuing they get paid, taking business risks etc etc) and learned that sometimes you’ve got to override your own brain. Its a skill you have to work on apparently, because in the past few weeks when I expected that to kick in, nothing did.

Social norms that stink

It occurred to me recently, after another family event where one member of my family, once again, thought I shouldn’t bring a date, that some social norms are really stupid. It got me thinking about the plight of the single lady, and how despite the fact we’re generally the happiest bunch I know, there are some weird side effects.

1. When you are unmarried, you should turn up to events alone.

I hate this with a vengeance. One side effect of getting married young (from what Ive seen), if you have a very different social structure from those of us who didn’t. My friendships are far, far closer that most people I know who got married. My friends and I have stuck by each other through stuff that most relationships don’t survive. Most of my family treat them like family. Its such an insult when none of them are invited to events, and its so rude to me, who is apparently expected to go solo to everything, while they spend the whole event hovering at their partner’s side. Not only that, my friends are generally more fun than most people’s husbands. Just saying.

2. When you don’t have kids, you should pick up the slack from those that do.

No. I don’t think that I should fund your drinks because you have kids/a mortgage/a honeymoon or a wedding coming up. Don’t insult me by telling me ‘how lucky’ I am that I don’t have to worry about these things, and it’s unforgiveable to get angry when I refuse to subsidise your lifestyle. We all make choices, I adapt your yours, I just wont subsidise them!

Ive even heard of people actually being told at work that they have to stay behind while those with kids go home. If you don’t have kids, you may still have a life, and for the life of me I cant understand how this is considered less important. Im going to do all those things when Im ready and I CAN’T wait for the shoe to be on the other foot and see how those people who demand my time/money/datelessness now react when I turn the tables. Actually I can, I know they’ll find it really unfair.

3. Don’t pity us

Im probably a shocker at this, because I tend to joke… But actually hitting my late twenties, Ive actually noticed pitying looks and people going out of their way to explain why I am not married… TO ME. Here’s the one and only reason why Im not married: because no one Ive met has come close to my standard for a marriage.

I think its lovely when other people have found that right person, but I also know so many who just settled. Ive never settled for a cushion cover. I lead a wonderful life, a life most people married or single should be jealous of… I have no idea why its apparently lacking due to lack of boyfriend/marriage?

Don’t assume we’re desperate

I have a history of dating what I have lovingly called ‘dishrags’. Nice guys who start out very interesting, and wind up following me around like puppies (we’ve got a couple of theories on why this is!). So I find it really interesting that now Im verging on 30, most guys assume Im desperate for them to put a ring on it asap. These same guys who spent their twenties faffing around and achieving very little, now think I will idolise their manliness and try to get knocked up as soon as humanly possible. I’m a nice person, Im very supportive, Im even quite good at boosting the male ego… But surely you must be joking if you think Im doing anything other than figuring out if I’m even really interested in you.

Rant over

It’s funny how things change as you get older. The last two points are very recent and alarming updates! :)

We should have bilingual signs

Fresh back from holiday number one of the year, one of the major highlights for me was visiting Dublin. Aside from the taxi drivers (I have a huge amount of video footage of these guys, like personal comedy shows, all of them), my FAVORITE things about Ireland, is how committed they are to preserving and promoting the Irish language. Every single sign in the place was bilingual. Road signs to bathroom signs. Everything. They werent bigger or more complicated, there was no downside at all to the bilingual signs (that I could see).

I know New Zealand is an english speaking country. I don’t want to get stuck in a debate about whether or not we should all speak Maori as well, but I think New Zealand should start replacing signs (as they fall apart) with bilingual ones. Here’s why:

New Zealanders should be bilingual

I don’t actually care what language it is, but the more you learn, the easier they apparently become. Learning languages is often the easiest way to figure out grammar etc as well. That whole argument about Maori being useless outside of here, is actually rubbish for this reason and many other cultural reasons, like the fact we are New Zealanders, and there is something great about this place and our culture, more of it I say! We could pick another language, but why bother?

Its a super easy way to learn a language.

When we learned languages in school, everyone wallpapered their bathrooms with words and their foreign meaning. It was the BEST way of becoming familiar with the language, outside of immersing yourself in it. Kids at school must still learn some Maori, I think growing up with that and all our signs, may actually lead to a population that’s a little more educated.

Tourists will love it

I loved trying out the language in Ireland. Also it was cool figuring out some of the words while you are waiting for a bus or plane or anything really. Also, we take huge advantage of Maori culture in tourist attractions, I reckon us actually knowing a bit more of the language will make it all sit a bit more authentically with me, and probably everyone else.

Anyone know why we don’t do this?