#storytellerjewels Welcome to the telling of story podcast. I’m your host, storyteller jewels. And along with my guests, it’s my endeavour to explore the art and science of storytelling, to attract, engage and retain a business audience and to unpack why it works for some and not for the many that try. In today’s episode, I have the pleasure of talking with Samantha Sutherland. Listen in as she talks about stepping back and taking note as to whether or not we have an unconscious bias.
Samantha Sutherland We think that we’re fair and objective, and our intention is to be fair and objective, so it’s not usually malicious. And if it is, obviously that’s a different issue. But if you if you think you’re acting fairly and you, your intent is to be objective and to give everybody equal opportunity. But then you look around and all the people who are at junior levels of women and all the people who are at senior levels are at men, Well, then there’s an unconscious bias issue there that’s causing the decision making to preference men over women.
#storytellerjewels In this episode, I have the pleasure of talking to Samantha Sutherland, Samantha is a diversity and inclusion expert trying to help create a world that works for working women. She is a published researcher and engaging facilitator and a passionate advocate. Samantha is also the host of the women at work. Podcast Samantha. Welcome to the show.
Samantha Sutherland Thanks for having me, Samantha.
#storytellerjewels In your bio you describe yourself as a diversity and inclusion expert trying to help create a world that works for working women. Can you explain what that means and why Is it important?
Samantha Sutherland Well, yes, a diversity and inclusion is all about creating workplaces that are more equitable and where people have a sense of belonging and where they’re inclusive. Leadership practises. So people feel empowered when they turn up to work and things. And I am a mum and I’m obviously a woman. And so the thing is like throughout your career, you do see that there are barriers that women face that men don’t face in the same way. And so that happens even early in your career before you have Children. So, as an example, I used to be quite senior in a utility company, and one of their subsidiaries came over, and they were working with us and I was teaching them a lot about what we did so they could take some of those things back to what they do that in New Zealand. It was a New Zealand subsidiary and they then spoke to my boss and said, I would like to see if Sam wants to come first. A comment for six months. Can we ask her if she wants to do that? And he’s thinking he was being very helpful. Said, Oh no, she’s about to get married She won’t want to do that And I didn’t even hear about that opportunity till six months later or something, and I definitely would have gone. And I also question whether he would have said the same thing if a guy was about to get married, because just the assumptions that people have around what people’s roles are, so that kind of barrier is in place. Even when people have the best of intentions from people’s early careers and then you are a child into the mix and really see how the whole system is kind of stacked against working parents, but working mothers in particular. So in Australia we have a really strong male breadwinner model, which means that in most families the guy earns more than a woman and his career gets prioritised when you have to make decisions about careers and families. And most commonly, she will be the one to pick up all the slack with the family. Whether or not she’s working part time, that’s irrelevant. And I just I think you know, I said before that I think working mothers would host a revolution if we all weren’t so tired. But I guess maybe I’d just had enough energy to put work into this space. So that’s where I really focused. Like I focus more on gender than on other diversity initiatives. Um, and I’m super passionate about it because of my own lived experience, but also because I see the lived experience of so many other women all the time in their life experiences and what the barriers they face at work and the barriers they face because of life, more quality, even in the home. And so that’s how come I’ve gone into that line of work recently.
#storytellerjewels In 2020 you published a research paper. Can you tell everyone what that was about and what some of your findings were.
Samantha Sutherland Yes, so that was a research into the impacts of covid on working women. And so the results were quite shocking, but still quite unsurprising. And so what we found was that, you know, two thirds of women had an increased workload from, uh from the impact of covid in domestic loads which, like all the cleaning and stuff around the house but also the childcare. Obviously, school closures made a huge difference to that as well. And the majority of home schooling was being done by women. When you look at the split of domestic labour in Australian homes, it’s like 69% on average is done by women, and the rest is done by men. So there’s a really big imbalance in the load. And when that load massively increases and all the structures you have in place like school and, like childcare get taken away. But then you really see what it takes to run a family and have two working parents. Um, and even, you know, if there is a parent that’s not working below massively increased. But I think the juggle of it all is like a much more. It’s an issue that women have to face now. The thing is, I think as well with this stuff, a lot of women get sick of the question of, like, how do you manage it all? And why are we talking about how women juggle it all? And I agree with that? And I think you know, when Dominik Paris I was became the premier, there was a couple of quite funny articles about how could he possibly do it with six Children? And now they’ve announced that his wife is pregnant with their seventh and you know, asking a man a ridiculous question that women get asked doesn’t really fixed the issue, but it does highlight the fact that no one is talking about that when it comes to men. But the other thing is, I do think that we need to keep acknowledging the very real lived experience of the majority of women who have Children. And then you can change the system so that it isn’t so unequal, and so it doesn’t become a thing that’s faced just by women. And it’s not a burden that’s left the individuals to figure out how to bear. Um, so in the research, you know, we found that women picked up much more of the labour. There’s a lot of, you know, one of the reasons I did it was anecdotally, I was hearing all these stories about, you know, a family where they might have someplace quiet to work and then the kitchen table and all these a lot of families. They agreed. The man and woman they’re going to share and they’re going to share the schooling. And they’re going to share who got the kitchen table and who got the quiet workspace and our month in The guy was in the office all the time, and the woman was at the kitchen table doing everything with the kids. And so I wanted to see whether that anecdote actually spread across the spectrum, a cross section of women and city, urban and remote, so urban and regional in every state. It was the same experience. If households went into lockdown, the woman picked up most of the load because of that, and it really exposed gender stereotypes both within the family but also in workplaces. So there’s a lot of stories of workplaces where the men’s work assumed that the woman would be doing all the childcare. So he was given no additional flexibility or leeway or anything to do stuff in the home and that, like assumptions in women’s workplaces, that they would be the one to take leave and that they would be the one to pick up the slack. But then the other thing that we see is that because of the way the systems are all set up, is that it becomes a very individual problem. So what happens is there’s an increased load in your house and one person picks it up like, you know, your family has to deal with how to has to deal with that increased load. There’s not a structural response to this kind of thing. And we had one lockdown and I did the research after that one, and then we had a period of except really in Melbourne. I suppose relative freedom and you said, Well, it’s definitely, you know, kids are back at school and life was fairly normal, with people being able to work more flexibly and then we had a second lockdown. It really showed that nothing had been learned from the first one at all. You know, the same exact thing happened. And so women everywhere are reporting, fairly overwhelmed, feeling burnt out. Women are leaving the workforce much higher rates than men. So in New South Wales between May and September, 19,000 women left the workforce versus 25,000 men. And that type of statistic just goes across everything that you look at, where women are much more impacted, women are leaving the workforce small and men’s jobs have been more protected. And so then I wanted to ask as well what it was that women actually want to help support them, remaining in the workforce or returning to the workforce, that they’ve had to leave because of the pressures of covid. And the things that they identified are actually things that we know about already. So if companies can actually make quite easy responses to this stuff, makes some small policy changes in behaviour changes and they would be able to respond to this. And so that is flexibility, um, promotion opportunities for people who are working part time, non gendered support so that men are doing caring as well as women. So an example of that. I have a great story where I was talking to a man who works in an ASX 50 companies. So there’s a company who should be leading practise with all this kind of stuff, and he wanted to work with compressed work. Weeks. He was doing five days in four, working for longer days to have Friday off to be because kids do school, drop off and pick up that kind of stuff, did it for three months. It all worked really well, and at the end of three months he wanted to continue and hit the HR said, Oh, no, you can’t do this anymore because if you work flexibly, everyone will want to work flexibly. And flexibility is for working mothers like not even for working parents like totally entrenched gender stereotypes about who does what role. And having that attitude starts women being able to progress in the workplace and it stops men being able to, you know, be involved with their kids lives. So the research really was just putting some numbers and rigour behind a lot of stuff that we already know, and just seeing how much covid had affected the existing systemic barriers and issues that we see.
#storytellerjewels So these as you say this this is not a new problem. This has been going on forever for millennia and we seem to make you know, if you look back over the last 50 60 years, we’ve seen some progress. But it’s not clearly it’s not moving fast enough. Why? Why is it still a problem in 2021? When 100 years ago, we knew that it was the wrong thing to do to segregate like this, to be, to be this way inclined. What? Why is it taking so long? In your opinion?
Samantha Sutherland I mean, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Because, you know, we still estimate that gender equality Australia is going to take another 100 years and when, you know, I just you know, you mentioned my podcast at the beginning of this and I’ve just relaunched that and I was looking at some stats for that article. That first episode and the value of domestic labour in Australia, unpaid domestic labour in Australia’s $650 billion which is 50% of GDP, so 50% of GDP is not paid to women who are doing things in the home to support the corporate world very often by supporting their husband and going to work. And in addition to that, Australia has actually gone backwards in the Global Gender Index Gender Equality Index, the Global Gender Equality Index. We’ve gone backwards by 2 50 or so. It’s a lower school we’ve ever had. And so it’s not even just that it’s not finished, it’s not solved. In some ways, it’s also actually still getting worse. And I think part of the reason why is because we’re still largely consider it an individual issue to solve. So you had kids. You better figure out how to have child care to look after them and how to manage what’s happening in the home so that you can also still work if you need to work. Um, I think that the push, the pressure on families, not many families can afford to just have one income anymore. And so there are many more families with dual income earners, which means that that the imbalance of the load at home becomes more clear, more obvious. I mean, the issue is policies, right, so like government policies are the type of what affect this in a systemic way. We actually see that corporate are moving ahead of government, more policies to encourage women back to the workplace and encourage men to support more in the home and be more involved with the home. But the pace of change is glacial, and I think that it’s continued activism and the continued fight for it is the only thing that’s going to keep making progress. I do think that there has been a big shift recently where a few, much more high profile things, you know, so like Britney Higgins and Grace team are doing amazing advocacy work and really raising the profile of of a lot of the gender equality arguments, um, in a way that is making a lot more women get involved with it. A lot more people get involved with. It’s just like more. There’s more awareness of it. And there’s also now a few more cigarettes talking about childcare, access and affordability, which is a huge barrier to many women going back to work earlier before the kids are at school. So I don’t know why it’s taking so long, but because it does continue to take so long we need continued advocacy and more. Um, I think that the corporate change is going to be driving it faster than government at the moment.
#storytellerjewels I’m talking out a loud here, and you clearly have been working on this for a lot longer than I have been thinking about it constantly, whereas, you know, you and I just having this conversation here, so forgive me if this sounds a little bit too simplistic, but is it a generational problem? Should we be looking at the root causes of some of this inequality, which is better education? You know, one of my questions for you today, for example, is what can I be teaching talking about with my kids? I’ve got two daughters and a son or teenagers. What are the kinds of conversations that we should be having as a general rule with our kids to ensure that the change actually occurs from their belief system rather than trying to just I mean, I agree policies need to change. We need to put systems and processes in place. Um, government regulation needs to be there. All of those things are super important. But if you have an underlying belief system, you’re always going to be fighting against the individuals who are managing these systems and processes in the future. So at a simplistic level, should we be doing more to educate our Children?
Samantha Sutherland Well, yeah, that’s a great point. And in fact, when I talk about often do talk about the two sides that it comes from so like an individual cannot change the system. We need systemic change through government policies, legislation, corporate policies or that kind of stuff, for sure. Um and you know, all big revolutions Start with grassroots movement, that is the individuals doing the work. And I think we have seen that, like I mentioned, Britney Higgins and Grace tame like they are doing that, um, individual grassroots movement thing, which is bringing a lot of people along on the journey. So there’s pressure, then put on the system and 100% you know, I interviewed Tracy Spicer for my podcast, and one of the things she said was equality start in the lounge room before it gets to the boardroom, and I really think that’s true. So in our own individual families, we need to be looking at this. Look at the messaging that we’re giving to our Children and talking about it really openly and honestly. So if you’re in a household where you know to take it to extreme, we have maybe, um, the guys at work full time and he doesn’t do anything in the house. And the woman is at work three or four days a week, and she does everything in the house. And then you have to you know, his son and a daughter. And the daughter is expected to help in the kitchen and help with cleaning up and help with the laundry and the guy. The sun isn’t expected to do anything. Well, then it’s just 100% perpetuating the idea that women’s responsibility to do everything in the home and men don’t have to do anything in the home. Their job is to just go out and provide, and then they rest after they provide. And so I think, um, sharing, sharing in your own relationships, making that equal and sharing the load and having that conversation regularly and not just falling into the male bread winner model that is so common is a great first step talking to your kids about that and about those decisions and how you choose things like whose career to prioritise who’s doing what stuff in the home is another important step and then also getting your kids to live equally and like to have the same expectations of your sons and your daughters. So, um, you know, when I was a kid, I like I really wanted financial freedom from, like age 12. And so I like petition my parents to give me an allowance that was bigger. And so we like, went through. You know how much Mum would have spent on clothes for us during the year and how much she would have spent on activities and whatever else and figured out. Okay, well, that means that you get this much a month, and then I was responsible for paying for everything for myself. So I didn’t have to pay for, like, medical stuff and school stuff, that I had to buy my own clothes and I had to buy presence of people if I was getting one, and I had to pay if I was going to the movies. So I just had to manage my budget and my brother, who hadn’t even been part of the whole process of trying to advocate for allowance. And it’s like teenage financial freedom. He got an allowance as well. My parents decided, was a good idea after I had petitioned hard and they gave him allowance, too. But he got more than me because he was older. But also there’s a bit of it like I was like, I felt to me it felt so unfair and looking back, it’s because, well, there’s a bit of a gender pay gap thing going on there, like the cost of a 14 year old living greater than the cost of 12 or 13 year old living like Not really. They’re doing the same thing. And I fought in foot and it was only when I was Maybe I don’t know, 15 or something, and I said, We’re on the same stage of life. We’re doing the exact same thing. I should be getting paid and getting the same allowances him and my parents like, okay, the same stage of life that kind of makes sense. But the default was actually a totally unconscious gender pay gap in my own family, and so looking at everywhere in your household that there is this unconscious default to gender norms and gender roles and consciously challenging them all the time is how you because the other thing, too, is you can’t talk about it to your kids one way and then live another way and have them take on the way that you talk about it. They’re going to see how you live, and that’s what they’re going to expect in their lives. It’s really hard to break this, like family of origin patterns live the way that you would like them to live.
#storytellerjewels It’s not too dissimilar if you think about it. If you grow up with an abusive household, if you grow up with alcoholism in the household, if you grow up with poverty like you know, these cycles tend to continue through generations because you grow up learning a certain way of life, and then you often take on that way of life. So I think it’s hugely important, and I’m glad we went there because it’s something of, you know, often thought about, you know, with my kids, because kids become a reflection. I know myself. I’ve gotten to a point in life where I can see my father in me, you know, and sometimes it’s great. And other times it kind of scares me because it’s, you know, you don’t always want all of the traits you know of your parents, as wonderful as my parents have been and we’re for me. So I think it’s really important because I’m always conscious of what reflection I’m giving on to my Children. So it’s a It’s a really important point. But for those perhaps listening that are in charge of maybe running their own businesses or they’re relatively senior in there positions. Or maybe they are in a HR type role or unemployment type role. What are some of the things that they can be thinking about because you brought up a great point?
Samantha Sutherland It’s hard when you’re not. When you’re doing things subconsciously, you know, when you’re not constantly on top of something or thinking about it in a certain way, you just behave the way you do right. It’s just natural to behave a certain way, and you’re not always doing it on purpose. You know, you’re not purposefully being, you know, one way one way or another. So if somebody was to actually stop and think about, perhaps what their organisation looks like, what are some of the things they might be able to think about and then perhaps do and put in place? That will help to start to shift some of these inequalities? Well, there’s a lot of things that an organisation an individual can do. I think you know, you make a really good point about how a lot of this stuff is unconscious and it’s we’re not aware of what’s happening and that’s true. You know, we come across 11 million data points for a minute and you can’t possibly process all of that. And so most of the time we’re using our unconscious bias and are like rapid thinking to make decisions, and that is beneficial to us. And it means we’re not having to really labour over or do I turn left or right out of my driveway to get to work because we just know we just kind of automatically follow these processes. But that happens just all the time all day and we’re not aware of it now. There’s lots of interesting research around unconscious bias and the effects of it and stuff. And the thing is, most people we think that we’re fair and objective, and our intention is to be fair and objective. So it’s not usually malicious. And if it is, obviously that’s a different issue. But if you if you think you’re acting fairly and you, your intent is to be objective and to give everybody equal opportunity. But then you look around and all the people who are at junior levels of women and all the people who are at senior levels are at men, Well, then there’s an unconscious bias issue there that’s causing the decision making to preference men over women and that can be applied in lots of different ways. It can be people of colour versus white people. It can be sexuality. So people who are LGBTQ versus people who are straight, and so if you, if what you have is at some level you have all of a homogeneous type of person. Well, then there is unconscious bias in the decision making process. The good news is that there’s research to support the idea that when it comes to decision making, when you want to try and make fair decisions that actually having some type of rigorous process around the decision making. It’s almost as important as what the like what? Those things are, right. So if you’re doing an interview process, we have a panel and whatever you like. Okay, well, we need to make sure that we ask about these five things, and we’re gonna make sure we ask everyone about these five things. Five things doesn’t matter what they are, but because you’re asking everybody the same thing, it helps to remove some of that bias. So putting a process in place around decision making, where there is a risk of bias helps prevent the bias. And the actual process itself is secondary. But like what the actual processes is secondary to having a process. So it means that you can decide that there is an issue, and then you decide to put a process in place, and that will definitely cause an improvement. And so it doesn’t matter whether you get it right, because it will affect things in a positive way. And so I think that there’s, you know, things around having a look at who you’re bringing in what they look like, what they bring to to your organisation. Um, we default to things like affinity, bias. So we often like people who are like us. And so they were like, Oh, how them Because they’re like me and I could go to the pub with them. Like sometimes people even talk about that as a as one of their criteria for hiring. Like, could I go to the public? Them? Well, that means you’re hiring people who are like you. And that means that you are unconsciously filtering out anybody who is not exactly like you because you wouldn’t go to the public and they have a chat. So identifying the places where there is the biggest risk of that and then putting processes in around that there are clear policies that women are saying that they want stuff like continued flexible work options, gender neutral policies. So you have parental leave that applies equally to men and two women. It’s still, you know, at last season has like 20 weeks, maybe parental leave for either parent. And it’s still the case where if a guy is taking 20 leaves of weak to be with his probably six month old baby, right, because very often the woman would have taken the parental leave first. If she’s breastfeeding and then the guy takes and that’s still an amount of time that most people are like, Oh wow, that’s amazing. But it should be that actually parentally for other parents, just like a normal and common thing, offering part time and job opportunities. There’s another really easy thing to do, and you can be kind of creative about how you go about doing that. The thing is, most jobs can be done part time, but people feel like you need to be full time, and it’s just not really true. You just need to be creative about how you split things up, and then the other thing is sort of looking at how you’re identifying who you want to bring into your workforce, and so things like we might say someone needs seven years of experience. But often that number of years is fairly arbitrary, and Australia is particularly bad at this or they want to hire someone who’s done that exact job before to know that they’re going to be able to do the job now. But In fact, what that means is that your pool of talent gets narrower and narrower and narrower. And if you’re in an industry where all the senior people are men, by the time you get to a certain level, if you’re asking for 15 years experience doing this exact job with any run out of women or people from diverse backgrounds who can even apply under those criteria. So considering stuff like that, like what? Why am I actually saying that I need that thing? What do we actually need in a role? And how can we be a bit more creative about how we get that in? And then the other thing is sort of really vocal about the support for this from a leadership level. So Pepsi was like an early the company that brought in the idea of leaving loudly. And so I actually heard their Australian CEO talk probably 10 years ago now, and it was so interesting to hear him because he was talking about the idea of like exiting the office at 5 30 being like by everyone, I’m going to pick my kids up from school. I’ll see you in the morning, have a good evening. I’m going to get my kids. And doing that gives permission to everyone else to do that as well. Because the other thing I think it’s interesting about this is I’m talking about it through a gender lens. But all of the stuff we’re talking about is also just good workplace behaviours, right? So there are certain industries where it’s kind of accepted that you’re going to be working very long hours and you get paid really well for that. But there are also plenty of people who are earning 120 grand who are expected to work till midnight three nights a week. And actually, that’s not many people really want to do that, you know? And so the stuff that means that parents can leave Valley to pick their kids up from school that permeates the whole organisation. So research from the Diversity Council Australia actually showed that that companies that bring in inclusive behaviour practises and inclusive policies the benefit to the people who weren’t the specific target for that behaviour benefit just as much as the people who were the specific target of the new policy or behaviour or whatever,
#storytellerjewels tell me. Was there any good news in your research? Was there something that maybe surprised you or you’re quite pleased at the result that we actually moved on a little bit. I mean, I’m scared to ask the question.
Samantha Sutherland Definitely there was definitely So I mean, one good thing, this wasn’t specifically other research, but a lot of parents have actually really enjoyed spending time with their kids and being at home more. Um, definite clear, positive things to come out were widespread flexibility that looks very likely to continue broadly through corporate Australia. So there are definitely some companies that are being a bit dinosaur e about it and want everyone just straight back in the office. But I think those companies are going to suffer with workforce attrition. So what’s the flexibility and working from home? Huge positive, spending more time with Children. Huge. Positive. Uh, the impact on you know, women did pick up more of the load, definitely. But there were also, you know, a third of families were actually the guy ended up picking up more of the load, so either they shared the increased load or the guy picked up even more. And so there were people saying things like women saying things like, I could return to work for the first time since having kids because my husband was at home when I could look after the kids and had that flexibility from work. Another one is actually the fact that a lot of guys really enjoyed the flexibility. And so there is more of this understanding that actually, men want to spend time with their kids as well. And the more people want flexibility, the more important it comes as a workplace policy and then the more that’s likely to happen and exist. And I think the other thing is that there’s more conversation about it now you know that it’s sort of. In some ways it was like a giant reset button and a chance for people to say what they actually want and what actually matters to them and for companies to respond to that in a different way.
#storytellerjewels Do you think that perhaps we menfolk might have the opportunity here to band together somewhat because you mentioned there that, you know men want to spend more time with their families? Of course, they do. Write a lot of people spend a lot of time like you say is expected to work all sorts of crazy hours, and there’s no wonder you get home and you’re exhausted and everybody is right. So, men or women, if you put in long days, you’re going to be exhausted from that. And you know, to me, the good thing about Covid is that it’s allowed us to see what it can be like to spend more time at home, be much more flexible in the workforce. Is this an opportunity, perhaps, For, you know, even if it’s the 10 2030% of the male workforce that that could possibly stand up and say we want as much equality as anybody else. We want the equality for women as well as ourselves, so that we all get to share in the joy of having family and not even not even those that perhaps have family. Yet you know those that want to, you know, work and then maybe go for a surf during the lunch break right, rather than driving for an hour to work in a city office or spending time on public transport, much rather have coffee at the local coffee shop. Spend some time on my desk, go for a surf at lunchtime and then, you know, work the afternoon, that kind of thing. So is this an opportunity for males to perhaps set a precedent here as well?
Samantha Sutherland Yeah, 100%. The more people that are talking about it, the more people that want it, the more available it will become. So, in fact, that example of someone who wants to go surfing at lunchtime is a perfect example, because the other interesting thing right is so flexible in Australia, historically has been very gendered targeted to mothers or carers. But actually, it’s perfectly valid for someone to have things that they want to do that or not work and to be able to build their life around, being able to contribute productively at work and do the things that they care about their outside work. It’s actually used to have a friend who talked about so casual reaching into his personal life by work. And so they feel like we’re just we’re going to need that Thursday night. Thanks. Yeah, we’ll take that. And just and I love that phrasing of it because that’s exactly right. And it’s like, Well, what if I had plans? What if I want to do something? What if I have a sport? What if I whatever. What if I just don’t want to be working till midnight on a Thursday night? And I think that that conversation is shifting a bit because pre covid I have a lot of and a lot of people who are moms, right? And the father was like, I can’t possibly ask reflected that I can’t get it. They’ll say No, definitely. And now companies are not saying no in the same way, So I think that they can. You can definitely um, this is an opportunity for men to speak up and get flexibility as well. The other thing is that in the US that they’re seeing what they’re calling the great resignation Capital T Capital, G Capital are the great resignation and it hasn’t actually hit in Australia yet, But I predicted it will, and a lot of that is people voting with their feet. They’re leaving companies that won’t give them flexibility that are forcing them back into long commutes are forcing them back into the office full time and good people will always have options. And so, you know, when I mentioned these dinosaur companies earlier, I think those are the companies that are going to face real hard work force patrician for not giving people the flexibility that they want. And I think now you know, the key thing now that hasn’t yet happened. It needs to happen is the proof that flexibility and part time work and stuff like that won’t an effective career negatively in a particular organisation. So there is a moment now where we can tip right where organisations prove it, like they walk the talk, talk the walk, walk the talk, um, and show that flexibility is available for everyone and that people will keep progressing in your career won’t be affected by it, but in companies where they say that that’s the case to try and avoid this great resignation. But actually people can see that opportunities and promotions are given to people who aren’t working flexibly. Well, then those cultures will very quickly revert to people not taking flexibility. So there has to be both the availability of flexibility and part time work and really open, honest conversation about the fact that that’s available and leadership demonstrating that they’re doing it and you need to make sure that opportunities and promotions and good projects and stuff are given to the people who are working flexibly as well.
#storytellerjewels I think you’re right. I think that’s definitely a key factor in, as you say, the tipping point and whether or not we continue to be flexible, I think there’s a couple of other things as well. So one is I think this extended period has showed us that productivity can be maintained. I think at first everyone was a little bit up in the air and it was quite difficult and people, some people had technology issues. And But once we got over the initial shock of being locked in the household for extended periods of time, I think it proved that the productivity levels could be maintained, even though people working flexibly right so not everybody sat down at their kitchen table from 9 to 5. You know, it was kind of a lot more staggered throughout the day at different times a day, so that was one thing so maintained productivity and the third one, which I don’t think maybe is not evident just yet because we’ve obviously had a downturn as well at the same time. But if we can maintain profitability in the businesses as well, then I think it proves the point that we can still run a profitable business that’s just as productive with good people, the best people. In fact, we now have a pool of people that potentially could be remote. They could be rural areas that could be international. They could be anyone anywhere on the planet as long as the work is done right, and I think that’s the beauty of what we’ve seen. But I’m worried. I’m worried that the dinosaurs will outweigh a lot of the smaller ones that perhaps are a little bit more nimble and flexible, and that will be drawn back into the old ways because one of the other things that I really hope I won’t go back to normal is We’ve also proven that you don’t need to jump on a plane every five minutes to go to a meeting or even into a car. You know you don’t have to be in front of a person for every single meeting you don’t have to spend weeks away from. You know, we talked about this sort of inequality. When you’ve got a job that takes you overseas twice a month on top of your long work days and all those kinds of things, there’s no wonder there’s no time left to help do the dishes right, so we don’t have to travel necessarily. We don’t have to sit in a stuffy office together all of the time. I think there’s a there’s a balance. I think it’s great to spend time with people and actually face to face and do workshops and those kinds of things always lovely to do in person. But I think there needs to be a lot more restraint when it comes to the insistence. They have to be in the same room. They have to be sitting next to somebody at a desk. They have to be in a boardroom with the other people in the in the actual situation. So I’m hoping that a shift, I’m hopeful, but let’s see what? How that kind of pans out?
Samantha Sutherland Well, yeah, I mean, on the travel thing, I think a lot of people have appreciated that and so I think that the, you know, zoom meetings when it’s one or two people will be will continue for sure. And so on the profitability thing, actually, a really great story about that. So, uh, the New Zealand company, we’re wanted to experiment with giving people full time pay where they worked four days a week, and to see, like, do an experiment around it. So they did, and it was three months. So they said everybody was going to be working at 80% capacity, but being paid 100% there, three months of tested out. They had six weeks or something to prepare for it. So, like, how is it going to operate in your team? Are you going to work school hours? You can have Friday off. What does that actually look like? How do we make sure everything that needs to be covered is covered? And then they also put all these performance measures in place so they could objectively tell what was happening within the business after throughout this experiment, and at the end of three months, every single performance measure in the company had increased. And so you have a company that is performing better. You have people that are happier. They’re not burnt out, their way fresher for work and also a huge amount of goodwill generated within your organisation. So that kind of like knowledge drain of people moving on will be so much lower in the organisation like that because people want to keep working it. They feel really valued. They feel really cared for. Um and they have, Yeah, they just have so much loyalty towards the company that’s willing to give them give back to them, you know? And so that was It would be interesting to see, like, as you said, wearing a downturn now, and that was pre pandemic. But I think productivity has definitely been maintained. I think that profitability will also go up in line with the economy. I agree. If you can maintain the productivity, there’s no reason why profitability can’t be maintained and the thing is as well like, you know, parenting aside, I always have said as well, when you really efficient and really good at your job, very often you get rewarded with more work. But not everybody wants more work is the reward. Some people are happy at the level they’re out, and they’re like What I would like to do is be able to just fully dictate when I work my notes. So not even having Children want to go surfing in the afternoon. I’m not going to work on Tuesday afternoons because I’ve got everything done. And that is then the rewards. Like if you valued that role at a particular pay, well, then having ensuring someone’s there from 9 to 5, it’s sort of like the last line of defence, right? Like when you don’t trust people, you don’t know what they’re doing, Whatever. But if you can be outcome space and you know that someone is doing what they need to be doing, well, then why does it matter? You know, maybe some of the rewards should go, not just to businesses. You get more from people, but also to the individuals who get to have a nice life for doing a really good job.
#storytellerjewels And I agree. That’s fabulous. Um, I know myself. I’ve worked from home, um, ahead of the curve. I’ve been working from home for about 10 years. Um, so I haven’t had a formal office. I do work with clients and I spend time in officers and around, you know, around the water cooler per se, which is great, and I enjoy the sort of balance that that gives me. But what I find is that I can spend an entire day in an in an office, and then I can spend an entire day at home and in four hours at home, I will do more. I will do more in four hours at home than I would in eight hours sitting in an office because there’s so many other distractions, right? You spend time talking, you might go for an extra coffee. Um, you know, the water cooler moments, the in the hallway moments you get dragged into stuff just because you’re close by, somebody taps you on the shoulder. They want to have a chat, and all of those things are, you know, the switching, as I call it, the switching time that goes from trying to deep focus on something. And then I get interrupted and then I have that conversation. Then try and come back to that deep Focus wastes a lot of time, so I think it’s more productive being at home, generally speaking anyway, so I’m very hopeful for the future in that regard. I’m going to change tack just a little bit if I can. This podcast is about storytelling in the business environment. So you’ve done this fabulous research. You are clearly incredibly passionate about the cause and what you do and how you do that. What do you do to spread your message? What are the storytelling techniques or avenues that you take to get that message out to the market?
Samantha Sutherland Well, I use my podcast. And so I talked to a lot of people on that about their individual experiences and their stories as well as, um, you know what’s going on in the industry? And I think that I illustrate, try and illustrate a lot of these stories with a lot of their information with stories. When I talked about flexibility for everybody, I gave the example of the guy who was told not flexibilities for working mothers. And so I try and bring it to life through people’s stories and my own story, like my story of being not being told about the opportunity to go into common overseas. You know, one of the reasons why some of the work I do as well is like cultural work. A lot of this stuff. It all fits under the same banner because you, like I said, you know, you bring it with a gender lens, but it benefits everybody, and so everything cultural is like that. So you bring a cultural change to an organisation to try and make things more positive for people. And it affects. Everybody is in the organisation, and the reason I care about that in any way is because we’ve all had a job where you dread going into work, and Sunday night you start to feel anxious and you hate the people that you work with, and you hate the work that you do. And when you have a bad job because we spend so much time at work, you just have a bad life. And I think most people can connect with that experience. Unfortunately, and so this matters not just because, you know diversity is good for the bottom line and because it’s fairer to have equal opportunity for all, but also because as individuals, our lives are better. If we do this work and we’ve all had that experience and so I think that that makes people really feel it. You can all tap into your own experience of it not being good on LinkedIn.
#storytellerjewels Just recently, you shared a story about when you were a graduate and a bus incident.
Samantha Sutherland Yeah, well, that’s good. That’s my first. I mean, unfortunately, that’s not my only story of having a job like that. But when I was a grad, I was working one of the big four banks and I Well, first of all, I think I didn’t realise that there were other options. So I just had taken a job. That was a job that was highly sought after. And I was, you know, really grateful to have got it. And it was competitive process to get it. And then I got it. And within two weeks, I was like, Oh, God, is this my life? Now? Is this what life is from here? Because that’s a long life. I don’t want to be doing it, but because I didn’t really feel like I had any options I wanted I wanted to get hit by a bus on the way to work and not die that get badly injured. So I had to be in hospital for a long time, and I didn’t have to go to work. And I thought it all through. So the reason I want to get hit by a bus on the way to work because then back then I would have been covered by work cover. So it would have been paid while I was in hospital, recovering from this terrible bus accident before I had to go back to work. And I said that to a friend one night in the pub and she was like, Oh, my God, Sam, you’ve got to get out. And not long after that, I actually quit and went to London and so changed my whole life. Yeah, you know, because I shared another story recently, which was a more recent version of the same kind of thing where I took a job and on paper was one of my dream job. And one of the selling points was it. So I took a pay cut to do it, and one of the selling points was, We have other working moms here. You need to leave to collect your kids from school. That’s totally fine. And in order to get to daycare by five p.m. I had to leave the city by 4. 15. Otherwise, if I pushed it much later off the bus, he would be out the front, holding on to the carers hand, and they sort of throw him at me. And then everyone would leave, you know? And so I was trying to avoid that experience. And there is a very strong expectation that if I did that that I would then be hopping online after he was in bed. So I’d be leaving work at 4 15 and then you were doing a different type of work straight through to seven or 7:30 p.m. And then it was meant to hop on my computer and work for a couple of hours in the evening. And you don’t have a life when you do that. I’ve got to spend a bit of time. My kids. And then there was nothing else. And it’s like you can’t you can’t live like that. And so there’s a moment when you kind of look around and go. This can’t be what my life is all about, you know, big catalysts for change. Think And that’s why I care about this stuff.
#storytellerjewels Yeah, it’s clear. It comes out loud and clear. I think this is a subject you and I could possibly speak about. And I know you could possibly speak about this. I’d love to be careful what you wish for, right? So I’ve really enjoyed the podcast. But I do have a final question for you. If I may that I’d like to ask everybody if somebody offered to donate a million dollars to your favourite charity in exchange for five minutes of your time to pick your brain. What wisdom would you impart?
Samantha Sutherland Oh, gosh. You know, I think that the wisdom that I try to live by is the idea that the day isn’t over yet. And so if that means you’ve had a really unproductive day and it’s three p.m. And you can’t get yourself to do anything Well, the day isn’t over yet, and you can still get something done before the end of the day. And if it means that you’ve had a month of being really low and not feeling connected with your friends and not feeling connected with yourself, well, the day isn’t over yet you can still connect with yourself and connect with your friends. And you know, we have a lot of years, and the day isn’t over for a really long time. And so there’s always a chance to do something different or do something meaningful or change how you’re showing up in the world and for yourself. And there’s always a new end of the day.
#storytellerjewels Favorite Less advice. Samantha, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your passion around this topic. Where can people find out a little bit more about you?
Samantha Sutherland You can find me in two great places. One. My podcast. Women at work. It’s math Sutherland. Um, that’s on iTunes. Or, you know, the podcast app or wherever you get your podcasts and the other would be my website, which is Samantha Sutherland dot com.
#storytellerjewels Glory Samantha, Thank you so much.
Samantha Sutherland Thanks for having me.
#storytellerjewels Cheers. I enjoyed that conversation with Samantha, even though it was a little disturbing. We think we’ve come a long way in the last 100 years, but gosh, we’ve got a long way to go when it comes to equality. This is an important subject we should talk about it more. Samantha is doing a fantastic job and you should definitely look her up and look at the research that she’s done. It’s amazing work. She’s put in a big effort, and I think the topic itself cannot go quiet. It must be voiced and continue to be voiced so that at least we have half a chance that my Children and their Children will have far more equality than we ever have in the past. It’s time to step up. Let’s make it happen. Let’s keep talking about it. Thank you, Samantha. Thanks for the work that you do. I really appreciate it much. Love chat soon.