Celebrating women leaders at Flare on International Women’s Day

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This International Women’s Day, the theme is #ChooseToChallenge. We are so fortunate to work with so many phenomenal women here at Flare, and we spoke with 4 of our female leaders about what this year’s theme means to them, and their best tips for living your best financial life and building inclusive workplaces.

Liz Crawford

Chief Technology Officer, Flare

Liz is an engineering, product, and data science leader with a background in artificial intelligence and entrepreneurship.

What does #ChooseToChallenge mean to you?

To me, the theme is about being a force for positive change. Identifying opportunities and taking action against them, speaking up. There are ways each and every one of us can make a difference. As someone in a technology leadership role I have the opportunity to mentor women, to build a diverse and inclusive team and to influence others to do the same.

At Flare, we believe in empowering every Aussie to live their best financial life. How do you approach this in your own life?

There is so much that goes into this. I’m a big believer in hard work and honing your craft. This helps take care of your personal revenue line while you are younger via your ability to earn money for the work you do. For me, it’s not about maximising this revenue line, work is a large part of my life and it is important to me that I enjoy it and believe I’m contributing positively to the world.

The other side of this is savings, investment and spending. I have always spent less than I have earned which has allowed me to save and invest. Saving has required me to be frugal at times (I spent years doing a PhD on a fellowship), but it’s never meant not having necessities. I know that is a privilege. Everyone’s situation and preferences are different and at Flare we aim to help people in the ways that matter for them.

What advice do you have for businesses that are looking to build a more inclusive workplace?

Take the time to educate yourself. There is so much material out there you can learn from. Two specific tips on hiring. First, be aware of how your hiring criteria can skew your pool of eligible candidates. For example, if women engineers are less represented in a particular developer community, and you limit your search to that community you will likely end up with a worse gender ratio than companies with broader criteria. Second, if you want to hire a more diverse group, make a point of sourcing for it. Don’t just say, well we can’t do better because the candidate pool lacks diversity. If you care, make the effort. Same thing goes when organising a conference, recruiting a board, etc.

Brittany Wong

VP Marketing, Flare

Brittany is a marketing leader experienced in leading and building collaborative, high performance teams to drive market position, build demand and accelerate customer growth.

What does #ChooseToChallenge mean to you?

This is all about taking a stand for gender equality, and equality for all — and doing something about it. From what I’ve learned, gender inequality is at the heart of many injustices and socio-economic issues in communities and the world. Though many of us care about equality, few of us take action to drive change. “Choose to challenge” is a call to action to do something about it. 

At Flare, we believe in empowering every Aussie to live their best financial life. How do you approach this in your own life?

In my early twenties, I lived my best ‘party’ life, studied, traveled and worked crazy hours to start my career. But behind the scenes of all of this, I was always working to pay off my upcoming credit card bill. This trend went on for years, and I thought nothing of it. As I earned more, I spent more. It wasn’t until I was 25 when a girlfriend (that went out as much as I did), bought a house on her own without any financial assistance. I was floored. How did she do this? Weren’t we all spending our hard earned money frivolously?  When I asked her how she did it, she told me that her mom, who raised her and her sister on her own,  had taught them to put 20% of their earnings away every pay cheque since she started working at 16. My girlfriend followed her mom’s advice (which was mandatory at the start) and told me she never noticed the difference when it came to living life.  This simple habit was the difference between me (who had absolutely no money to buy a house) and her (who was a homeowner at age 25). 

I’ve learned that simple financial habits can go a long way. All you need to do is get started with one or two savings habits, then you can start investing and multiplying your wealth. 

When I was young, technology didn’t exist to support or educate people on financial habits, but today, it does. Anyone can empower themself to live their best financial life with the right habits, education and tools; and that’s why I’m proud of what we’re building at Flare. 

What advice do you have for businesses that are looking to build a more inclusive workplace?

Start somewhere. If you don’t believe building an inclusive workplace is important, then you can’t make progress towards it. 

My advice is to start small and build up from there. Find a passionate group of people who care about inclusivity,  identify a Project Sponsor (or senior executive) to support and raise awareness of the initiative,  and drive progress through action and programs that can be felt and experienced by employees. 

Janine Fry

Head of Customer Experience, Flare

Janine is a customer experience leader who has extensive experience in technology businesses.

What does #ChooseToChallenge mean to you?

For me it’s challenging the perception of women in the workplace, and more specifically in leadership. We should not need to mirror and mimic the behaviours which made our male counterparts successful. Successful leadership can be reflected in some of those non-traditional ‘success’ qualities such as kindness, empathy and tenacity; where you don’t need to have the loudest voice to be heard.

At Flare, we believe in empowering every Aussie to live their best financial life. How do you approach this in your own life?

Before becoming a teacher, my Dad was an actuary and created a home where we were able to have difficult conversations about money, where the art of deciding between wants and needs were regularly practiced and where instant gratification was not common. Dad had a saying ‘people first, then money, then things’ (I later discovered it was ripped from Suze Orman)! For us, it meant – comprehensive insurance for my folks (life, income, health), good schools for my sister and I, followed by savings, then needs, then wants. It’s an approach I continue to practice, and an approach which overtime has enabled me to focus on long term financial wellness. The key takeaway here is acknowledging that finance is a deeply-emotional topic for many folks and having conversations early with kids is vital.

My sister and I were raised to be fiercely independent and wildly curious, which I’m forever grateful for, as it has shaped my view on learning. Educating myself on the things I don’t understand to enable informed, balanced financial decisions has been a game-changer for me. 

What advice do you have for businesses that are looking to build a more inclusive workplace?

We all have our biases which have been developed and shaped by our experiences. For me, personally it’s acknowledging they exist and continuing to work to educate myself on that which I don’t understand. Assuming the best in everyone and giving myself time to deeply understand the experience of others. 

Appreciate the fundamental reality of human nature. That we all like to be given an opportunity to be treated as individuals in an environment where our individual needs are considered and catered for. When that is done in a genuine and heartfelt way, diversity and inclusion organically starts to happen.

Emily Butler

Head of Consumer Marketing, Flare

Emily is a strategic marketing and brand leader with 18+ years of global experience in digital, entertainment, e-commerce and startups.

What does #ChooseToChallenge mean to you?

For me this is all about speaking up when something doesn’t seem right, and elevating women’s stories at a time when their voices are more important than ever. There are plenty of traditional values being dismantled and challenged every day in Australia and around the world, but there’s always more work to do. I started my marketing career in media 20 years ago, when gender bias and casual sexism was just another day in the office. I honestly didn’t even know it was a thing, the behaviour was so normalised. Seeing my female mentors challenge what it means to be a working woman and parent today has been a big inspiration to me, and I’m always learning and acknowledging that I have a responsibility to lift other women up. 

At Flare, we believe in empowering every Aussie to live their best financial life. How do you approach this in your own life?

Women in Australia retire with 40% less in superannuation than men, as we’re more likely to be out of the workforce to have children or provide care for family members. Combined with the gender pay gap, this can significantly impact women in retirement. Additionally, up to 16% of Australian women will experience financial abuse in their lives, which essentially renders women powerless in relationships as their access to money is restricted by their partner. 

Developing a healthy, independent relationship with my money, and understanding how much I need to retire comfortably has been a big game changer for me. I had 5 superannuation accounts before I left Australia for New York back in 2011 — consolidating them via 5 different paper forms went very firmly into the too-hard basket as I packed up my life for the move. After I arrived in the city, I knew I had to get my act together and start adulting. I learned how to build my credit rating so I could rent an apartment. My now husband and I started saving — I am extremely fortunate to have a partner who shares every aspect of running our family 50/50. I opened a 401k retirement account as my employer made co-contributions — there is no compulsory superannuation system over there. I’m so grateful my boss at the time suggested I do this, as by the time I relocated back to Australia, my 401k was on par with what I had in those 5 superannuation accounts. 

I’m really proud of our vision at Flare because we’re meeting Aussies where they’re at, and giving them the tools they need regardless of how far along they are in their financial journey. It’s never too late to start building healthy habits. And consolidating your super is extremely easy these days, especially if your super fund prioritises the digital member experience.

What advice do you have for businesses that are looking to build a more inclusive workplace?

It’s important to acknowledge our biases, unconscious or otherwise, and give underrepresented groups a voice. My advice to leaders and hiring managers is to check your privilege at the door, and don’t assume you know the challenges everyone faces on a daily basis. Speak to your teams. Understand how they feel, and be proactive in addressing any concerns they have. Having an open mind when it comes to hiring a woman who might be returning to the workforce is hugely important — I’ve seen how hard women have to work to feel in control of their careers. In New York, I went back to work when my first child was only 4 months old. I expressed milk for my baby in a bathroom, twice a day, for 6 months. This was very “normal,” and while going back was my choice, plenty of women do not have this luxury. They simply can’t afford not to work, or they’re concerned about the impact an extended break might have on their career. 

Balancing work and family is hard — I really had no concept of this before I had children! I’m grateful to work at Flare alongside so many other parents, including our founders, Dan and James. They are both incredibly supportive and understanding when it comes to being a working mum and raising a family — and this should not be a rarity. Being human and empathising with each other is the key to a happy, inclusive workforce.

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