Six women on what ‘breaking the bias’ means to them

This International Women’s Day is bringing awareness to bias (conscious and unconscious) in the workplace, and what holds women back from achieving equal rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of gender.

At Flare, we recognise that diversity is an amazing thing, and that it benefits not only the workplace but society at large, and so we celebrate it. We’ve asked six women at Flare to share with us their views on breaking the bias, why it is important, what it means to them, how they’d go about it and where they see other women leading the way.

The theme of IWD 2022 is #BreakTheBias. What does this mean to you?

Katie: To me, it means that we all have the same consequences for our actions and the same rewards for our efforts. It would mean getting to a place where gender and skin colour have the same effect on our careers as eye colour.

Jessica: To #BreakTheBias, I believe, means to never stop questioning; to be on a constant journey of learning and undoing structures that might disadvantage women. It means to advocate for the material change in policies to account for the intersectional nature of the human (and women’s) experience. In daily life, it’s calling out language and behaviours in a safe and constructive way and being conscious of how all the information and media you’re consuming impacts the way you see your reality. This is where I hope we can strive to be. Collaboration and a holistic approach to addressing deeply ingrained biases will be key to our success.

Neda: To me, it’s as simple as breaking gender bias. With so much unconscious bias, even with the best intent, we form them, unaware of the impact they have on individuals. To me, it is understanding we have those unconscious biases and slowly breaking them down and creating greater awareness. That extends culturally as well.

Lauren: To me, ‘Break the Bias’ is the continued advocacy to challenge structural and institutional biases that impact women’s financial security.

We have seen examples of ‘breaking the bias’ with proposals to remove the superannuation income threshold test from 1 July 2022. This proposal removes some of the structural inequalities which exist in women’s access to superannuation, enabling low-income, part-time and casual workers (often disproportionality overrepresented by women), to earn employer guaranteed superannuation contributions.

The structural and institutional biases which exist in financial services, perpetuate women’s financial insecurity. Breaking these biases means educating ourselves and continuing the dialogue on income and retirement inequality, identifying and talking about the legislative gaps that let women down, and empowering other women to share knowledge and increase their levels of financial literacy which is key to attaining a level of financial security.

What would it mean to you to have a gender equal world?

Liz: A world where a person’s gender doesn’t determine the freedoms they experience, their opportunities, their degree of safety and their ability to exercise their basic human rights.

Sam: Feminism often gets a bad rap, even from women but Gloria Steinem once said, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” If all men (and women) can proudly call themselves feminists our work is done.

Sarah: To me, a gender equal world is walking into a room and being seen and heard for who you are, for the ideas you offer, automatically given the same respect you give. A world where every room is safe for everyone, of any gender, to freely collaborate in, hold space in, be heard in.

Lauren: The continued existence of violence against women (physical, financial, social, political or otherwise) is incompatible with the concept of a gender equal world.

To me, a gender equal world is one free from violence, from our daily interactions through to our highest institutions. A gender equal world also recognises minority women from all corners of the globe, whose voices are rarely represented in mainstream discourse, and whose lived experiences of gendered violence are significant and vastly different to our own.

Neda: To me equality means accepting all out differences, but not using those differences based on gender! More fluid. No quotas, but also no unconscious bias and not feeling displaced that suddenly we must do the right thing, or say/not say something… It just is.
More conversation, more sharing, more learning.
Not striving to be perfect and censor conversation, but an understanding that we’re equal just as we are different.

What do you believe to be the most effective ways to break biases in the workplace?

Liz: It starts with recognising bias and helping others learn to recognise it. Bias is often unconscious. We can be prejudiced without knowing it. At Flare we have worked to educate our team on unconscious bias. And we actively examine our processes and decisions to understand where bias may arise. Diversity is also crucial to breaking biases in the workplace. You can’t just hire for diversity, you have to build an environment that celebrates it. One of our leadership principles at Flare is “we create safe spaces”. As leaders it is our job to build an environment where every person can bring their authentic self and it feels safe to take on challenges and grow.

Katie: Women are doing everything they can to break biases in the workplace, so the next step is to get all the men involved. Things like being the one to take notes, planning the work holiday party, holding space for us to be heard in meetings, sharing their data and advocating for equal pay, promoting women, being the one to stay home with a sick kid, and calling out bad behaviour by their colleagues will make the workplace a more equitable place for everyone.

Sam: Empowered women empower women! Break the bias in the workplace by spending time with and drawing inspiration from the great women in our lives – colleagues, peers, mums, aunts, daughters, girlfriends. The women that have your back. Call out bad behaviour and support one another. But more importantly, talk about and celebrate equality with the men in our lives too. As much as this world needs to raise stronger women, we need to raise enlightened men.

Neda: Whenever I have been vulnerable or have witnessed someone’s vulnerability, it has been met with compassion and a newfound understanding. I think creating space where we can all be vulnerable, evokes stories and that brings on understanding. It creates further awareness, and all sorts of stigmas are broken down, not just the gender ones.

What are women in your life doing to break the bias?

Katie: They’re unapologetically running for office, fundraising, advocating for women of colour and LGBTQ women, starting companies, getting promotions, investing, educating, parenting, and perhaps most importantly, prioritising themselves by creating space for rest, self-care, and things that bring them joy, so they can keep doing this work for as long as it takes.

Sarah: They are no longer simply ‘pleasing’ others because it’s the ‘safe’ or ‘nice’ thing to do. They are no longer following the rules women are prescribed to, just because it’s what “good girls” do. They are shaking up the status quo. They are pulling up to tables with their own seats and making sure their voice is heard. They are earning more than ever, shattering glass ceilings, paving the way for women of the future. There are more powerful women across roles and industries than ever before because we are capable. We are skilled. We are not just lucky.

Neda: They have found a way to play to their strengths, instead of trying to fit into a gender perception mould of what it means to be successful. They have found their uniqueness and share their learnings, openly. I have also found that those with a greater sense of awareness, especially in positions of power or authority, use their voice for the greater of all, not just some.

This International’s women’s day, we encourage open discussion about bias and how it impacts you at work and home. Our hope is that through awareness, we can identify bias and evolve to appreciate, value and celebrate our differences #breakthebias

Celebrating women leaders at Flare on International Women’s Day

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.

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 […]