Mental Health First Aid Training

#30 A thought leader that can’t be ignored – Jane Caro, Senate Candidate and Social Activist (s02ep6)

Apr 14, 2022

Never one to be a passive observer, Jane Caro is known for speaking what's on her mind, and is bound to shake up the Federal Government should she be successful next month. Jane has a low threshold for boredom. This trait has seen her embrace careers including novelist, lecturer, mentor, social commentator, columnist, workshop facilitator, speaker, broadcaster, and award-winning advertising writer. In 2018 she was awarded a Walkley's Women in Leadership Award.
"Business needs to look at being part of the whole community, and that is to increase and enhance the lives of as many people as possible. "
- Jane Caro


  • How the best leaders create a work environment that allows employees to feel valued and take risks
  • The advocacy of women assuming more senior roles in business, in government, in the community.
  • How free, public education is the bedrock value of a functioning democracy.


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Transcript from the interview

Disclaimer: The following transcript was generated using a specific tool. It serves as a convenient method for converting our podcasts into text and allows for easy text searches. However, we kindly ask for your understanding if any typos have inadvertently occurred as a result of the tool’s usage.


Graeme Cowan, Jane Caro

Graeme Cowan 0:10 

It’s a real delight to welcome Jane Caro to the Caring CEO podcast. Welcome, Jane.

Jane Caro 0:16 

Oh, thank you for having me.

Graeme Cowan 0:18 

Our pleasure. Jane, what does care in the workplace mean to you?

Jane Caro 0:24 

I think it means that the people who lead that workplace recognize that their job is not to be the most important or the most talented, or the most admired person in the room. Their job is actually to get the best out of the people who work for them to create an environment, and an atmosphere which is safe. So that, and way you feel valued, because that’s the only time that people will take risks. And when people take risks is when you get creativity, new solutions, ideas that no one’s ever had before. If you create a workplace that’s based on fear that’s highly competitive, where there’s a lot of judgment and, you know, you’re expected to be jumping over the bar all the time, and the bar has always been raised. It conversely, it actually, it stops people taking risks. They start to try to second guess what they think the boss wants them to do, rather than what they believe, is the right solution to whatever the problem is. And that’s the very worst kind of management. And sadly, in my experience, it’s the most common kind.

Graeme Cowan 1:42 

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about having psychologically safe teams. And what that is exactly what you’ve described is people can take risks, they can be their authentic selves, they can make mistakes, and they learn from them quickly, and they support each other, they have each other’s back. Why do you think that so many organizations are late to get on that trend, which is absolutely essential for success today?

Jane Caro 2:07 

I think Australia has always suffered from a kind of machismo version of leadership. I’ve seen a lot of leaders whom, and I think we’ve seen in politics at the moment, to be honest with you, who confuse bullying with strength. They confuse thumping the table and yelling and being loud. And you know, that stupid and really being very harsh and judgmental, and aggressive as showing strength, of course, is the opposite people who behave like that are very weak. But for a very long time, I think we’ve been captive to that particular very hyper masculine, that doesn’t mean it’s only men who do it. By the way, it’s just a particular style. I’ve seen women do it as well, um, that particular style of leadership, and it is, in fact, a destructive style of leadership and what it usually leads to. And whenever I found myself working in a place, in my experience being managed as in creative departments, in ad agencies, whenever I found myself working in a place that was run like that, I’d get my CV out and start looking for another job. And that means people with options, your best people, or people who’ve done the best work will leave.

Graeme Cowan 3:18 

Yeah, you had a very successful career in advertising, industry and copywriting. What, is there any difference do you think of managing a creative team versus are they one accounting team, for example?

Jane Caro 3:31 

Yes, I think there is. And I think it’s because when you, when you are in a creative occupation, where you’re given a brief, and you don’t have much to work on, you’ve usually got one sentence which says, we want to communicate XYZ to this group of people. You just have to go away and you have to mind your life, your experience, your instincts, your knowledge, your guts, to find an unusual, original, amusing, hopefully, or moving solution to that particular communication problem. So, you are exposing your inner self, when you put that work forward. It’s not just your work. It’s actually you that you’re putting forward onto the page. I mean, I’ve got a novel coming out in March. And I’m absolutely terrified, because I have put, I poured myself into the words on that page, because that’s the only place it comes from it, it comes from in you. And so yes, there has to be a caring C creative director, which I worked for, was able to tell me and other people that work for them. Why something was good? And why it wasn’t right. Side, of course, often happens in a way that respected that you’d actually dragged up something from your inner self to solve that particular problem, they understood that. And by understanding in that, and by being respectfully articulate about why it was good, what wasn’t whatever, or whatever suggestions they were offering, they created that place of safety of psychological safety, just talking about where you could take those risks. And feel like you wouldn’t be mocked or put down. I mean, I’ve sat in rooms where, you know, I hated them, we used to do what’s called a brainstorm, and oh, God, I hated them. Well, you get it, people putting ideas out there, and nobody owned the idea. And the ideas were orphans. And so, and the thing that everybody agreed to, nobody loved. It always turned out not to be that great an idea. Really, an idea is a precious like a child, I always used to think of it as a child. And a child needs a parent. That needs someone who guides it, and guards it, and knows what it’s about a knows what’s good about it, and advocates for it, and really kind of brings it up through its process from being a script on a piece of paper, to a finished TV commercial, or print out a poster or whatever the hell it turns out to be novel, whatever. So, you really need that kind of supportive atmosphere where people respect you think that you are capable of doing great work and want to do everything, they can to help you do the best work you’re capable of. Quite often, I worked in departments, which didn’t have that attitude, where really, it was all about beating the other guy. And so, in fact, a particular view of the only woman in the department, this was the 80s and 90s, remember, and you had a different idea that I didn’t like that much at all. Since I’ve been beating by a woman that happened to make one rock.

Graeme Cowan 6:45 

You think will advocate for women are assuming more senior roles in business, in government, in the community. Why do you think we’re still not in great shape with the number of women that are pioneering?

Jane Caro 7:00 

Because these are ancient, ingrained prejudices that have been around for thousands of years. And I often say, you know, 2000 years of people being disappointed when you were born, it’s not overcoming a few decades. And we have to remember that, till very recently, when a girl was born, it wasn’t as cause for greater celebration as when a boy was born. And it’s still like that in a lot of cultures. And that kind of your lesson than attitude is not just held by those who regard themselves as your superior. But it’s internalized by the people who are brought up with that you’re lesser than perspective on themselves. And so, it’s both a push and a pull. And I think for a long time, and certainly when I was in business, it was just considered, well, you know, we’re not stopping you, though they were. But they’d say they didn’t, and, you know, any woman who got anywhere was given an example that, you know, it was all open to anyone who tried. So, the implication was women don’t get ahead, because they know all up to it, man, I try hard enough. Now good enough, was very, very much the attitude that women weren’t really good enough, or they didn’t aspire to that, you know, we much preferred sorting your socks, apparently, that was much more fulfilling for women, oddly, and for nothing less at the time. Um, but so we were, so we incorporated that image about ourselves. And that made it very hard. I mean, I used to go to advertising, creative lunches, and a lot of people in advertising, we will work with words. And so, a lot of people are very witty, very creative, very quick witted, very good with the comeback, and the Rep IT. And I remember, I used to come out sweating, because it was almost like a competition, you know, and if people who made the wiliest remark and I would, I would be reticent, because my humor was slightly different than a lot of the guys because my life experience was different. And I want to be mocked or put down or have that awful moment where you think you’ve made a funny remark, and the guys will go, oh, and you feel like you want to die. And that happens a lot. So, you get very tentative about putting yourself forward and women are very conscious, that when you’re the only one or the only one of two, everything you say and do is a stand out, and also, you become a representative of your entire gender. It’s like a person of color who may be the only one they’re representative of their entire community. It’s a burden that you drag around with you and you’re judged more harshly. I remember hearing a very senior CEO. So, at one point about his board of directors. Oh, we had a woman on the board once she was dreadful, we tried it didn’t work, so we’re not doing it again. And I said do you think all women are exactly the same? So just pop one in in that tea. It was, that was the attitude that if you made a mistake, or if you lost your temper or you were just a human being and not perfect, then that was proof positive that women weren’t really suited to the boardroom or the credit department or whatever it was. And there was, there was that I was always putting advertising want to know why behavior continues, follow the benefit. Well, the benefit was they hobbled half the population, and managed to keep the best jobs for themselves. That’s still going on, that’s still going on. And we also have, we see that in this government, in particular, religious views, that strongly believe that women should be at home, helping them in. We should be the wind beneath men’s wings, rather than actually soaring ourselves. And that’s very hard to change that view, no one will admit to it anymore. But that doesn’t mean that I still believe it.

Graeme Cowan 11:03 

Yeah. When you think about the last couple of years, and particularly the last year, there’s been so much change and volatility, and the type of leadership that really goes Wilmot of the situation is consultative style. And I think you can make black and white statements, but I think women are better at the consultative style and better at reading and room and better at EQ. And it’s interesting seeing, you know, some of the best countries that have managed COVID. And, you know, we look at Jacinda return in New Zealand and Angela Merkel, you know, who did very, very well. And the whole consultative element just has to become more the norm to get great results, it really does. Because no one person owns the truth.

Jane Caro 12:00 

I think though, the problem with that is we’ve got a backlash. And so, there’s been an exaggerated kind of machismo coming back at this idea that consultative leadership is a better way to go. I would agree. I think women are more consultative or better at EQ and reading the room. Not intrinsically not because we’ve got ovaries. But because we’ve had to be. Because we’ve been a subordinate culture, when you say subordinate culture, you have to be very good at reading. The men’s attitudes around you, because they have power over you. When you’re the dominant culture, you don’t have to have much EQ, doesn’t really matter what other people think and feel who we’re not in charge, or you’re not going to have any influence over what happens to you, when you’re the subordinate culture, you really have to be good at that stuff. So, I think this is just part of coming from a subordinate culture, I think you’d probably find that people of color people with a disability, you know, all the other people who have been lifted out not considered the norm would also have a very strong ability to do that kind of thing. And particularly women of color, women with a disability, I mean, it’s a double if you like need, they don’t just need to be able to read the room in terms of white men and white women, but they also need to be able to read the room when it’s their own conscious men who were there because they all have parent influence more than the subordinate culture. So, it’s, it’s an intrinsic skill learned by those who must persuade a group that isn’t them, to give them the opportunity, it’s just logical.

 Graeme Cowan 13:43 

Now, you’re also very passionate about education. And you wrote a book called The Stupid Country. What was that about? And why did you think it was an important message to spread?

 Jane Caro 13:54

Oh, it’s still the most important message. Its full title is The Stupid Country How Australia is Dismantling Public Education. My great passion is not for education, per se, my great passion is for public education. And that is education, that compulsory, universal free education free to the purchaser available to all comers regardless of who their parents are. That to me is a bedrock value of a functioning democracy. When you start to undermine that and Australia is leading the world in undermining public education amongst democracies. Absolutely. We’re outliers of doing that. When you start to do that, you fatally undermine your democracy, you start to create a situation where you basically have an entrenched. You can only entrench. If you say parental choice is the bedrock value of our education system, which is what Australia has done, which is the near liberal attitude. It’s all about choice. And it’s about parental choice. I’m estranged I thought education was about giving kids opportunities. I thought it was about kids. What’s wrong with me? It knows with my parents when I was– A headline education. I thought it was in those kids. Anyway, it’s not. But if you entrench parental choice for perfectly logical reasons, you can only entrench privileged and underprivileged. Because no child is disadvantaged to any of their own doing. They are disadvantaged because they were born into the wrong womb. Maybe that’s their fault. Maybe we should punish them for generations not making their parents better. But I think that’s a very stupid attitude. Because talent doesn’t just pop up in nice middle-class households with parents who can make good and reasonable choices or have the money to be able to pay for those choices. Yeah. So, what you’re doing is you’re really entrenching your class system. And so, Australia through its education system, and this is alone in the world, most certainly the democratic world, most countries use hit their education system to try and mitigate the class system just sort of break down those– Oh no, not Australian. No, no, no, no, no, no, we use public money, billions of it, to entrench and increase the gaps between those children who are born unfortunate and those children who weren’t quite so lucky in a lot of different birth. I find it shocking. And I look directly at the people who run us in Australia, and go straight back to everything when we’re talking about macho leadership, the inability to talk about collaboration or to be consultative, the fact that Parliament’s our business the halls of our businesses, the halls of our judicial system, and military, you name it up absolutely dominated by white, private school educated blokes, says all you need to know about the limitations of Australia. And that is directly attributable to why we found our education system. And the way we’ve encouraged middle class parents to desert public education. So that it is in danger of becoming a residualized welfare system of education for the poor, which is a disaster. So hence, we are a very stupid country, and hence, we have very stupid leadership. And CEOs.

Graeme Cowan 17:24 

Do you think that quota is a good for that is a strategy going forward?

Jane Caro 17:29 

I think quotas are really good for women, people of color, etc. I think we need quotas. I’m absolutely 100% behind them. I think in terms of education, it’s much more dive in that. We don’t want to pluck winners, from public schools, and move them into a nicer class or school or something. And all that would be, that’s terrible thing to do. No, what we need to do is stop funding private schools, or at least have a good look whether we should be giving public money to schools that charge 10s of 1000s of dollars a year. And we need to what we should really be doing is funding our public school system to the point where it is gold standard. And you’d have to be an idiot to choose to send kids anywhere else. And if it’s not good enough for your kid, you should be getting acting in making sure it is because it’s not gonna be enough for your kid. Not good enough for any kid. And you can’t walk away from all kids and say you don’t care. But in terms of quotas for diversity, though I hate the word diversity. I think it’s really important. We will not put change until we have them. And I have a number of I think absolutely rock-solid arguments as to why quote is unreasonable.

Graeme Cowan 18:45 

What are they?

Jane Caro 18:47 

Well, the first one is we already have quotas for all sorts of things. Our entire cabinet is made up of quotas. You know, they have to have X number of people from WY, they have to have X number of people from this faction and that faction and you know, every state has to be represented, etc., etc. Well, Israel quotas, quotas, quotas and quotas. In fact, Barnaby Joyce is only Deputy Prime Minister of Australia if he currently is I’m confused. I think he is his only Deputy Prime Minister of Australia because of a quota. The Deputy Prime Minister of Australia it when the liberal national parties in Paris always the leader of the National Party, that is a quota. So, we’re already happy with quotas for Boards. No worries, most Boards of Directors have quotas. They’ll often have to have directors from different states, they’ll often have to have them from different depart, you know, different areas of expertise. They might have to have a staff representative quota, quota, quota, quota, quota, do we care enough about women. No, no, no, no, not allowed. Not allowed. The other reason? It’s a couple of others. But the other the big one, the main one is everybody seems to have forgotten strange of bad remembering history. Everybody seems to have forgotten that pesky 100% quota that operated in favor of men, for, I’d say at least 2000 years and probably longer. When every single position of power was held by men. When women had no right to their own money, they didn’t draw their own body. They couldn’t buy a home, they couldn’t own land, you name it, they could never inherit. It couldn’t be kindled. They couldn’t queen, you know, we’ve only just the British royal families only just changed it. So that child had been born before George, she would have automatically been the monarch regardless, that only just changed in the last 10 years. That is 100% quota, every step that women have made has been a chip away at that 100% quota. And if we don’t think that that 100% quota gave men one hell of a leg up when we crazy, so my argument is, what are women asking for? At the moment, we’re asking them if we’re extreme 50%. If in actual fact, if we were really talking about even Steven, we’d say 100% quota for the next 2000 years, and then we’ll talk.

Graeme Cowan 21:14 

When you put it like that, and especially about the quotas that already exists that people don’t think about, you know, you mentioned about the leader of the National Party automatically becomes the deputy prime minister.

Jane Caro 21:28 

Except to people and nobody gets up in arms about it says, what we do?

Graeme Cowan 21:35 

Likewise, on the left, you know, it’s, it’s the, you know, in the labors, the left and the right and working out what’s, what’s, it’s their affections, all that sort of stuff. It’s all, all very much in the system.

Jane Caro 21:47 

On the left in the Labour Party, I will give them this. They do have quotas for women.

Graeme Cowan 21:53 

And they’ve made a lot more progress. A lot more progress. Absolutely.

Jane Caro 21:57 

So, they’ve accepted that if they’ve got quotas for some positions, what the hell differences that make it have quotas women. And frankly, if you say to me that everyone should get a hit on mirrors, look around you. Look at the paper at the top. You reckon like up there on there?

Graeme Cowan 22:14 

You mentioned previously, Jane that you’ve written a fiction book, which is coming out next year, is that your first fiction book?

Jane Caro 22:22 

No, it’s some, my first, it sounds really weird. I could say adult fiction, but then everyone thinks of it in porn. It’s my, it’s my first book fiction book for adults. I’ve written a trilogy about Elizabeth Tudor. There’s a bit the first for young outriders just to go just to Queen and just flesh and blood with University of Queensland press. So those are my first novels. So, they are based on fact, whereas this novel, The mother is entirely based at sit today. And it’s entirely a work of imagination.

Graeme Cowan 22:57 

And you mentioned before, that’s a really scary thing for you, and you’re quite apprehensive about the response. Why do you think that you know that fiction is harder than nonfiction?

 Jane Caro 23:11 

Because in nonfiction, you’ve got facts. So, if people disagree with your facts, so someone reads a stupid country and thoroughly disagrees with me, that’s fine. They’re disagreeing with philosophy, a set of circumstances. And the evidence that I’ve amassed, they’ve come to a different conclusion, or they disagree with what I’ve put forward. That’s an intellectual discussion that you can have, in a way on a less personal level. Any work of imagination is a personal journey. So, I, when I write books, like even the Elizabeth novels, I just felt compelled to write the story, and I’ve written it in the first person. So that’s assy. I’ve pretended that I’m Elizabeth Tudor. Yeah. Anyway, arrogant or not, I have sold quite well. So other people have obviously enjoyed them, too. But it’s if you have this compulsion, and you don’t know why not really, you might have ideas why, but you don’t know why. It comes from an unconscious place and unconscious drive. I’ve actually just written an article, and the mother is nothing like wireless, said to one way, I realized that all my fiction, now it’s 4 of them, is about women taking back the power or refusing to give up their power. Elizabeth Tudor, of course, famously never married, and was a absolute monarch, and seems to be a good one for 45 years, and the mother is a very different book, but it is again about a woman who in a very dramatic way, refuses to allow her power to be taken away from her or from her daughter and grandchildren, so it is all my books are about her. But I didn’t realize any of that, until I finished them. Why you’ll, as an author, as a novelist, as a fiction writer, you’re actually dealing with your own demons. And you’re putting them on the page to kind of work them out. So that’s why it’s so different and so challenging, because you’ve really you have exposed yourself, not just your thoughts, but your gaps and things you don’t even understand all that well about yourself.

Graeme Cowan 25:37 

And how long did it take you to write? And do you have any ritual or schedule to progress it?

Jane Caro 25:46 

Ah, it will look took me, I think, from going to word about 18 months to write, I had the idea of dropped into my head, almost tall– And it was very dangerous, I don’t know how I realized that, but it was compelling. And so, I risked it. And that’s one of the reasons I’m nervous. It is– I don’t want to give too much away. But it’s about violence. So, it’s, yeah, it’s risky. That’ll get some strong response. I intended that; I suppose. But doesn’t mean it’s any easy. And I just sit down and write it. Like, there’s nothing else to do. I don’t have a complete ritual about it, it doesn’t have to be every day, I have a deadline or work towards that. And I just start at the beginning and write till I get to the end. And yes, I do research along the way did quite a lot of research for this. And as I get close to particular parts of the book, where I needed to know more about certain things, I would think often find out about them, and I quite enjoyed it. And you can always find it, that’s the thing. And then of course you send off the draft, that you’ve labored over to the publisher, and you think it’s in a half decent fashion. And then they come back with their edits this structural edit. And in this particular case, with the mother, the structural edit was incredibly important. And the editor was great, and really got me out of a fix I’ve got myself into and helped me to, to make the book much better and more powerful. So again, writing a novel, even though it feels like it’s just you, it is a collaborative effort as well. Like anything worthwhile.

Graeme Cowan 27:42 

Yeah. How do you take care of yourself? What’s your self-care strategy?

Jane Caro 27:49 

Well, I try to get a walk in every day for at least an hour. I, my husband and I just come back from Pilates. So, we do that twice a week. I see my kids as much as possible, my grandchildren as much as possible. I don’t tie myself to my desk, my, I had do have a really nice situation now I’ve been working for myself for about 16 or 17 years. And what’s happened without me even realizing it is my work in my life I know, not separate. It just part of the same thing. So, my day will involve going to Pilates, doing a podcast with you, you know, doing some housekeeping about this, and that then I might write, you know, for a couple of hours, if I’m working on something, then if I’ve had enough, and I’ve found that I have a natural rhythm of work, I will work most productively from about 10am till about two or 3pm I don’t stop for lunch, I’ll have a sandwich at my desk. And then around 3pm I’m a bit down. There’s nothing much more useful coming out of me, I can do admin stuff, but then I might go and watch some trashy TV, you know, and, or I might go shopping or whatever it is I need to do. So, it’s, it’s not like, this is my leisure time. This is my work time. This is my socializing time, etc. No, it’s all woven in together. And I love that!

Graeme Cowan 29:19 

Yeah, I really hate the term work, life, balance because it implies that life is good work is bad. And for many people and I’m lucky to be one of them and you are as well. You get a lot of enjoyment out of work, a lot of fulfillments and you know, its ultimate freedom is working out how to integrate it just as you’ve described, I think that is ultimately when work is very, very healthy.

Jane Caro 29:43 

Also, it elevates paid work. Because what we mean by work in paid work, but what actually women in particular do is a lot of unpaid work and we pay, we give it so little value and yet, when you get into this kind of style that I’m in clearing the kitchen up is work. And I can be thinking about whatever it is I’m working on. I’ve always done that. I’ve always been thinking about ideas and scripts or articles or whatever, while I’m cleaning the kitchen, putting on a load of laundry, whatever it is I’m doing. So I like the fact that when you get out of that work is this, life is this but no, they’re just all part of the same thing. The paid work is no different from the unpaid work.

Graeme Cowan 30:28 

Yeah. Yep. Very much so. With, I’ve heard you be quite forthright about the importance of companies and CEOs to be active in social change. Why do you think that’s so important?

Jane Caro 30:47 

Well, I think everyone should be active in social change, to be honest with you, the world isn’t going to get any better unless people work to make it better. I, but I think, I think also at the moment, because we’ve got, unfortunately, we’ve got governments that don’t believe in gambling. I wish we’d stop voting for small government governments, like it’s, you wouldn’t you wouldn’t promote someone to run a company didn’t believe in the company. I don’t understand why we have prime ministers who don’t believe in government. Don’t do the job, if you don’t believe in it, go do something else. Frankly, up, but what’s that Stan is left a vacuum. And I think we see that most clearly in climate change, that we don’t have the leadership we should be having from our elected leaders. So business is stepping into the breach. And basically, that’s inevitable. When there is a vacuum, something will fill it.

Graeme Cowan 31:41 


Jane Caro 31:42 

We’re fortunate at the moment that the business leaders are filling it, are doing it, it seems in a pretty responsible way. Most of them, I exclude the fossil fuel lobbyists and the mining companies from that, I think, one day, they’re going to end up where the tobacco companies are, I don’t know how they can continue doing what they’re doing. But really, really don’t. Every time I look at my grandchildren, I think can’t imagine any of them have any children or grandchildren are working in those businesses? I really can’t. How do you look at them? How do you look at them? And continue to pretend you love them. Anyway, um, but I’m interested, I really am inspired by some of the leadership that business has been taking on these issues. And they have to, they have to because we’ve got to do something. And our governments are morally bereft, or they are unable to take action. I think because of political donations, I’ve really thought about this, why are they resisting? And in the end, I’ve come down to the fact that the fossil fuel lobby, I believe, is one of the biggest political donor donors in this country. And this is a it’s a form of, it’s corrupting and it’s corrupted our leaders. And so businesses having to step in thank God they are.

Graeme Cowan 32:55 

Because they realized that the future depends on it. They have to adapt to what’s going on. We might pretend that we can be isolated here in Australia, but we’re such a not such a global world. Now, it’s, you know, we just hear things instantly what’s happening in other countries and you can– The bushfires.

Jane Caro 33:13 

The bushfires. 2019, bloody idiots. You can build a wall. What global warming? Are you insane? It’s like, I read a headline today that said, Scott Morrison is stare down Omicron. Susceptible to staring I don’t think that helps. It’s this macho leadership that’s on the, stand tough. And nothing can happen. Grow up, you’re not 5.

Graeme Cowan 33:42 

There was a recent report that came out by Atlassian at PWC. It was called Return on Action. And basically, they identified what employees were most concerned about. And the top three things in the last year, number one was mental health. Number two was cost of living. And number three was access to health care. Those are the topics. But what was really interesting, the overall engagement for all the people surveyed was 54%. But if the company was taking an active role, to address the societal issues, the average engagement was 89%. So, if you want to engage younger audiences, younger employees, get them excited about your organization. You’ve got to do this stuff. You got to be very purpose LED. And you know, many of the CEOs I’ve been very fortunate to interview in the last year are very proactive in areas they make things happen. And it’s of course good for them in their sense of purpose, but it also lifts their organization lifts their employees.

Jane Caro 34:54 

Of course, because it is soul destroying to spend your life and your energy making rich men even richer, it’s not a, so– So there’s a section in it, particularly in an era of stagnant wages where it seems you make rich men richer, but you don’t get anything year after year, after year out of it. So yes, corporations have to come up with a more meaningful reason to engage with the company, then just, you know, we’re making money. Shareholders are doing well, but it’s not particularly inspiring. So, I understand it from a purely pragmatic point of view. But I do think it’s partly to do with the vacuum at the top anyway, which has to be filled by someone. I do worry about, to some extent, though, I’m not entirely serendipitous about it, because obviously, businesses have a particular agenda. And we don’t, you know, they need to be reined in to, I think the fossil fuel lobby, in fact, is a very good example of what happens when you allow business to get too much power in a particular sector. So, I’ve always been in two minds about philanthropy. I think philanthropy is lovely on one level, but it should always be the icing, and never the cake. No child, for example, should have to rely on charity to get a decent education. Nobody should have to rely on charity to get health care that they desperately need, or food on the table, you know, in a prosperous, I mean, Australia is one of the richest countries that has ever existed. And yet, somehow, we can’t afford to make sure that people in work, have enough food to feed their family. You know, we’ve got food banks, and people who are fully employed, and going to them to get food because they have not enough money to, I mean, this is horrific. So, what’s lovely that businesses are purpose led. One of the things I think purpose businesses might like to look at is are any of their employees going to food banks? And if they are, what could they do about that? You know, and maybe stagnant wage growth it isn’t a polling purpose. I once heard a sort of guardian on 60 minutes 20 or 30 years ago, can’t remember that. He was an American business owner. And he, somebody said to him, you know, what’s your purpose? And he said, well, you know, I make whatever it was he made, he said, That’s not my purpose. They said, my purpose is to provide a decent wage for my employees so that they can buy a house and, you know, educate their children and live a reasonable life. He said, that’s what I’m for. I’m to create wealth, and then distribute it to my employees. I thought, well, hallelujah, somebody has finally got it. Too many business people still think that there and part of it is the Companies Act, which says that it’s all about increasing shareholder value. And I think that that’s a problem. I think that needs to be redefined. That actually business needs to look at being part of the whole community, and that is to increase and enhance the lives of as many people as possible.

Graeme Cowan 35:10 

Yeah. Yeah.

Jane Caro 38:18 

Regardless whether they work for you or not. That’s where things like a universal basic income, some of these new ideas that people are talking about, and the wonderful idea of the four-day week, you mentioned mental health. I have a very strong view that one of the reasons we have such runaway mental health issues. Partly it’s because most sensible people realize on some level we have staring into the abyss when it comes to a livable planet. And nobody really seems to be doing that much about it yet. That’s one of the reasons people have mental health issues. But the other is exhaustion. People feel they have to work so hard to keep their jobs. They’re afraid to go on holiday. They’re afraid for all sorts of reasons we’ve made so much work, insecure, contract working, casual working, gig workers, you know, so insecure, so unable to be sure that they can have a future and move forward and bring their children out, breathe and have any children. This is a bad thing. You know that. If we had a four-day week mandate, nobody works any longer than four days. Some companies in New Zealand doing it. It’s an idea that’s coming up and up. And the research says that far from employers having to pay for it, the productivity goes up. The mental health issues and the exhaustion goes down. We have a lot of presenteeism.

Graeme Cowan 39:48 

Yeah, very much.

Jane Caro 39:49 

And no much she’s actually being produced.

Graeme Cowan 39:52 

And there’s a very notable case around that with Microsoft in Japan and Japan’s always had a reputation of workaholics’ ridiculous sales. But they went back to four days a week and the productivity increased, you know, surprise, surprise, it’s a, we need those experiments happening. And once they work, they need to be duplicated and rolled out further.

Jane Caro 40:14 

We need to break down the resistance to change, which seems to be particularly strong. And I go back once again to our education system amongst white, private school educated men. I understand why. If you’re in the dominant culture, you have a tendency to be conservative. The reason is, the world as it is, has worked very well for you. Why you’re in the privileged class? So don’t fear is if it changes, you might lose out. I understand the basis of conservatism. But unfortunately, it has to change and it will change.

Graeme Cowan 40:55 

Okay. It’s not no doubt about that.

Jane Caro 40:57 

You have to get on board. Conservatism isn’t working anymore. It really isn’t. Particularly since conservatives decided not to embrace conservation, which has within it the same goddamn word, what is wrong with them? Why didn’t they get on to that? Oh, I forgot the political donations, that’s why.

Graeme Cowan 41:17 

It’s been an absolute pleasure catching up today, Jane, and really appreciate your thoughts on a wide range of subjects, but particularly about women and education and changing that and they are really important voice. If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, knowing what you know, now, what advice would you give that 20-year-old self?

Jane Caro 41:42 

Don’t beat yourself up all the time. Don’t try and make yourself smaller. Don’t worry about what other people think of you. Don’t try to fit in, be yourself. You’re fine. You’re fine, just the way you are. You don’t have to be like everybody else. I think 20-year-olds and maybe 20-year-old girls in particular, get so much heavy messaging about how they should be, who they should be, how they should look how they should behave, how they should be demure and not push themselves forward and not show off and not say what they think it’s terribly destructive. And it means it slows us down. Yes, down and it makes us miserable and depressed and anxious. And we do the society’s approaches, oppressive work for them in our own heads. Oh, I would say to my 20-year-old self if it’s going to be okay. Just be yourself. Have fun. Relax. It’ll turn out fine.

Graeme Cowan 42:45 

That’s a great message. Thanks so much for joining us, Jane. It’s been a wonderful chat.

Jane Caro 42:49 

Thank you. You can see why I never made it to see, yeah.

Graeme Cowan 42:56 

A good way to finish, thanks.

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