Episode #2: Susan Washington – Full Transcription

Lisa: 00:00 Hi, you're listening to the Super Power U podcast. This is episode 2.

VO: 00:10 Welcome to the Super Power U podcast where we revealed the mental models and tactical skills needed to activate your inner Super Hero and here's your host, Lisa Betts-LaCroix.

Lisa: 00:22 Hello lovelies. I am super excited to introduce my next guest, Susan Washington, has over twenty-five years in education, leadership, mentoring, business development and strategy. She's a trusted coach to entrepreneurs, business owners and organizational leaders, and she draws on a multi-disciplinary approach using a range of methods and she's grounded both in sound practices from her academic background in evidence-based research and also in practical tactical skills. Susan has a Masters in education and four years of doctoral work at the Ontario Institute for Studies in education at the University of Toronto. She's extremely accomplished, but more than that, Susan's a beautiful, intelligent, bright light in the world who I'm thrilled and honored to call a friend for more than two decades. Susan, welcome and thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

Susan: 01:20 Lisa, thank you so much. Thanks for having me and thanks for being my very first friend. When I first moved to Toronto, who not only was inspiring but also kind, and you were really the only person in the room that day I met you, uh, that, that was present and holding space for a deep conversation. So we've been lucky to have that for probably twenty-five years.

Lisa: 01:43 Absolutely. So let's just jump right into the topic at hand and give the context that this conversation came about because I mentioned that in the early stages of developing the podcast, I've been having a harder time getting women's voices featured on the show regardless of the fact that my intention was for them to be at least equally represented and through conversations that you and I had with a few other women, we identified some individual systemic societal obstacles to why that may be the case.

Susan: 02:15 So Lisa, this is not the way things are supposed to be. It's important to imagine a world without these inequalities, but the question is really how do we connect the dots so that this will actually be applied in our day to day lives and, and, and what are the answers?

Lisa: 02:32 Yeah. Before we go to the answers, let me just say that I know from my own personal experience out in the world that men's voices are often more fully represented than our women's, so that leads me to believe that we're not just talking about an individual challenge here, although some obstacles exist there, but rather something more systemic.

Susan: 02:51 Exactly, exactly. And you know the first thing is if you look at the #metoo situation, wow, this is validating to know that I'm not the one who's not getting the raise. I'm not the only one that's being harassed. I'm not the only one who got passed over for promotion. So this isn't a personal problem where it's about me and my self-esteem and me just trying harder. This is the systemic and structural issue with a lot of context. So if we have to do another study to affirm that this exists I'm going to totally scream because we have the data, we have the metrics, we have the evidence. So if you look at the solutions, these solutions have been in spaces across domains for decades.

Lisa: 03:35 Yes, I definitely want to get to solutions. I don't want to get stuck in the obstacles but just to name some of the obstacles, but one of the things was that women often have less time.

Susan: 03:45 Exactly, and if you go back a hundred years and you look at why you know, there were more men scientists and more men inventors and more males that were making noteworthy, external and public accomplishments. That's because they didn't have to buy the food and cook the meals and iron the shirts and raise the kids and all of these things that are very labor intensive and time-consuming and this, this probably transcends race and class in like in different ways, but they were really serious differences that are measurable. That make might make that a sensible answer for me because I have a lot of competing priorities and a lot of those priorities are not the things that many males have to take care of right now.

Lisa: 04:32 I know this isn't true across the board, but it seems to me that in some cases confidence is an issue.

Susan: 04:38 Let's talk about confidence, because this drives me crazy. Competency often comes from the privilege of being out front and the feeling of mastery or the privilege of having those opportunities. So confidence often follows the competency of actually having the experience in the opportunity. So you see how you're in this little loop.

Lisa: 04:59 Yes. So you're basically saying that we need to find opportunities. We need to make a commitment to giving women a platform and a voice in order that they can build their competency, which then results in confidence.

Susan: 05:11 Yeah, definitely.

Lisa: 05:12 Someone also mentioned the possibility of women not wanting to put themselves at risk or make themselves a target. And I'm wondering, you have to say about that because I recognize that, but I wonder is how or why that is more relevant for women if it is.

Susan: 05:28 I think it's relevant for, for men and women. Anyone has that initial like, oh, it's kind of scary to do something new. It's kind of scary to take the lead and be on the record and be the spokesperson. So how is that different for women than men? Well, if, if there are more men named John that are CEOs than all the CEOs across the board that are female, there's already this gaping divided between what we see as our role models in leadership and what we're aspiring to do in our own lives. But these subconscious, um, gaps exist and we see them from the time we're young, they exist throughout our career and they exist as the beliefs and barriers, whether they're holding us back or just like a tiny resistance in the back of our minds that initially we might start out our careers and we might start out just thinking like I can conquer the world. But gradually the reality starts to seep in. I think the more mature you get, you see that these are real substantial forces at, at work, like across sectors.

Lisa: 06:44 I remember reading that. Do you happen to remember where that's. Did that reference came from?

Susan: 06:47 Well, I know I was reviewing some statistics on the 2017 report from the World Economic Forum and we've actually gone back in terms of universal gender parody. So even in the last year, the gap has gone backward rather than forwards. The World Economic Forum there stat on the number of years to close the gender gap. Do you know what it is, Lisa? It's eighty-three years. So that means that eighty-three years at our current pace, even our children probably won't be around to live through this. It'll be eighty-three years until males and females have equal opportunities and until the gender gap is actually closed.

Lisa: 07:31 Wow!   I wondered and asked Susan about the possibility of women being afraid of creating, even more, divisiveness between men and women.

Susan: 07:39 So if we talk about divisiveness, I mean divisiveness, whether we're calling on the statistics out publicly putting names to the faces I'm getting, the statistics actually represent people's lived experiences. Divisiveness is already happening whether rename it or not. This is not about making anyone wrong. This is about being aware and honest about the things that are going on so that we can solve them.

Lisa: 08:06 Right? So it seems to me as is the case with all societal challenges, that we're in this together and that we need allies. So I often wonder what would it be like if men who were in power actually made an attempt and a conscious effort to share it?

Susan: 08:24 It's funny, I was at an event last night, it was um, in the space of artificial reality, artificial intelligence. So it was like the world of tech and it's actually a little bit worse than some of the other business events that I've gone to in terms of gender parody. And we had a good conversation with the organizer to see why some of these events aren't as female friendly and sometimes these are blind spots and I'm happy to work with people and do some general education around why this is, you know, in need of improvement. And then the methodology to make those improvements. And luckily there were a couple of men on one of the panels that were really. I'm happy to discuss this and aware of it and willing to make a change. So that's good. I don't want to wait eighty-three years until this happens like the statistics are predicting yet we do need to partner with our allies and we do need men to just to tune into what their responsibility is without the mental load being on women to constantly be educating men about this. So I really appreciate when men are aware of these differences.

Lisa: 09:32 Yeah. I guess the complication that I am sensitive to is that I know just as a human being, every single human being, because we're delicate, delicate, you know that if we feel that we're under attack or being unfairly accused, which I could imagine also being the case for many men, that there might be a tendency to be defensive and that may, in the end, be countered to the result that we really want, which is fairness and effectiveness and empowerment for all people.

Susan: 10:00 Yeah. My fragility as a white person when I was at U of T and I was invited to join an anti-racist network where we were dealing with issues of white privilege and going into schools and doing education around the difference. Growing up one way, growing up, another way my defensiveness could've had me opt out of staying open to learning and being educated and being compassionate and seeing a different side of life that wasn't my personal experience and luckily rather than being defensive and feeling like this was state open to learning about different so that I could be part of the solution because I'm not free if there are still people who don't have rights and don't have the same freedoms that I do, so I want such a world and it's not about my personal comfort or discomfort and then there are no shortage of our groups working towards social justice and equality and a more democratic world, they're just not, so far, in charge of how our systems are being run.

Lisa: 11:01 Right. So you know what? Let's talk about some of the organizations because one of the solutions that we collectively came up with was the idea of collaborating with and contributing to organizations that support women and I know you do that in a number of ways, including supporting both women in business but also girls empowerment. Do you want to talk about some of the organizations that you personally support and collaborate with?

Susan: 11:22 I like to contribute in ways that are easy for me that use my talents and interests and that feel and that feel right and that feels authentic. I like to do community work. There are some organizations in Canada, in Vancouver specifically where, you know, I've been lucky enough to partner with people who are, are working with kids, with youth, with women in a way where we're having good conversations and we're connecting. We're not just tabling rapports and at the policy level and lobbying governments.  We're kind of rolling up our sleeves and working together. And to me, that's very satisfying and I don't want to disrespect how anyone else chooses to work for sure.

Lisa: 12:05 It's my super strong belief that we are all needed. How we contribute and how we show up in the world is super customizable. If you're doing advocacy work that is needed, if you were changing the way the school system operates, that's needed. If you're working in a homeless shelter, excellent, fantastic. All power to you. And if you are changing the way people think you are needed too.

Susan: 12:27 yeah, that's such a good way to look at it. So our solutions, sometimes there are some opportunities to support sponsor troubleshoot, why someone is saying no, and this is not to, um, you know, pressure or people. But it's to see if there are areas that, that we can actually debug on a, not just an individual basis, but on a larger basis. So women can say yes, more; Childcare, transportation and financial support or bursaries and scholarships. There are all kinds of things that will remove obstacles. And I love when I see those innovative obstacle removal programs that are actually getting into people's lives in a real way so that they can step up and say yes and move into more leadership.

Lisa: 13:15 I also want to highlight something that I think you do really well and that I think is a small but equally important step. And that is simply being a cheerleader for other women. If every woman took five minutes out of her day to reach out to someone else who was working on doing something, um, and maybe struggling with it — and, you know, almost everyone has self-doubt and almost everyone can benefit from another person saying, you know what, I really believe in you and I think you can do this. What a difference. I think that small step could make.

Susan: 13:48 I think, I think that's really true, Lisa, end, uh, you know, it actually feels better to be encouraging and it feels better to be generous and patient and compassionate than it does to competitive, or feel jealous or to not do that. I think fortunately for me, I had good role models that were encouraging and believing in me and despite obstacles in my life, I felt encouraged and supported. And so, that's a learned skill. So I don't know where it comes from, partly nature, partly nurture, but the more that can reach out and hold each other capable and, and help people be resourceful than that really is a powerful force at work.

Lisa: 14:39 I think the other piece that I am thinking about as you speak is that the more we're in positions of empowerment and financial stability, the less competitive. And we need to be with each other. Once financial inequities are addressed, the easier it is to say, hey, I'm supportive of you, too. So they're kind of all related.

Susan: 15:02 Hundred percent! They are.

Lisa: 15:03 I believe that supporting confidence in girls is something that needs to happen early and over the years I've seen Susan and her daughter's involvement with her friend Ashley's organization called Sole Girls. So I asked Susan to talk a bit about that

Susan: 15:17 Its' a community organization and company, called Sole Girls where there are some real resources and tools and skills building that happens in a fun and cooperative way for girls to find mentors work together. And, and one of the things that I really like about, uh, about sole girls:  Let's make a list of how we like to be treated, what our needs are, what our preferences are. So developing these types of conversations is so important, and Sole Girls is one place that girls can go to get that. There are a lot of people doing grassroots work in their own way, in their communities. And this is one great example that does have a big ripple effect.

Lisa: 16:04 My conversation with Susan got me thinking about the other grassroots organizations I know about which attempt to build confidence in girls from an early age and one of them is called, I Am That Girl, which attempts to give girls the tools they need to lead with competence and compassion. The focus is on building peer-led chapter programs. They ask that everyone joining agree to a mission statement that states:  “I, your name –Lisa, Betts-LaCroix, am that girl. I have a brilliant heart and a beautiful mind. I am ME. A perfectly flawed, beauty FULL work in progress. I promised to lift other girls up, have their backs and make it safe for them to be exactly who they are. I'm on a mission to raise the standards for how we treat each other, how we treat ourselves, and how we treat the world. Every time I look in the mirror, I remind myself that I'm not alone, that I am beautiful, that my voice matters and I am enough.”  Another one that I know about was formed by Tessa Zimmerman, who I met through the Thiel Fellowship network a long time ago Tessa is a founder of A.S.S.E.T. Education, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching students how to mitigate stress in the present so they can build their resilience for the future. She has a book, I hope to interview her in the near future…but that is another organization that you can look to for building skills in young people for resilience and confidence, in my opinion, the foundation of making a change going forward. One of the things I'm always seeking is how do we take the mental models we're discovering here and talking about and find other places where the same skills can be applied. So I asked Susan how the skills that girls are learning through these grassroots organizations can be translated for the people she works with in her coaching practice.

Susan: 18:00 I do that with clients, business clients who haven't done this in their companies. It's like… How does everybody, you know, men and women included, how does everybody prefer to be treated? What are people's needs? What do people want to feel safe and secure in their day to day lives in their friendships, in their relationships, and part of this is just building awareness about, oh, I do have needs and my preferences aren't wrong and my boundaries are important, and so these skills, the more that these types of skills can be incorporated into mainstream education, which currently…

Lisa: 18:35 …yeah, currently they're not so much. The more they can be, the better. Yes, I'm loving that. We've touched on some of the emotional components and the importance of supporting each other and encouraging each other, which I know is so critical and I also know from working with you as my coach that you put a lot of emphasis on the tactical skills needed; that encouragement alone is not enough. So do you want to say a little bit about that?

Susan: 18:58 Yeah, I do. Purpose and passion and encouragement are all wonderful, but if we're not effective and if we don't do proper planning and if we don't have a good schedule then life is full of drama and chaos.  So effectiveness and being tactical, like having a day plan, that's actually sensible…we need to be tactical with our, with our foundational planning and that's something like financial planning and time management and these real basics that it turns out are quite masterful because most people aren't doing them very well.

Lisa: 19:30 So you're saying that in order to change we have to have life skills and tactical skills. That gives us opportunities to really be impactful and to be competent…

Susan: 19:40 …and if you want the change to last– like anyone can immerse themselves in some change if we don't have a lasting plan which involves getting our house in order and making sure we say no to the things that we really don't want to or can't take on.  Our life will always be a little bit off-kilter until our fundamentals, like our sleep and our eating and our exercise and our number of tasks we have in front of us because we can do a lot in life. Just not all at once.

Lisa: 20:09 In our conversation a couple of the themes that kept resurfacing were the importance of support either with a coach or a mastermind group or the kind of support that one person can give another paying it forward in a small moment.

Susan: 20:28 I can start my own business or I can make my financial targets or I can move to Bali and live, there…, well, whatever it is.  So just the insight working with, uh, you know, a good coach or working with a, um, you know, a mastermind group. The insight that yes, I can x, Y, and Z. Great!

Lisa: 20:49 During our conversation, this is a theme that came up a lot; That is the importance of saying no because in order to have time to do things– to speak up, to show up, to say yes– we need to be managing our schedules and our energy. So I heard Susan more than once suggests the importance of learning to protect and create boundaries around our own self-care.

Susan: 21:14 Living astound, and effective life where we are discerning about how we move forward as we grow, where the effectiveness stays in order, the balance –even though I hate that word– balance stays intact and we grow and we knock it out of the park, but it doesn't come at that personal cost to our well-being. I want to have quality time for the people that I love in my life. I want to sit down and have a healthy meal and eat dinner and have time to debrief and actually really connect because I could succeed in the external world tenfold. And if I didn't have that, it wouldn't be satisfying and it wouldn't be rewarding.

Lisa: 21:59 Absolutely.  I think I heard somebody recently say sometimes people can get lost in the idea that we work to be successful so that we can do more work. Where is it? Hopefully, we're working to give us the freedom to live the values and have the relationships that we want to create and maintain and nurture in our lives.

Susan: 22:18 A hundred percent. Yeah. And to have healthy communities that we live in and you know, we're making an impact in, in a really healthy way for our planet and for the people around us and for across the board. Not just my personal things but all of those things.

Lisa: 22:34 So as we wrap up,because I want to be cognizant of the time, is there anything that you feel we missed or that you'd want to underline or reiterate or just presence into the conversation?

Susan: 22:47 I think to just emphasize, you know, when there's a situation in a context– like I'm citing these statistics about women and it's like this is not how things are supposed to be in the world– to be critical and skeptical of the problems and also be really compassionate about our ability to team together and work towards solutions. So maintain hopefulness, and not dehumanize others as we work towards change, but to stay, you know, optimistically and rationally hopeful. And to…um, we had a rally here in Vancouver for Truth and Reconciliation with, you know, trying to move forward with our indigenous brothers and sisters, and working towards solutions in what's called “Canada”, but on indigenous land. We listened to Bernice King; She was speaking as the keynote at the beginning of the march and she said, “don't grow weary” because people working towards change work really hard, whether that's the change you're trying to make in your family or in your life or at your job, um, and it's a big load and so don't grow weary, stick with it and then you can do it and a lot of that is, um, you know, mindset, but also organizing ourselves. So the five people that we see most are those people that hopefully are elevating us and reminding us and encouraging us and really understanding that bigger picture. When I first started out as an educator, and then working as a coach and a mentor and an advisor, um, my lens had less of the critical thinking, rationality piece that I really do believe is important because our cognitive functioning needs constant reminders and so do our strategies. And so thinking rationally and being strategic is as important as being inspired and passionate. In fact, we can't maintain our passion without a rational mind and without critical thinking.

Lisa: 24:58 So at this point in the interview, we took a break and because I love all things meta, I'm going to let you behind the curtains and tell you a little bit about how this evolved. As I was getting close to launch date, I noticed myself feeling fearful, feeling like perhaps I was not ready and that the episodes were not enough. So I picked up my conversation with Susan and we talked about how some of the exact issues at hand were playing out for me in the launching of the podcast and we talked about the importance of cultivating a mindset that says “this is a beginning; it's enough and I'm going to go forward, bravely”.

Susan: 25:38 You know, what gets me fired up is when you have capable people with a lot to offer and then when they start to do something new, uh, there's all of a sudden this performance anxiety and this holding on to needing to work it out more, and have more answers and you know, all the bugs worked out before you actually say something…which happens to me too; I do that very same thing. And then that annoys me, which is why I said yes to coming in and talking to you before even formulating what I need to say or how ready I needed to be, or if I'd even done enough research to speak.

Lisa: 26:15 The strategy is to really look forward and switched the way we're thinking about, to switch our mindset so that we just assume that we're already enough.

Susan: 26:25 Yeah, we're already enough and this version that we're doing today, because it's, you know, the very first week that this even exists, will be a perfectly valid contribution and also different than how it will look six, twelve, eighteen months from now. So there's nothing to overthink today….except that things will evolve and change and the podcast will find itself and I'll find my words and you'll find your words…

Lisa: 26:51 …and that for every woman who has something to say or is offered a platform that we could encourage them to take on the mental mindset that what you have to say right now and right here is enough and is a starting point.

Susan: 27:04 And would I like to do is say yes and figure out the details later.

Lisa: 27:11 Right! So many of us share this collective human delicacy that is self-doubt.

Susan: 27:20 Absolutely, Lisa and we're fragile, we're tender. We just have to override it and have a mental model that allows us to be powerful, and agree to things even when we're uncomfortable saying yes to them.

Lisa: 27:30 Right? And that goes right back to growth mindset, right? Which is that we're not static and set and uh, you know, concretized right here where we are, but we start here now and then we grow and evolve.

Susan: 27:41 Exactly. And without that growth mindset is just really easy to be afraid of how well we're gonna do and not say yes to things that will contribute to our learning and contribute to the collective learning, which is exciting and inspiring. And as we talk, we figure out more things that are true. And so our learning is ongoing and it's so exciting when we say yes and we're a little bit even ahead of ourselves.

Lisa: 28:06 And that's actually the perfect place to wrap up because next week my episode is with Marli Williams and it's all about saying “yes!” So if we pause here and just say, let's keep on saying yes to opportunities to speak and just show up, and to lean in, then we're all moving forward in the right direction. Where can people find you on social media or people want to follow what you're doing in your work. Where can they find you?

Susan: 28:29 People can find me because my family name is Washington, so my company name is Washingtongroup.ca and I'm “Washington Group” on Instagram and on twitter and I'm just Susan Washington on Facebook and I'm happy to chat further with people.

Lisa: 28:45 Fantastic. And I'll put all that information in the show notes. So thank you so much for taking the time. I appreciate you showing up here today and I appreciate all you do in the world.

Susan: 28:55 Thank you, Lisa. I appreciate you too.

Lisa: 28:58 I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Susan Washington. Show notes are at LisaBL.com/2 and please do a review and subscribe to the podcast which helps us reach more people. And if you'd like to participate in the conversation, if you have ideas about topic areas you'd like to see us address, please email me at hey@LisaBL.com or post a note in the comments section or on Facebook. Thanks for being with us having an amazing week and we'll see you next Thursday.

VO: 29:33 Thank you for listening to the Super Power U Podcast. Please subscribe to the show on iTunes and get more information and LisaBL.com.