Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

The future of women at work: Transitions in the age of automation


Anne says: This week I’m going to draw your attention to a report from McKinsey Global Institute on the future of work and automation. STOP – before you think: not another future of work report and more robots are coming to take our jobs – this presents research that includes perspectives on gender diversity and the impact for women that I haven’t seen reported to date. The report is quite big (170 pages) – but don’t let that interfere with the key messages. There’s a brief 2 page overview and an Executive Summary if you want to capture the essence of the issue. Even watching the short video (2:43mins) will introduce the headline figures – up to 160 million women will need to find new occupations by 2030. 

The figures from the research, at a high level, indicate a relatively equal impact on both men and women. However, as the report starts to expand on the key figures, the authors reveal how women are going to be disadvantaged. That is, unless changes and strategies are put in place now – right now! Everyone is going to require more and different skills with the need to be mobile and tech savvy. But these are areas where women are already hindered. 

There are detailed breakdowns on gender-based differences in occupations that are dominated by women, and also areas where women are more at risk of losing their jobs. There are also significant differences in mature economies versus emerging economies. All the results point to the need for deliberate interventions to support women to achieve the required skill changes. Many strategies depend on education – something that is not readily available for women who are already juggling time constraints between work and family commitments, they are less mobile, and generally have less access to re-skilling and education outside of work hours. 

The report calls for: 

“Leaders in the private, public, and social sectors will need to be bold, putting in place concerted measures—many of them designed with women specifically in mind—to enable women to develop the skills, the flexibility and mobility, and the tech access and expertise that will be needed. The stakes are high. If women fail to make the necessary transitions, they could face a wider wage gap relative to men or even drop out of the workforce altogether…”

So here’s the challenge – what can you do right now, today? How can you contribute to the successful transition of women in the age of automation?


Facebook is working on technology to read your thoughts


Joel says: I always enjoy stumbling upon pieces that talk about technology or discoveries that seem so futuristic, yet the news says we’re closer than ever to achieving. Or the type of things that would normally end the sentence “Wouldn’t it be cool if..?” In this case, wouldn’t it be cool if one day we could type out an essay just by thinking about what we wanted to type?

Well, thanks to a Facebook-funded study, it seems we’re closer than ever to getting there. 

Scientists at the University of California San Francisco are working to develop machine-learning algorithms that will be capable of translating speech from brain activity. Facebook believes that this study will allow them to eventually create a “non-invasive, wearable device that lets people type by simply imagining themselves talking.”

Previous studies have been conducted that focused on decoding the speech and patterns from the brain activity of the user but this new evolved study now takes into account both sides of a conversation, analysing the question a person hears and their answer to it, allowing the algorithm more context to learn and associate brain patterns.

This new technology is set to be groundbreaking for people with disabilities such as loss of speech or paralysis, many of whom have complete brain function and can think about what they want to say but currently have limited ability to translate those thoughts because of their disability and the current technology we possess.

I found this piece interesting because it means we’re one step closer to being able to do away with our keyboards and simply type and browse the web using just our minds. And I also found it quite heartwarming to think that although it may be a while before it gets fully rolled out and implemented for public use, it may able to make a real difference for those that may not be able to verbally communicate at all, providing them with a powerful solution to feel less isolated.


A Wikipedia for Generation Z


Helen says: If you want to be a cool parent/aunt/uncle/mentor and need to know who’s who in the young person’s celebrity zoo, Famous Birthdays is your go-to site. Seven years ago, founder Evan Britton spotted the need for a mobile-friendly celebrity encyclopedia. Wikipedia was not a great mobile experience and, being passionate about the user experience, he set about designing a fast and easy-to-use platform to profile A-listers and in just 12 months it had over one million viewers. However, its real value was not recognised until he started noticing searches for unknown names. This led to the discovery of a huge gap between those who were known to be famous and those who really were famous. The company worked closely with celebrities to obtain approved images and fact check information. As more profiles were added to the site, growth in its popularity continued – it now boasts over 20 million viewers. To be featured on Famous Birthdays has become a status symbol for influencers, and the site has also emerged as an important research tool for influencer agencies.  

The factors contributing to this company’s success interested me. Apart from identifying and taking advantage of a gap in the market, I think its continued success can be attributed to a site design that is all about delivering great user experience, the level of interaction offered to the user keeping them engaged and the site relevant, its appetite to expand and adapt to emerging platforms and technologies, and perhaps most importantly (and a refreshing departure from Hollywood news), the reliable verified content provided that sets it apart from the pack. 

Quiz time – who is Jacob Sartorius? What, you don’t know? He is currently #1 on Famous Birthdays, check him out!


5 phrases that make people discount what you’re saying


Jakkii says: Language is such a fascinating thing. The dialects, the etymologies, the colloquialisms, the in and out of vogue words and phrases, the changing meaning of words and the nuances of usage – all within individual languages. The differences between how we speak and understand the language as a non-native speaker as well can be profound, not least because of how much of the way language is used is intertwined with our culture. For example, as this article Anne recently reminded us of, the difference between what Brits say and what Americans hear – poking fun while highlighting an important message about how what we say may not convey the intended meaning to the person listening. 

It’s in that type of vein I often read with interest pieces on words and phrases that may make our (my) communication less effective. For instance, after having read a few pieces on why we should stop saying it, over the past year or so I’ve been consciously trying to remove the word ‘just’ from my everyday vocabulary, particularly at work – with varying degrees of success. Similarly, there are many pieces out there on why women in particular need to stop apologising all the time, something I’m still reflecting on with respect to how it may play out in the workplace. It’s worth noting that many of these articles are written from an American perspective, and reading them with a thought in the back of your mind as to how applicable they are in an Australian (or other) context. Overall, though, I find it hard not to agree with the idea that using minimising language can be self-defeating in our efforts to communicate effectively. In quite the timely coincidence, I also happened upon this tweet this week as well on the same theme:

I definitely recognise quite a few phrases I use in this illustration – and some I’ve tried to challenge myself on, as well.

On this same communication-improvement tack, I share this week a short piece about phrases we use that can cause people to ignore or miss our message. You don’t need to read the article for the phrases – I’ve listed them below – but you’ll need to get the ‘why’ from the piece. 

  1. But
  2. This might be stupid/silly
  3. Respectfully
  4. I’m so busy
  5. Try

Take a moment to have an honest reflection on your language – how many of these phrases do you use once in a while, sometimes, often? Challenge yourself to listen for these phrases from others when they speak – does it change how you think or feel about what they’re saying? I’d love to hear your thoughts about the whys in the article and your experiences of these phrases in the workplace – of your own use as well as the use by others. Do you agree with these suggestions when it comes to workplace communications?


How the sound in your home (and office) affects your mood


There is growing recognition that buildings not only need to be functional and aesthetically pleasing, but acoustically satisfying as well

Jakkii says: As soon as I read the title of this one, I was intrigued. There are some obvious and well-known ways sound can affect us, like sound tortureplaying loud music in empty spaces to drive away would-be loiterers, and even the extremes of misophonia, the ‘strong dislike of specific sounds’, commonly things like nails on a chalkboard or the sound of people chewing. What’s less immediately obvious, and maybe even something you’ve not considered before, is the premise of this article – how the sound of a space, a building, can affect our mood.

Of course, issues with noise in open-plan offices aren’t new – they certainly won’t be new to you if you’ve ever worked in one (which I’m guessing most of you have)! What may be new to you, however, are the more positive examples of noise in architecture that the article explores, and how they can be uplifting, even feel “divine.” Can you imagine walking into your office and getting a sense of the divine? The article goes further still, discussing the possibilities of being utilised in medicine, such as for existing sonic therapy for “PTSD, depression and Parkinson’s disease,” and for ‘healing spaces’ in children’s hospitals. Who knew the use of sound could be so thoughtful and so profound?

How does the sound of your office building make you feel? What about your home? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


This Week in Social Media

Politics, democracy and regulation

Privacy and data

Cybersecurity and safety

Society and culture

Extremism and hate speech

Moderation and misinformation

Marketing, advertising and PR


Facebook’s Libra & Calibra

The Future of Power: Jonathan Haidt on good intentions and bad ideas


Internationally acclaimed US academic and author Jonathan Haidt is warning of a rising generation of social-media addicted, pathologically anxious ‘Gen Z’ youths. Raised by overprotective parents, intolerant of diverse views – Haidt believes Western democracy is threatened by our expanding ‘call-out’ culture. Should we require a licence to operate a Twitter account?

What will happen when Gen Z get into the workforce?


Jonathan Haidt (NYU Stern)

The Coddling of the American Mind

The Coddling of the American Mind (article in The Atlantic)

Better Mental Health (The Coddling)

The moral roots of liberals and conservatives (TED Talk)

Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence (TED Talk)

How common threats can make common (political) ground (TED Talk)

Can a divided America heal? (TED Talk)

All Minus One: John Stuart Mill’s Ideas on Free Speech Illustrated

Isaiah Berlin on pluralism

Heterodox Academy

OpenMind Platform

How to Win Friends and Influence People


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