“Anyone who works with me will tell you that I talk really loud,” economist Jo Masters shares on the latest episode of The Leadership Lessons, a Women’s Agenda podcast series supported by Salesforce.
Talking loudly was not always something that came naturally to Jo, but as her career has progressed, she’s learnt not to be afraid of it.
Jo Masters is currently EY Oceania’s Chief Economist, and has spent her career dabbling between economics, and finance strategy, trading and FX Sales.
In the early days of her FX trading career, there was one time in particular where her voice wasn’t heard and because of that, an order wasn’t filled, and a client relationship was damaged.
“The humility and tenacity and resilience it took to get that client relationship back to being a trusted advisor is something that’s really stayed with me,” Jo tells host Kate Mills on the podcast.
“I started that role and I had no idea what is was about or how I was going to do it… The key lessons for me were that it’s okay to feel scared and daunted.”
As an economist, Jo has worked hard to figure out what her personal purpose is and what should drive her energy.
“That has been a difficult journey, but it’s helped me frame and shape what I do, and what I want to do next, and how I challenge myself,” she explains.
For Jo, that means making economics as relevant and relatable to as many people as she can.
“That’s everything from doing work with school kids, through to my decision to join EY, which has a platform right across corporate Australia.
“I want people not to be scared of economics, to understand it and understand how it impacts them.”
In this way, one of her biggest concerns is about equality, and making sure we can continue to provide economic opportunity for young Australians, and for new Australians.
This rings true for Jo on a personal level too. She’s a mother of two teenage daughters, and admits she worried about their ability in the future to live in Sydney and buy a home and be able to have some flexibility, if they decide to have children.
“One of the unintended consequences of some of the policies we put in place to tackle the global financial crisis has been that those people who own assets have typically done quite well and those people that don’t have assets, it has been increasingly difficult to get into the market,” she says.
“I worry about that growing divide and the tailwind of the family that you’re born to. Associated with that is just how important it is as a nation that we continue to offer economic opportunity. We are a country that’s been built on that, a migrant nation built on the opportunity to better your circumstances, or those of your children and grandchildren.
“As we come out of this COVID environment, we need to continue to offer that for young Australians and new Australians.”
For Jo, this is where leadership comes in. She says diversity of leadership, and diversity of thought is essential if we are to be proud of the Australia we will have in 10 years’ time.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge that we are shifting the dial [on leadership], but it’s important we don’t lose momentum on it,” Jo says.
“I don’t believe that you can’t be what you don’t see, but I think it’s much easier to be what you can see. So, I think we need to continue to role model lots of women from different industries, with lots of different pathways.
“It’s important that women leaders show their vulnerability and authenticity. It’s okay to acknowledge that it’s been tough, that you’ve had to ask the hard questions.”
This is also where the role of expertise comes into play, according to Jo, particularly as we are faced with the urgent reality of pulling ourselves out the current recession.
“To me, in economics, there is rarely a right or wrong, there’s a whole range of grey, of things that could be good,” Jo says.
“They all have intended consequences and unintended consequences. For me, the role of the expert is to ask the right question; to try and broaden the conversation; to make sure we are thinking about those unintended consequences.”
And despite there being a rise in political discontent at the moment, Jo says during the COVID crisis, we have also seen the best of ourselves.
“We had neighbours checking in on people who were self-isolating, we had supermarkets opening up for the elderly and the less mobile, we saw state and federal governments working together, we saw trade unions and business groups sitting down together trying to work out overnight what we needed to do around industrial relations to keep people in work and businesses turning over,” she says.
“We’ve lost a little bit of that, and I really hope we can find our way back there. We are going to have to pull in the same direction if we’re going to have an Australia in 2030 that we’re proud of.”
The Leadership Lessons podcast series, hosted by Kate Mills, is a set of interviews with brilliant female leaders across industries, sharing their perspective on the critical decade ahead.
The Leadership Lessons is supported by Salesforce.