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Talita Ferreira had a bit of an epiphany after attending lots of gender diversity events. She believes that the focus on gender diversity is too narrow and that what is needed is to create an inclusive culture that is tolerant of difference, rather than just one strand of it.
In her new book, The Authenticity Dilemma Resolved, she argues: “I believe it is time to bury the battle between the sexes and the focus on gender and diversity in the narrow sense. We need advocates who support diversity in their homes lives to bring these parts of themselves into the working environment. It is time for men and women to embrace and respect difference: to be powerful advocates for change, emotional intelligence, empathy, collaboration and the sharing economy.”
Her book talks about how work needs to adapt to a fast-changing world where technology is the driving force. In an age of artificial intelligence, there will be more reliance on human creativity and emotional intelligence, she says. That means leaders will need to demonstrate a different skillset which is more based on collaboration rather than top-down management of big teams, empathy, adaptation to change and a greater respect for difference [for instance, between the generations as people work longer and young people who are more in sync with technological developments assert themselves]. Creativity, she says, requires genuine diversity of perspectives and ideas.
Moreover, she adds, the younger generation are rejecting traditional corporate hierarchies and want work that has a purpose. And the line between work and family life will be increasingly blurred, meaning it will be more difficult to wear a mask to work.
Leaders in this new culture will need to be more self aware and “authentic”, says Talita. They will have to deal with rapid culture change which will require a focus on core values so everyone is on the same page. Talita works as a consultant for a large corporate and has experience of dealing with bringing different parts of the organisation onto one site. She has designed a model which addresses how to find better ways of collaborating which are adaptable to change. It relies on leaders who are both responsive and responsible, she says.
Talita agrees the word “authentic” has many different meanings and connotations. Her definition follows that of Bill George, author of Authentic Leadership, and relates to self awareness, a sense of purpose and relationship transparency. Talita says the traditional ego-driven competitive behaviour which exemplifies the corporate stereotype is limiting and doesn’t get the best out of employees, get buy in or build the kind of partnerships which will be part of the new work culture.
She thinks that in the war for talent companies will have to adapt because the younger generation will not accept that model and companies will face huge challenges integrating them if they try to impose it. She says that current political developments could be seen as in part a backlash against the rapid pace of change, but she believes that direction is unstoppable.
In the workplace, resistance is also a big issue. “Some people are very resistant to change,” says Talita, “but you cannot change fast if you are not authentic or if you don’t understand yourself.”
Asked what helps overcome that resistance to change, she says peer to peer learning works best. “You can’t just tell people it works. They need to hear from other colleagues that it works, that people want it,” she says. “It’s about the stories we tell each other and realising that for some people it just takes longer. You need to tell them the same thing in many different ways.”
Talita, who will be delivering her first workshop linked to her book on 16th February, says she strongly believes that gender diversity will come about as a result of the focus on authenticity. “I went to a workshop on gender diversity and people were saying that it is not moving fast enough. I wondered why that was. There are so many men in very senior positions who support women in their home lives. Why don’t they do the same in the workplace? It is because of the ego-based, competitive culture. If we change that and are aware of our unconscious biases we will begin to respect and embrace people’s differences,” she says.
“Companies’ customers are all different. One size fits all doesn’t work any more,” she adds. “Authenticity can get us there. It may be a long journey, but it is worth it. We need to create ripples of change.”
*The Authenticity Dilemma Resolved: Unleashing your passion and purpose to live more authentically by Talita Ferreira is published by Filament Publishing, price £15.00.