Coffee with MG: Diversity is Here to Stay

8 October 2023 | Coffee with MG, Community in Action

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Image: courtesy of Vanessa Barros

Image: courtesy of Vanessa Barros

Diversity is here. We need to accept and embrace it, look at it as a richness and deal with it. Dealing with diversity implies managing it, not tolerating it”. 

Vanessa Barros, CEO and Cofounder Leadership CQ 

 

 

 

 

Let´s begin with a story today for what is life but a story.

Once upon a time, a girl was born in Paris to a Portuguese actor and a French teacher who raised her in Portugal and France.

Then, she started travelling by herself at the age of sixteen in the US and throughout Brazil the following year.

She has never stopped exploring the world ever since.

She embarked on an international advertising career after completing business management  and for 20 years worked with multinational blue chip clients across four continents and 8 countries. She is now the CEO and co-founder of Leadership CQ and a specialist in intercultural conflict management with clients across the globe. Fluent in 4 languages, she lives between Lisbon, Brussels, and Paris. Her 3 sons hold 3 nationalities.

And she is the author of a book with a very interesting title, published by Penguin a couple of years ago. What is the title of her book?  “Don’t mess with my professionalism”!

Given the story I just told you, it’s protagonist, Vanessa Barros, made a perfect guest not only for my podcast series “Between the east and west” but also to present to you, my dear readers.

Her views on diversity are proven by living them. She certainly does not mince words!

“Culture is currently completely under-represented when it comes to the negotiations and the assessment of the future success of mergers and acquisitions”.

When I caught up with Vanessa a few weeks ago and went indepth into the topic of diversity and inclusion across continents, an oft overlooked factor emerged about mergers and acquisitions…culture. The culture of each company, its people and values represent the identity of that company. When mergers and acquisitions happen, the focus is generally so much on numbers and the balance sheets that the basics are lost.

It is akin to getting married. You need to whet each other´s core values. Otherwise, there is a fallout.

To add to Vanessa´s take on the subject, in my experience, one of the most vital aspects of mergers is “communication” with the people of the company. The employees generally have no idea of what is happening at board level. They are so much in the dark for lengthy periods of time that rumours start doing rounds. Human attrition is then the first fall out of a merger because the employees become insecure in the absence of communication. Boards are so keen on getting their business done that the communication flow down the line is broken and employees, fearing for their jobs, start looking out.

Vanessa opined that in trying to ensure success of M&As, one needs to be clued in deeply to the subject of diversity and inclusion and have a fearless mindset. She revealed that neuroscience research shows that brains are not wired for diversity and inclusion. They are wired to dislike differences and to put people in boxes and stick to old habits. Helping to break those habits for leaders across the world is what she does.

She relies on working on their cultural intelligence which according to her is the ability to manage across cultures.

Keeping in mind the peripatetic life that Vanessa leads criss-crossing continents, I was curious to know what is home for her, when I caught up with her a few weeks ago.

“Home is when I am surrounded by loved ones” she replied.

“I asked myself that same question a while back” she continued while regaling how she found her answer while sitting in New York with her children.

“Sense of belonging” and “home” are topics which many, who lead lives away from their place of birth, face. We will definitely explore them more deeply in another blog.

The parting message by Vanessa Barros sits very well on her. She is honest, lively, brazen and open hearted. From her life´s journey across continents to diversity and inclusion, mergers and acquisitions, global citizenship and much more, our exchange was so rich, that I hope to bring back Vanessa for some more bytes!

“Whatever comes your way in life, try to look at it with curiosity and see where it can be positive in some way, even if it’s very frightening at first”

With these words from Vanessa, I wish you a wonderful autumn ahead.

Lots of love from sunny, at times rainy and windy Hamburg!

Meenu Gupta

CEO Vedas Shaakha

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