Our podcast: Authentic Leadership. Episode 5 - Authenticity and solidarity: "We are more united to help and inspire each other"

Fernanda Delmas, editor of Brazil's Valor Econômico, and Marcela Turati, independent Mexican journalist, on finding empowerment and healing through collective action
6th June 2023

In the final episode of our Authentic Leadership series we hear from two women leaders from Latin America who have each had to find strategies for dealing with some very tough challenges in journalism, including gender discrimination and exposure to harrowing scenes. They both discuss how they have been empowered and empowered others through unity and collective action.

The speakers

Host: Ramaa Sharma is an award-winning Digital Leader, Consultant and Executive Coach. Until recently she was the Senior Digital Editor at BBC News, driving digital transformation across the division of 8,000 journalists. She also worked with the BBC News Board to help facilitate a more diverse and inclusive newsroom. Prior to that Ramaa spent a decade of her career presenting and reporting across multiple BBC platforms, before moving into digital leadership. At the World Service, Ramaa pioneered the first ever digital leadership and social media courses for editors and executives on the World Service Board. In her time Ramaa also edited a number of award winning editorial and digital projects.

Guest: Fernanda Delmas is the Editor-in-Chief at Brazil's leading financial title Valor Econômico

Guest: Marcela Turati is behind the website '¿A dónde van los desaparecidos?', a project tracking stories of disappeared people in her home country. She's also the co-founder of nonprofit 'Quinto Elemento', an initiative to train the next generation of Mexican investigative journalists.

The podcast

Spotify | Apple | Google

The transcript

Fernanda Delmas: On being oneself | On gender and racial discrimination | On resilience at work | On furthering diversity

Marcela Turati: On listening to your heart | On journalism as a mission | On spiritual and ritual healing | On creating space to rest


Being oneself 

Ramaa: So let's start with this question that we're exploring in our podcast. What does authenticity mean to you?

Fernanda: It means that you can be the person you are in all situations, when you are at home, when you are at work. And speaking about work is when you follow the rules, of course, you are in a social environment, you are dealing with other people, then you have to follow some rules. But you can be yourself, you can introduce your leadership style, and you can inspire other people in some way.

Ramaa: Have there been any times when actually it's been quite difficult to be yourself at work?

Fernanda: Yeah, it's challenging as a woman. When I started my career, kind of more than 30 years ago, you have to fit in a standard, in a kind of male standard. You have a different dress code, for example, if you go to a press conference or to interview someone, some important person, you have to be very, you have to be dressed in a very discreet way, for example, you have to be, you have to wear, for example, grey or black or some neutral colour, and in a suit, in trousers, not too much makeup, things like that. Then it was a kind of standard way to succeed in terms of dress code, for example. And nowadays, I think you have space to be more authentic, you can dress the way you want to, even in a suit, and it's more relaxing for us.

Ramaa: A lot has changed which is great. So today are there any challenges to being yourself at work, or would you say we're all good?

Fernanda: No, we are not all good. I think we've achieved a lot. And only that I am still using the verb ‘achieve’. It's a symbol that we have to change, we are still underrepresented in leadership jobs. And in Brazil, where I live, for example, I've suffered a lot of things being a woman in a corporate environment, but there is still more. For example, if you are a black woman, you’re suffering double. So we have a lot to evolve in the market.

Gender and racial discrimination in Brazil 

Ramaa: Are you able to share some examples of either what you've seen other black women face or examples that you faced yourself?

Fernanda: Okay. Sometimes you see black women, for example, being told, ‘oh, you must have a different hair’, for example, to succeed, or being challenged because they are not sure if you are properly educated, assuming that you didn't get all the education you needed to that position, things like that. And being discriminated by their way of expressing themselves. Maybe black women want to use some symbols of their religion, for example, or their ancestors, and it is not allowed yet. I have some very successful black women friends, and one of them, for example, faces discrimination. She opened the door and the guy who went there to deliver something asked her to call the owner of the house. Small things that are not small at the end of the day.

Ramaa: So what's being done about that? You know, in an organization like yours and others?

Fernanda: Yeah, I think thanks to the ESG [Environmental, Social and Governance] era, in which investors are pushing, forcing the companies to do things in a different way, and asking them to show better numbers, better diversity, not only in the general workplace, but promoting women and black people and people with disability, for example. I think it's helping. Companies are more concerned about their reputation. The investors are asking them to be different. The consumers are punishing companies who mess it up. And then I think it's helping. We are changing our boards, our C-levels, and the workforce in general. There's still much to do, but it's changing.

Ramaa: You've also had experiences of discrimination, so you know what it's like, what it feels like, doesn't it?

Fernanda: Yeah, I've been, I've worked in a lot of different places as a PR and as a journalist and I've seen a lot of situations of harassment, for example, ‘if you don't go out with me, it will be a problem for your career’. From direct harassment to small hidden situations. Andmany women give up in this way because they feel it's too much for me, I can't do that, if I can't be part of this, I won't be successful. And they give up. Sometimes they give up and it's very sad because maybe we are, or, for sure, we are missing a lot of talents. There are some studies showing that if you have women more present in the workforce, the global GDP would be stronger, much stronger than it is.


Ramaa: And did you ever want to give up?

Fernanda: No, fortunately, I never, it was not a thought. I never thought in giving up, but I know people who gave up because of harassment and discrimination, but sometimes because of familiar arrangements, because women in general are responsible for taking care of children, of old parents, of any other member of the family, and sometimes it's too much weight for them and they have to choose.

Ramaa: What made you, you know, be resilient? What made you keep going?

Fernanda: Despite everything I've seen and even suffered in the workplace, I was always sure that women would have more space and no less. Again, I'm talking about my reality. I know there are countries that are prehistoric in terms of gender, equality of gender and race, etc. But in my reality, I was sure we would gain more space and it wouldn't be less space with time. So I've decided to move forward. And what is very interesting that I've seen in my journey is sorority. We've seen a lot of movements coming up, women gathering to fight for their rights. So, I think it's changed. We are more united to help each other, to inspire each other and to understand each other's issues. There are a lot of movements growing to help other women, to raise others. I think it’s one of the biggest changes. You will barely hear nowadays ‘oh, I’m here, but you will have to have your own way and suffer a little bit as I did’. No. I did it, maybe I suffered but I want to make [progress] more natural for you.

Furthering diversity 

Ramaa: I think that’s great. Tell us a little bit about how you’re making your organisation more inclusive and allowing people to be themselves. And I know that you're also doing that in coverage. Tell us a little bit about that.

Fernanda: Okay. I run a newspaper that is specialised in economics and politics. And of course, when you go to the corporate market, it's still a white man's place. I've seen a figure last week saying women barely got 10% of the 500 biggest companies in the US. 10% of those companies have female CEOs. So, the corporate market is still a white man's place. And so we've decided, first of all, we can't cast people for events or as sources of stories, etc. not respecting a balance. So, we have to choose female sources and male sources in an equal way. We've been trying very hard to do that.

And the first page of a legacy media newspaper, it's a very symbolic piece. So, we have a goal to have more women in the front page and the pictures of the front page. And we've finished 2022 with the mark of 70% of the editions with women pictured in the first page. We've celebrated a lot because it was a very hard transformation we were proposed to do. And I believe we as a team, we've achieved that. And we receive a lot of messages from well-succeeded women and CEOs, celebs, etc. And from young women that are still entering the market force saying, ‘oh, it's good, it's inspiring’. ‘Don't give up, please continue doing that because we feel represented.’ And it's very good. It's a very good feeling saying we can contribute, even if a small way, to inspire and to change things. And inside our organisation, we've tried to evolve, to try to think about equality when we hire someone to a position. Let's not only publish an ad and wait for who is coming to work with us. Okay, we are going to ask people, ‘okay, point me to good people with diversity characteristics’. And it's important to do equal procedures when you are hiring. So we can change our environment with hiring policies. And not only for young people entering the organisation, but for all the positions you have to think about it. Okay, if I'm going to hire an editor or a special reporter or any other position, let's have take a good look at the market and ask everybody to come and be a candidate and to interest them to work with us. It's not easy, it gives you work, but we have a very good result. And it's a very good feeling when you succeed.

Ramaa: Great. Thank you, Fernanda. That's been really, really insightful. I really appreciate your time today.

Fernanda: Thank you. Thank you very much for the opportunity.


Listening to your heart 

Ramaa: As you know we've been discussing authenticity on this podcast and I'm really interested in wondering what authenticity means to you.

Marcela: Authenticity means listen to your intuition, to your heart and follow what these are saying to you, the information that it’s giving you and not only following the same path of the other people. Just trying to follow what you feel.

Ramaa: So throughout the series a lot of women leaders have told us about additional barriers they've faced either because of their gender or their race or their age so I'm just wondering whether your identity has had a positive or negative impact in the work that you've tried to do?

Marcela: Yes I have been punished in different jobs that I have been in. In the beginning I was organising other journalists like in this autodidactical formation that everybody can teach other journalists. If you are good writing a chronicle or if you're good interviewing so I always try to create these circles of learning. But at the beginning in my first newspaper I told them that I was organising a labour union and they were really scared and angry so they sent me away, they punished me by telling me to cover some other things to put me apart. Later when I was in a magazine and I was in ‘Periodistas de a Pie’ I was the leader and we were training journalists to cover, to resolve or to learn how to cover this violence, I knew that the men journalists were like really always nasty always like trying to make comments of ‘oh this is the women journalists’ like if we were like just talking or chatting. Or for me, always questioning if I am not anymore a journalist, if I am an activist and I am like an NGO agent and not anymore a journalist. And I always try to explain to them that I continue working with the rules of journalism but the context made us and we have in those years the beginning of this storm of journalists being killed. Even in the magazine where I was working Regina Martinez was killed. She was a correspondent in Veracruz from the magazine so I say ‘no, this is important and we have to do it’. So it was at first really a lot of stigma in the newsroom but then when the violence grew as it has been growing and all the effort and the networks that were born from this effort because many local networks to protect journalists arise and many women journalists start creating their own networks in the local places in their in their territories so now ‘Periodistas de a Pie’ is like really renowned organization.

Journalism as a mission 

Ramaa: It sounds like it's a great sense of purpose for you.

Marcela: Yes I think journalism is like a mission and I think that if you are a journalist of this kind of journalism, in my case human rights, covering human rights in a country like Mexico there is not another way to do it. Also I like to say with other journalists that in the workshops we are like a truth commission or little truth commission in real time and that maybe we never see the impact of our work because we think that what we are doing is not important and we are tired also also frustrated many times but it's important for the truth and maybe one day if we have justice what the information that we are getting and collecting will be important. Maybe we'll solve cases of this mother who is looking for her son who is disappeared or who is in this mass grave or because maybe sometimes we have the information in our notebooks or we publish it.

Ramaa: That level of risk that is involved, it just makes me think about you know you've been in danger you've been spied on you've lost friends, what keeps you going?

Marcela: The same. For example Javier Valdez he was my friend he was killed in 2017 and for me, for other colleagues, only thinking that some of our friends or the colleagues that we really admire who were killed this is an impulse to continue because what they did was important and this is a commitment for us to continue because they were fighting against silence. Miroslava Breach says that silence is complicity. She was killed in my hometown in Chihuahua on the border with Texas because she was publishing about narco politics. So we have to continue but we have to learn how to do it differently, that is important. We have to learn how to do it with others, organising ourselves with other methodology. Also learninmg how to take care of yourself: digital physical and in a psycho-emotional way because that is needed.

Spiritual and ritual healing 

Ramaa: I'm thinking a little bit more about the support that you provide, both the sort of support that you provide for yourself and the support that you provide other journalists, you've said a little bit about that, I just wondered if you might be able to paint a little picture of the tools that you use in a little bit more detail?

Marcela: I founded a news website that investigates the missing people. I have created different collectives in different level like in ‘Periodistas de a Pie’. I am involved in another collective that [tracks] daily emergencies all around the county, checking how the journalists are if they need some help and if the NGOs take the cases or not. And in this website, we cover mass graves and a lot of testimonies of relatives who lose or they're missing people, they're missing children, it's a lot of pain. We try monthly to have a check up emotional meeting. So in our workshops we always have a space to talk also about how this impact in our work but at the same time to have our ritual to clean all the pain or the grief that we accumulate and also to try to lift away all the guilt that we carry on and some traumatic situation emotions so one time we invited a shaman, another a priest. We made some spiritual rights. And many times the men they are not used to this kind of spirituality or rituals and they were like really surprised that way they feel fine at the end because they could sleep and they could talk with somebody about something that he had to cover and never talk about it and he was really ‘frozen’ many time or many years or months. In Mexico you need another kind of force to do these kind of jobs, to go into mass graves and to look with their relatives for their skeletons or just the bodies of their missing relatives. It's like really, really difficult and you as journalists you have to deal with this in your daily life and cover that and then go to the meeting with friends and it's like really difficult so we try to talk about it, to express emotions and to talk about the guilt and also how everybody deals with this and what can be can be good to trespass this, or good habits or different things to take care of yourself and to process all these things. And sometimes also if somebody needs therapy I always look for an organisation that can bring and give this therapy to the members of my group who need it because we have to take care holistically not only in the journalistic work because this affects you in your whole life.

Ramaa: There's a couple of things that strike me about what you say is that there's that quite deep attention to the emotional care of your journalists and then the other thing that I'm struck by is it feels unusual and perhaps it feels more unusual in the western world than it would in other parts of the world of the kind of use of sort of religious and rituals as a way of creating more strength or, how would we say it, a source of solace. How would you describe what the rituals and the kind of religious elements provide?

Marcela: Yes in Mexico also it is not seen as good. In Mexico the people think this is kind of crazy, that they are hippies and these things, many of the editors think like that and it's not it's not well seen if I speak in public about the importance of crying or the importance of death rituals but the rituals can be different, it's not always like a spirituality, whatever you believe in, whatever force it’s fine. But for example one ritual is if you want to cover a mass grave you were in the excavations like the doctors in COVID you have to change your clothes or take a bath and change the space. Doing this kind of break in your house. You have to break the space, changing your clothes or doing something. But also if you want to close a case that you are investigating that you have been following for weeks or months. For example, in my case, I was investigating the 43 missing students and it was like a massacre how some of them were killed so in one moment I felt like ‘okay I cannot anymore do this’ and I felt really bad, I felt like a failure so I published one story. It has the face of the one of the students, his case was really brutal how he was killed and I felt like I cannot continue investigating what happened to him because emotionally I felt really exhausted and I felt that it was not my case.

So I opened the magazine where I published it and his picture was on it and I put some candles and flowers and I talked with him and I explained to him in silence like ‘okay, this is what I can do for you in this moment and now I will continue looking and searching for your colleagues, the other students. I want to change and if I have something about you I will write this but I cannot anymore. And I hope that you have peace and that you have justice,’ you know? Also I cover massacres of migrants I just wrote a book that will be published this year about that. And also with the migrants there is more than 200 migrants and I have been 12 years involved in this investigation and I don't know like asking for permission and say like ‘okay I will finish this case it has been these years I hope that you found justice and I can bring some kind of information for this justice and I will continue to another case’. And for me it was like a liberation, closure, in this other way. Don’t only feel bad that you finished something, it's important. And with the groups the same, with the groups sometimes we walk in the woods because we do an annual workshop, like it's really big with 50 journalists together, and we walk and we go to a tree and we leave some of the things that everybody carry and the people can cry. It's magical and we share in another way our lives and what is happening to us and not only as journalists but also as human beings.

Creating space to rest 

Ramaa: Well what you say reminds me of what you said right at the beginning of the podcast which was to really be kind of true to your feelings and understand them and use that as a bit of a compass of how you operate and doing you these ceremonies or these rituals that have clearly helped you feels like it's a part of that authenticity piece, would I be right in saying that?

Marcela: Yes, because I was an orthodox journalist always, but I think that things and the context and what happened to me and what I have learned and the people who I met. I’m always trying to mix and to bring the different things that I have seen and try to create a method a methodology or something. Now I and another journalist are also thinking about how to found a house where journalists can rest because I think that many journalists who are at risk, they only need rest and to think clearly and they need the space, the emotional and physical space where they can sleep well, good beautiful things. Many times as we live under this pressure we have no time and space to think on this and so we turn off the fear and just continue doing the work. We have to, in a way, provide these spaces to do it better and to protect journalists and also to protect the right of the people to be informed, to protect the whole ecosystem.

Ramaa: Thank you Marcela it seems like really good advice for us all regardless of the context and obviously even more important in the context that you've been working. We really appreciate your time and being so generous with us today.

Marcela: Thank you and thank you for the invitation and I hope this can help.

Ramaa: Yeah I'm sure it will thank you.

Join our free newsletter on the future of journalism

At every email we send you'll find original reporting, evidence-based insights, online seminars and readings curated from 100s sources - all in 5 minutes.

  • Twice a week
  • More than 20,000 people receive it
  • Unsubscribe any time

signup block