Not for me the latest Lee Child or even the earliest Agatha Christie.
I make no apologies for choosing what appear to be “improving” works to dip into between now and New Year’s Day.
Even given our collective plight over the last two years, I’ve resisted the temptation to embrace escapism and have stuck with pragmatism. Many of us are still reviewing, reviving and rebuilding and, I think, my Christmas reading supports this process.
Maybe it’s because I’m studying for a doctorate in the evolution of age discrimination as well as the day job of running Punter Southall Aspire that all things age, diversity and work-related are extremely relevant to me. Plus, I think they offer all of us some positive tips and help to view familiar situations from a new angle.
If there is a consistent theme it’s this: we can all do better.
The New Long Life: A framework for flourishing in a changing world, by Andrew Scott and Lynda Gratton
This looks at work, ageing, health, relationships and pioneers.
Not surprisingly, my interest is in ageing, especially the observation that society’s exclusive focus on age as a timeline fails to capture improvements in how we age.
Instead of classifying longevity as about being older for longer, the authors suggest it should actually be younger for longer, given the advances in health. Think biological, not chronological. In so doing, society needs to stop treating everyone aged 65 as old and the same. It’s a relevant call to action.
The Authority Gap: Why women are still taken less seriously than men and what we can do about it, by Mary Ann Sieghart
This helped me understand, as a middle-aged man, how women can be belittled, undermined, questioned, mocked, talked over and generally not taken seriously in their public and professional lives.
It becomes clear very early, how deep rooted and self-perpetuating the problem is. If you are a business leader, manager, colleague, father, husband or brother, this is an essential read if we are to create a gender-equal society which, in turn, creates a more profitable economy with higher levels of happiness and fulfilment.
The Constant Economy: How to create a stable society, by Zac Goldsmith
With COP26 a recent memory, I revisited a book written in 2009 by the Conservative peer Zac Goldsmith, wearing his environmental hat.
He sets out his manifesto for a “constant economy”, where resources are valued, where food is grown sustainably and goods are built to last. Energy security is based on the use of renewable sources and where strong communities are valued as a country’s most effective hedge against social, economic and environmental instability. And an acknowledgement that we all need to play our part.
On Motivation: Building Better Workplace Cultures, by Jenny Segal
An actuary, speaker and leader in the pensions industry, Jenny’s book is informed by her professional experience. She asks why people leave organisations and why do managers get things so wrong when they are overwhelmingly inherently good people trying to do their best. Her answer: under-investment in management best practice, which she brings to life with examples and anecdotes. A clear, brisk read.
The men (and it is still men) who rise to the top of the UK’s financial services sector are still largely drawn from an exclusive, privileged section of society, despite the educational, social and cultural shifts that have taken place in our lifetimes.
Given that my entire career has been spent in this world, my observations and insights carry some validity. To nurture a more diverse workforce, we need to create a more inclusive industry. Other senior voices also share their personal experience and hopes for meaningful, practical change so the professions in which we have thrived better reflect the breadth of talent 21st century Britain has to offer.
P.S. Please do drop me a line if any of these choices or summaries chime, clang or challenge your own views on how we can move forward into 2022 and beyond.