In Italian companies, the figure of the Diversity and Inclusion Manager is still quite rare, that is the Head of Diversity and Inclusion in the corporate sphere this task, if deemed necessary, is entrusted among other duties to the Human Resources function.
On the contrary, in the United States for years now, the D&I Manager has assumed an important strategic role in many companies and almost always independently from that of Human Resources.
In this country, issues relating to differences in race, ethnicity, gender identity, emotional orientation, age, socio-economic class, etc. are much more felt, and that of the D&I Manager is also considered a strategic role based on the real economic advantage that it can foster in terms of greater creativity, innovation and the ability to attract talents.
What does the D&I Manager do?
The D&I Manager has precisely the task of ensuring that all the people who work in the company can enjoy the same opportunities in terms of processes and programs, overcoming any prejudice due to any differences and can, therefore, be at ease and acquire a common sense oIn short, the Manager with this role has an extremely delicate task, which is based on an ethical vision that should be able to recognize the value of the different voices present in the company and maintain the inclusiveness and well-being of each employee by considering them central aspects of the success of the company.
The definition of this new professionalism also provides for the protection of the concept of equity, understood as a process to ensure that all the initiatives and programs that are implemented by the company are impartial and provide equal possible results for each individual.
The importance of equity in the company
Catalina Colman , who holds this position at Built In , argues that
Fairness is the reason we go to work. We want to be fairly compensated for our work, to be challenged, to learn and to contribute. People often choose a certain employer if they are sure that he will respect these values which are based on the concept of equity.
It is not about opening the door to everyone indiscriminately, but about making sure that each individual knows and feels welcome within the organization
The importance of diversity. Inclusion does not mean tolerance or approval
Diversity in the company is an important strategic factor. People from different backgrounds, with different life experiences, will be able to face problems differently and propose unique solutions helping to refine and improve the processes, services and products offered by the company. In short, if well exploited, in fact, they can foster a higher level of innovation and better performance.
Also on the concept of inclusion some clarifications need to be made. Including does not mean tolerating the diversity of collaborators or, even worse, homologating them. It is clear that any type of work requires specific skills and the use of a uniform technical language that must be acquired and shared, but a serious inclusive culture should never prevent people from being themselves.
If the collaborators in their process of joining the company are forced to adapt and conform, hiding their identity, it is likely that at the first opportunity they will leave the company. In fact, including means making sure that each employee feels at ease, supported by the organization, respected in his uniqueness and therefore appreciated for who he is and what he can do. This is also the only way to bring out new talents, if there are any.
On this issue, we asked Claudio Guffanti , founder of Unlimited Views a few questions.
It is said that in Italy the phenomenon of differences in the company is less felt than in other countries. But is it really so? In this period of pandemic, moreover, some data confirm that over 90% of those who lose their jobs are women. The phenomenon of gender inequality is therefore worsening. What do you think?
Not only in Italy, but also in Southern Europe, the sensitivity necessary to address such issues is still rather poor. For example, the presence of employees belonging to different ethnic groups is an increasingly topical phenomenon in companies in our country but which is hard to take into consideration, also due to prejudicial attitudes. Moreover, in multinational companies, more used to dealing with these issues, inclusion is already managed with greater awareness, at all levels, through targeted projects and initiatives that involve the very structure of the companies.
It is true that women, particularly those engaged in activities in contact with the public, were the most penalized during the pandemic and many lost their jobs. On the other hand, however, with the development of smart working, it has been possible to better reconcile work with the management of family duties, which are still mainly the responsibility of women today. Currently, many companies have organized themselves in order to alternate face-to-face work - two / three days a week - with remote work.
Why are few companies able to understand the value of a figure like the D&I Manager not only from a social point of view but also as a strategic function, capable of providing important contributions in terms of greater competitiveness, performance, innovation, acquisition of talents?
Personally, I realized that when dealing with the issues of diversity and inclusion in the company, we focus mainly on the ethical and social value of these choices. What is the strategic value as a business lever for a company, once the inclusion process is successfully carried out, still eludes.
Those who work in the company (from the manager to the newly hired) need to realize that by setting up heterogeneous work groups (by gender, ethnicity, emotional orientation, age, origin, etc.) they can only improve performance, starting with capacity for innovation. Not only that, the minorities that we include in the company can transfer functional needs and requirements to the products and services offered, bringing the vision of a cross-section of the reality of the market that is increasingly gaining attention.
What position should a D&I Manager occupy in order to carry out an effective task in terms of inclusion and equity in the company?
When companies have to deal with inclusion issues, they try to turn to the outside world, but it is not easy to find specific skills in this field in Italy. So they try to develop skills internally, entrusting this additional task to HR who do not always have the tools to do it effectively.
In other words, the company must deal with inclusion at 360 degrees, guaranteeing this function adequate resources and investments, to develop a culture of inclusiveness that overcomes prejudices and stereotypes.