In this article we try to talk about DE&I in Italy: where do we stand? Let’s start with an example: housekeeper, if “the” we think of a governor, if “the” we think of the lady who helps us keep the house in order. Are you surprised by this?
DE&I in Italy: where do we stand? A question of maturity
There is increasing talk about Diversity and Inclusion (or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, et similia) and many companies are taking more or less virtuous paths in this regard.
The contribution waiver achieved by the Certification for Gender Equality, established in recent months, has helped to give a strong acceleration. But in what direction?
The actions that are most frequently taken (see if you find yourself there) include:
training and information on so-called Unconscious Bias1;
the drafting of a DE&I Policy that qualifies the organization’s commitment;
action is taken, where possible, on gender representation (i.e., the number of women) in top positions (usually the front line of an organization and the second in larger entities);
sometimes membership in associations such as Valore D or PARKS Liberi e Uguali completes the list of actions.
However, the issue is much more extensive and complex and is not limited to this small “takeaway” (which is certainly useful to start with).
Dispersion of DE&I programs
And indeed, it is precisely the complexity and breadth of the topic that can generate a risk of “dispersion” and lack of focus in these types of programs.
Numerous initiatives are generally undertaken but there seems to be a lack of overall vision.
Our contribution, as HRI, is based on the interesting experiences we shared with our clients, and they led us to suggest adopting a “maturity” model. It is true that there are many actions to be taken, but some need to be done earlier, others later, in a consistent manner.
Beyond (longed-for) gender equality.
For example, in our country, the issue of “gender equality” certainly matters. By this we mean the opportunity for men and women to access professional opportunities) and reconciliation with family/parental needs.
- However, situations related to “genders” are emerging: in addition to “man” “woman” there are other gender identities and orientations, to be considered from the perspective of inclusion in a world designed in a binary system.
- Then there is the chapter of people with disabilities in a world mostly designed for people without disabilities.
- There is so-called “ageism,” when age influences e.g., career opportunity assessments, when companies for example do not invest in the development of people over 50.
- There is the issue of ethnicity, which is better known and addressed in multicultural contexts, underestimated in the Italian context, but if we look at school children today we realize that we should take it into consideration.
- How can we not mention cultural identity (with strong connection also on religious orientation), just think that-still in Italy-religious work holidays are connected only to the Catholic religion;
- Finally, we have physical appearance, which in its most violent versions becomes body shaming. In the “less obvious” versions, however, it determines exclusion from professional opportunities (hiring, exposure, visibility, career growth) of people whose appearance does not fit the standards of “normality” (weight, height, psoriasis, alopecia, …).
The pillars of a maturity model
When working on these issues, we pursue the goal of consistent growth in the maturity level of the organization, from many perspectives:
- Governance (policy, certification, integrative collective bargaining, welfare, …), and objective measurement of equity and inclusion phenomena
- Awareness and competence in people and corporate culture, through training on unconscious bias and inclusive leadership, experiences of exclusion, inclusion and diversity. Virtual Reality pathways can be conducted today, a review of language from an inclusive perspective, knowing that language can be an extremely pervasive spreader of bias, internal and external communication, etc.
- Accessibility, working to break down visible physical and digital barriers, i.e., barriers that preclude some people (primarily people with disabilities) from accessing spaces, services, experiences not precluded to other people. It is also essential to deal with hidden barriers, for example, when a selective test does not contemplate different modalities for people with ASD;
- Invisible barriers, often related to biases deeply rooted in context and such as to generate inequity. Gender pay gaps, barriers to access to professional development opportunities due to ageism, i.e., the belief that it is useless to invest on people who are older than age, or due to discrimination on a person’s physical appearance, etc.
- Eco-system, influencing not only the perimeter of the organization, but the supply chain itself and the target market, but also the territory and civil society on which the company insists, through integrated projects and joint initiatives.
These pillars proceed together with “rights and duties,” awareness and evolution in the use of language, concrete actions and impact beyond our small world.
DE&I and Analytics
We can ask how HR Analytics help us and how (at least for the moment) artificial intelligence does not help us on DE&I.
Numbers, Analytics, also in this context represent a great opportunity to analyze and understand phenomena, for example:
Why is it that for the same performance and potential assessment, the development actions concretely fielded are significantly different by gender and/or age?
Why is gender representation in the CVs received not reflected in the offers?
At what rate do men grow professionally compared to women? And in what age group does the speed of women’s growth suffer a setback?
The gender pay gap (gender paygap) absent in profiles with less experience, widens significantly in profiles with greater seniority. Why?
That young people have high potential and people over 50 are “at the end of the line” of potential, is this an assessment or a belief? And what spillovers does the answer to this question generate in high-performing resource development strategies?
Again, how do companies believe they can meet gender representation targets in top positions when succession plan pipelines are completely unbalanced?
Why are people categorized as “protected categories” hardly evaluated with above-average performance? Is it bias or a lack of managerial expertise in managing resources whose inclusion requires a specific focus?
For these and other examples, the data also help us question phenomena in DE&I. If we can interrogate them with the intellectual honesty that a data-driven approach requires, they can provide an interesting opportunity for reflection, discovery and awareness.
Artificial intelligence: for now, it poses more doubts than answers
Before we conclude, an interesting insight: biases permeate human nature and consequently also human-trained artificial intelligence. We bring you an interesting article on the topic from the online magazine Wired.co.uk.
Recall that articifial intelligence “is formed” through the analysis of material produced materially, socially and culturally by people: and as we know people carry all their biases and prejudices with them.