This issue of DiverCity deals with language, and with how communication is fundamental to facilitating and conveying the inclusion of every kind of diversity. Today we meet Simona Comandè, General Manager for Philips Italy, Israel and Greece.
How did the idea of the talks come about?
I believe that it is, above all, a matter of ethical and social responsibility: a company like Philips has such wide exposure that it cannot fail to put itself at the service of issues that are relevant to the community in which we operate. Inclusion and diversity are a measurable commitment and a strategic goal that guides the way we do business. With these talks, we provide space for the need to speak to our people and to customers and consumers who follow us, telling them about the value of diversity and the duty that each of us has towards inclusion. It is a question of raising awareness, of offering ideas for dialogue and reflection and of building a common and inclusive vocabulary on these issues.
How are the talks structured?
The diversity talks are five monthly appointments that last an hour each, in which we address the pillars of diversity with our guests: Culture, Gender, LGBT+, Disability, Generations. They are conversation prompts that build stories of diversity, made up of personal and professional experiences and the ability to welcome questions from the public to encourage transparent and unfiltered interaction.
Who are they aimed at?
The talks are aimed primarily at our employees, who can follow the interviews as they are streamed live, or access the recording later. They were designed primarily for our people, to raise awareness, interest and involve them in a path of inclusion which, in this case, passes through lives and stories that inspire. But there is more: we have chosen to extend the opportunity to anyone outside of the company who is interested in listening, understanding in depth and growing with us. That’s why our talks are open to everyone; only judgement and prejudice have to stay outside.
Are the talks interactive and can viewers/spectators interact with the panel?
Absolutely, yes. Since the interviews take place live, anyone who is connected can, via chat, send questions, ask for clarification or share personal experiences.
Who are the guests you have had so far and how were they ‘selected’?
To date we have met: Rose Cartolari – International Leadership Consultant, and Cesare De Michelis – Data Scientist in the talk on multiculturalism; Paola Mascaro – President Valore D and Odile Robotti – Founder of Learning Edge and author and blogger, as well as me, in the talk on gender; Igor Suran – Executive Director of Parks – Liberi e Uguali and Mariangela Fierro – Senior Security Manager at Accenture in the talk on LGBT+ issues and, during the first appointment of 2021, we will meet Elena Travaini – professional dancer, and Irbin Vicco – Paralympic athlete, in the talk on disabilities. This will be followed by the appointment dedicated to Generations, which I don’t want to share any spoilers on yet. Each speaker who accompanies us in this experience has been chosen and invited to tell their story, personal and professional, since the two are always inevitably intertwined, because they are strongly characterised by the ‘diversity’ that is being discussed. They are also people of different ages, nationalities, genders and abilities and all have the desire to make their experiences available to others.
Why is it important to raise awareness among people in the company?
We want to reach everyone with this initiative because it is important to understand that no company, whether it’s a multinational or not, is exempt from diversity in all its forms and all companies are called to be at the forefront in valuing each individual’s diversity (from the people who are a part of the company, to customers, stakeholders, etc.) and promote inclusion paths at all levels. And as a company leader, I want to reiterate how much this is not only an issue of social responsibility, but has effectively become a business driver that cannot be ignored, so I urge everyone not to ignore it.
Do you only touch on issues relating to the world of work or also society and the personal sphere?
We try to convey the idea that the value of diversity can be appreciated in every sphere – work, the family, social life. Precisely for this reason our guests talk to each other generously, also sharing parts of their private and not strictly professional life, to show and demonstrate the power and positive impact of inclusive practices.
What do you say to those who think that inclusion is simply a fashionable issue, or just about appearances? How much does it impact a company’s business?
Fashions are different, they pass without leaving a real mark. I am sure that this path, like others taken by virtuous companies and organisations, will leave a mark. And they will translate into listening, paying attention, valuing everyone’s contributions, opening up, the ability to consider points of view and perspectives that we might previously have ignored. I don’t expect five talks alone to make a difference in absolute terms, but they are undoubtedly a fundamental part of a much broader project of enhancing diversity and inclusion that Philips has been supporting for some time. And the value that is generated is value for people and for the business, because a community capable of making differences a strength can create the kinds of concrete innovations that Philips has been for over 100 years.
So what is Philips’ approach to I&D issues?
Philips aims to improve the lives of 2 billion people a year by 2025 and, to do this, we must start within. At Philips, everyone can direct their career through training, mentoring and networking programmes. In the wake of the Inclusion & Diversity programmes, Philips has set a global target of 30% gender diversity in senior leadership positions by the end of 2025, to go beyond the 25% target set for 2020, which in all likelihood will be reached by the end of the year.
In Italy, to support a process of cultural change based on differences and respect, with the belief that a more inclusive society is not only ethically correct, but also strategically more effective for the development of innovative and successful ideas, we have entered into partnerships with associations such as Parks – Liberi e Uguali and ValoreD, committed to promoting the key themes of inclusion and diversity.
We believe in inclusive leadership, which through different characteristics in terms of age, gender and experience can guarantee greater capacity in our organisation. For this reason, together with ValoreD, we have activated mentoring courses for female middle managers to create self-awareness in organisational contexts, develop the entrepreneurial spirit to promote a career and create a network of talented young people. Confirming our commitment, we are ambassadors of the manifesto for women’s employment promoted by Valore D, of which I have the honour of being part of the Board of Directors. Furthermore, participation in the ‘Talent has no age’ research promoted by ValoreD in collaboration with the Catholic University on the topic of Active Ageing, has given us excellent ideas on how to better manage the presence of different populations with different skills in the company. In fact, we want our working environment to be stimulating for both the junior and senior population through the creation of working groups where the youngest work with the oldest and exchange skills: older employees share technical skills and acquire digital skills.
And it is precisely this continuous virtuous exchange that is for us the undisputed engine of innovation and creativity, for which we will continue to invest in and support projects of inclusion and diversity, at all levels and in all possible forms.