Antonia Del Vecchio
The world is beautiful because it is varied. In this banal, simple statement lies what is most true when we approach the issue of the importance of including and valuing uniqueness! Yet, although it is apparently such a trivial thing, it still seems to be exceedingly difficult to make people understand.
It was in 1990 that the World Health Organisation deleted homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. The process that led to this decision lasted a good 20 years. It is undeniable that much progress has been made over the years, but unfortunately there are still practices/therapies in many countries to “cure” homosexuality.
To get an idea of what can happen in some countries that condemn homosexual relationships, all you need to do is listen to and watch the video of a famous single titled ‘Take Me to Church’, made famous not long ago by an Irish singer-songwriter. The video and the song tell the love story of two young men who are victims of gratuitous violence from a community that is opposed to their relationship. There is little to add to this, except that all this happens due to a lack of information and culture.
And in companies, on the other hand, which are the mirrors of society, what happens? Although I have been involved in promoting the culture of diversity in companies for years, the scenario is always the same. There are virtuous companies, but there are also many others where the topic remains a taboo. We still hear about stereotypes related to gender roles that in most cases limit work opportunities. Many LGBT people, rather than clash with this sad reality, end up not looking for a job, or choosing to work in contexts where the stigma has already been overcome. Yet others decide to seize business opportunities where the market makes the choice.
There is also another possibility, namely that linked to hiding one’s identity. Think about how you would feel if you were forced to live your life as someone else. To “wear someone else’s shoes” and leave your feelings at home. Every day. Not being yourself creates invisible barriers that limit your potential and the full expression of your skills. This constant hiding of one’s identity is a massive source of stress. Today, when companies talk about worker well-being and taking preventive actions to safeguard physical and mental health, it is impossible not to consider this factor. This is an increasingly globalised and complex reality. Countless studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of undertaking diversity management paths. These studies show how D&I strategies have effects on competitiveness, for example: they improve the understanding of the market, which leads to an increased ability to attract a wider clientele. Internally, you notice greater creativity in teams, an increase in employee engagement and a consequent reduction in costs related to turnover. Employees who can be themselves by the coffee machine, by talking about their real lives, are employees who experience the company as a non-hostile context, and instead as a place where they can give their best because they are recognised for the real value they bring to work. Although a company may make technological investments, the element that will always distinguish it from the competition will be human contributions, and the real advantage will be provided by the result of how every individual’s differences merge. But to do this, you must be well prepared, in order to not run the risks associated with heterogeneity and the inappropriate management of diversity, which requires achieving the right balance between the need for innovation, adequate strategies for analysing, defining and solving problems, and organisational coherence.
At the beginning I said that companies are mirrors of society and if this is true, the opposite will also be true. Because all the initiatives aimed at spreading the culture of diversity in the company will then be transmitted by employees to their families and children, which will create a culture of discussing these subjects openly and a climate of inclusion in all contexts. At Synergie, a company I have worked at for years, both in Italy and abroad, we have always passionately believed in the value of diversity. In Italy, the company made a clear choice, including with my colleague, Francesco D’Arrigo, Head of Talent Acquisition and Organisation and Development.Francesco experienced exclusion firsthand, and constantly sought inclusion for himself. The commitment from now on for Synergie with him will be to review organisational models, new roles and growth and training paths that are aimed at enhancing diversity. The intentions of Synergie Italia find their best expression in Francesco’s own words: “The person is a rich and complex system… not a category, not one thing, but many things… and it is essential to shed light on the world of the “person”, with all the rich emotional baggage that entails… because here we find the potential and the potential rests on diversity, which here becomes Uniqueness and Value.”
To conclude, unfortunately, many recruiters and/or those involved in internal employee development are still not sufficiently prepared to make bias-free, conscious and/or unconscious assessments, at the expense of choosing a more qualified candidate for the job. Sometimes these same prejudices are only the result of a construction based on imagined factors, which are very often unverified. To the recruiter, who by profession chooses the best talents for his company to maximise results, it must be clear that including diversity means growing the skill set and this is indispensable in a period like this, upset by the effects of the pandemic, to recover quickly by being able to make the most of all the talents available.