Perspectives on LGBT Workplace Equality in Italy

Below are the answers from the final questions during Out & Equal’s first Global Webinar call of 2017: Perspectives on LGBT Workplace Equality in Italy. Panelists included:

Carlo Cortese, Senior Software Manager, GLBTA Italy Co-Lead, General Electric
Igor Suran, Executive Director, Parks – Liberi e Uguali
Luciano Cantoni, Head of Branding and Performance Solutions and LGBT ERG Lead, Google Italy

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1. What do you feel is the value of mentoring on best practices from more experienced companies? Would you build different partnership if you were a manufacturing company (rather than a costumer facing company)?

  • Luciano: No, not at all. 😉 It is not a matter of which industry your company operates. It’s a matter of sharing values of diversity and inclusion and being available to invest part of the time/network and employee to spread the message of inclusion. So creating constructive relationships with Pride organizations, institutions and other companies interested in promoting diversity and inclusion should be a focus of companies in all industries.
  • Carlo: To add the point of Luciano, GE is a Business to Business company and the commitment to be inclusive is very similar. We are focused both internally and externally, creating a place where everybody feels respected and valued, and becoming an employer of choice in order to get the best talent and increase the retention.
  • IgorThe value of such mentoring is paramount. Most businesses in Italy face the challenge of ensuring LGBT equality for the first time and need examples of best practices to understand how to move on. The difference in the difficulty when promoting cultural change in manufacturing plants vs offices (formerly referred to as “blue collar” vs “white collar”) is at least as important as B2B vs B2C. The call is not for a different partnership but for a targetted approach in training to these employees and their management. In Parks we do both.

2. We have a very small Rome office (<10); Is there a local Roman resource for LGBT allies in the financial world?

  • Luciano: We have some good connections to many LGBT organizations in Rome even with our main LGBT team based in Milan. Let’s get in touch and see how we can support you.
  • IgorParks has among its members a number of legal firms, both Italian and international, and they are very involved in our activities.  Several of them are based in Rome and we would be very happy to start a dialogue.

3. How do you get non-LGBT employees to participate in your events?

  • Luciano: This is one of the KEY elements of our strategy. I mean, we of course work to ensure best inclusion for our local LGBT community, but our main objective is to involve anyone – this means developing initiatives that can be interesting for all Googlers In Italy. Example: two years ago at our first big internal event during pride week, we discussed rainbow families. We developed a panel in order to be interesting to all our straight employees whose kids are frequently exposed to “diverse” kind of families.  To summarize: do it for your LGBT community, thinking with a “what’s in it for me” for your Straight colleagues. The success is granted!
  • IgorThe training Parks delivers to member companies is aimed at the change of culture and is directed to all employees – the vast majority being non-LGBT. Our sessions focus on LGBT as one – and in Italy likely the most difficult to emerge – of all diversities in the workplace. We seek to raise awareness on how understanding LGBT helps one become a better person and not just a better colleague.  We also seek to legitimize the LGBT argument in the workplace  by speaking in general about stereotypes and bias – a topic is in which everyone identifies an issues with which to identify personally.

4. What process do you attribute to establishing and dedicating funding for the LGBTQ ERG?

  • LucianoThe final decision on budgeting is made by central Diversity & Inclusion organization. As Local Leads we raise our requests based on proposed projects that are submitted with specific Business Cases showing objectives, impacts and deployment mode.
  • Carlo: The budget for LGBT ERG is defined by the GLBTA committee, and when consolidated we review it with the Italian HR Council for approval. In case of additional activities respect to the plan we rely on our Executive Sponsor that support us also financially.
  • IgorAn important consideration is also that any training or institutional activity promoted by the ERG for the benefit of all employees may and perhaps should be funded from the  already approved D&I training or other budget.

5. Do you have any tips on how one could nurture newly established PRIDE/Ally networks in the work place?

  • Carlo: Identify Executive Sponsors and HR Sponsors that would support the network. Ask for support from existing ERGs in your organization that can mentor you in creating connection. Organize events and ask for participation from Executives and HR that can provide visibility. Also create some gadget related to the network (rainbow lanyard, brochure, pins…) – they are very helpful in order to create awareness through the allies.
  • LucianoI fully agree with Carlo’s points. I re-enforce the importance on strong Top Executives support. On this point, I would push on the personal advantage that an Executive can get on his equity in case of openly support a diversity initiative (Diversity is the new black). Leveraging on “what is in it for me” in general pays off. Go Outside: once you put in place all the points that Calro suggested, expanding externally (pride organization, institutions, other corporations) is a way to give to your ERG members an empowering and really rewarding role.
  • IgorTop management endorsement is paramount as it demonstrates where the company stands on this issue. Organize events (book lunches, visiting speakers, film projections) that continuously remind straight allies as to why it is important that they be onboard.

6. If you were leading a brand new ERG chapter, what would be the first action you would suggest to put in place, aside of partnering with Parks of course?

  • LucianoTop Manager support (go straight to your country manager). All global corporations are promoting diversity and inclusion, so stimulating top management is the best way to have attention from all. Then follow Carlo’s suggestions.
  • IgorEnsure that at the event of the launch there is presence of top management and one of them openly speaks as a senior sponsor. Read a message from the CEO or similar if he or she is not present: that is a point of no return.