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TIM and LGBT+ people: the road to inclusion

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TIM within the Diversity & Inclusion Index

Inclusion is becoming ever more important to financial analysts, as it predicts a company's performance. We discussed about it with Barbara Falconer and Igor Suran, general directors in the order of Valore D and Parks associations.

01/01/2019 - 01:05 PM

For many years now experts in company organisation have demonstrated the links between on the one hand companies' promotion of inclusion and valuing of diversity, and on the other their performance, not only in terms of workplace environment and wellbeing but also competitive position and innovation generation.

For some time, moreover, these effects have made themselves felt in the world of financial markets.

The Thomson Reuters index is a small part of a seemingly very fast-moving evolution. Il Diversity and Inclusion Index di Thomson Reuters è la punta dell’iceberg di un'evoluzione che appare molto veloce. For TIM Thomson Reuters  2018 analysis was particurlarly positive: we have joined the Top 25 of Thomson Reuters' Diversity & Inclusion Index, shooting up to sixth place from 93rd last year, becoming the top company in Italy and the top telecom company in the world.

Thomson Reuters, an economic media multinational, ranks over 7,000 companies on their performance in diversity and inclusion, on the basis of environmental, social and governance data taken from public sources like sustainability reports, financial reports, company websites, press releases and stock exchange publications. The index measures companies' performance in four areas: "Diversity", "People Development", "Inclusion" and "News Controversies". Only companies that get a decent score in each of these areas receive an overall score, calculated as the mean average of the four. The index is republished every three months, based on the most recent data in Thomson Reuters' database. 

 Recently, for example, Consob's publication of the financial working paper "Boardroom gender diversity and performance of listed companies in Italy", which looks at the application of the legislation on gender quotas by listed companies.

 

TIM has been going full throttle for inclusion since 2009.

But in 10 years a lot has changed, including the attitude of companies and the markets to these matters. What has really stoked TIM's growth in this area is its partnership of several years with two very important company associations, Valore D and Parks, which strive for women and LGBT people to be valued in the world of work. We are members of these organisations and sit on their boards of directors. Thanks to this partnership we had the chance to discuss how inclusion in the corporate world is changing with the general directors of the two associations, Barbara Falconer and Igor Suran.

 

Barbara, Igor, how aware are people now of the importance of inclusion?

Barbara Falcomer: Valore D, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2019, was set up to get women's talent valued in the world of work, through a corporate approach, underlining the value, including the economic value, of greater gender diversity in organisations.

At the beginning it was a very new thing in Italy. While they were already talking about Womenomics in the United States, raising awareness here was still a long and difficult process.

But it seems things are changing, not just because companies are more alert to gender equity but also because there's an ever faster and more global market demanding it. For example, 66.5% of family purchases around the world are decided by women, including cars and video games, so it's important to be able to sense their tastes and preferences, and have women in sales and marketing positions, for example. Gender diversity in a company brings a second point of view. It helps reflect the diversity of the target market and therefore has a direct impact on its capacity for innovation and profits, which grow on average by 15.3% when at least 15% of the company's senior management are women.

These data are becoming better known at companies, which are even starting to measure them internally. In fact, under the new international legislation data from non-financial statements are now a key part of an investor or a market regulator's assessment of a company. There have already been various cases in which an investment fund has asked a company for evidence of the gender pay gap at its shareholders' meetings, for example.

 

Igor Suran: The close working links between an effective inclusion strategy and a company's performance have now been justified, above all in Western economies.

We hear more and more about the value inclusion creates. We hear about inclusion as a business case. We're becoming more and more aware of this strong connection in Italy too, but all too often we see formal equality set up through laws and legislation and not active pursuit of real equality, which you get by changing the culture.

We're only inclusive if we take into account diversity in all its forms. But in Italy we're still struggling to get that principle and a lot of people still don't think that including LGBT people is a big generator of wellbeing and value.

Barbara, we're talking about female leadership more and more but what are the remaining barriers today, inside and outside the world of work, that a woman might come across in the course of her career?

The barriers are outside and inside. Often the boundaries are blurred and we create shortcuts that don't really get women ahead in the world of work. The main barrier that we ourselves put up is low self esteem. Men and women have the same levels of ambition but women don't trust themselves as much to reach their professional goals. But this is at least in part because of outer barriers, like the burden of conciliation.

A career means an "any time, anywhere” model, but the combination of career and family is seen as more difficult for women because our culture, or rather the socio-economic structure, still sees women as more responsible for childcare. So women tend to pick career paths on which they aren't responsible for managing business and which therefore give them less likelihood of rising to the top. So in the end the prevailing leadership style is male and remains a barrier for the roughly 40% of women who don't feel adequate for top positions.

Igor, as for LGBT people and the world of work, sometimes today you hear that now the law on civil partnerships has been passed, they won't have any more problems. So what remains to be done to really include and let LGBT people develop in companies?

I think the law on civil partnerships has opened, rather than shut, the lid on the problems and the situations we need to confront and solve. Before the law, only a few admirable companies were talking about this issue. None of the others were, and as often happens, not talking about something makes it seem like everything's going fine. But now employers have to be up to date with the law and therefore deal with situations that they'd never had to face until very recently. A good employer should want to explain to all their employees the meaning of this historic law and provide every tool necessary for them all to understand why and how they can help reach the important strategic goal of including LGBT people in workplaces.

Many still see the LGBT debate as a private matter that has no place at work. This is the first and sometimes most difficult obstacle to get over. Alongside internal company legislation that helps LGBT employees and their families enjoy the same wellbeing as everyone else, raising awareness and educating people on these issues is the most effective tool for creating an inclusive culture.

The company associations you direct have a vertical field of interest. Do you think it would be possible to launch projects that looked at diversity in an intersectional way, or even from the point of view of people as individuals?

Barbara:  Yes, of course. We've started with gender diversity because it's the most important and urgent issue in this country and for our member companies. In Italy less than half of women are in work, but if their rate of employment reached 60%, GDP could grow to 7%. It's a waste of talent and resources that's still going on today at every level of companies. In many companies now women make up 50% of employees, but for every career progression there's a loss of about 20%, and women at the top are still few and far between.

Starting from this diversity, we've came up with an approach, method and tools for recognising and valuing people as individuals. For example, we're working on generational and cultural diversity. We hear a lot about millennials but it's not enough to focus on them in companies because they bring innovation and growth. It's important to get them collaborating with other generations at work, of which there can be as many as five in some cases.

And as life and the age of retirement get extended, there's still a section of the population, the over-50s, who have an incredible set of skills for companies but who the world of work tends to push to the sidelines.

Igor: We're all working so that in a not too distant future the starting and ending points for every person will be them as an individual. The concept of the intersectionality of differences is very important and even defies the laws of numbers.

One difference added to another often results in greater difficulty in life for a person than if they just had one. We all carry within us many characteristics that to the outside world might seem like differences. Everyone has a burden, a difficulty. To believe in peace that you can be seen as an individual, we all need to start understanding that burden and the difficulties of those differences that we've never experienced ourselves.

We have to realise that it's we non-different people who have to remove these difficulties. It's we who see and create problems where different people wouldn't see or have any.

What are the most interesting projects you've seen companies develop in the last few years?

Barbara: There have been so many! First of all, our development programmes start from company needs and sometimes best practices, which through our association we try to spread to all our companies, so they inspire and make others catch on.

We're very proud of our "Manifesto for female employment" project, a systematic document with nine points for increasing employment and valuing of women in companies. We started with best practices, assembled over almost 10 years, and promoted a network of CEOs from member companies, who exchange experience. After signing the manifesto last year in the presence of CEOs and institutions and with the sponsorship of the Italian G7, in September this year the CEOs met again to look at the results they'd achieved and decide on very concrete projects and action for their companies and the country as a whole, especially creating a pipeline of talented women, managing maternity and paternity leave, promoting STEM skills among girls and involving management and institutions in a cultural change that is necessary and essential for social and economic progress.

Igor: The companies we work with have done so many projects in the last few years. Projects that have left a big mark,: namely making people happier. Companies that not only got up to date with the demands of the law on civil partnerships but have decided to respect the dignity of LGBT families with children, despite the lack of a legal framework in the country. Like you've done at TIM, for example. Companies that every year organise days and weeks to celebrate LGBT diversity. Companies that have decided to put their strength and visibility to use, even outside themselves, to unequivocally support Italian society's struggle for cultural change.

Companies that have organised education sessions for all their employees on LGBT issues. Companies that have become aware that LGBT diversity is a fact of life and that LGBT inclusion is a company choice. These ones have made that choice and we're proud of them.

The biographies of Barbara Falcomer and Igor Uran

Barbara Falcomer  has more than 20 years of managerial experience, mainly in the luxury sector, 10 of them as CEO of Montblanc Italia. She has also worked with companies like Mediaset, Beiersdorf and Coty.

Since 2017 she has been general director of Valore D.

She is a business angel of and investor in certain start-ups.

She is a director on the board of the listed companies Piquadro and Digitouch.

From the Veneto, after graduating in foreign languages and literature at Venice, Barbara completed her education first with the Publitalia ’80 master's then outside Italy with an executive program at INSEAD.

She is married with two children and two cats.

 

Igor Suran, a Croat by birth and an Italian by choice, speaks many languages and has 15 years' experience in director's roles (in the corporate and investment sectors) at one of the big international banks.

He's an executive director, legal representative and member by right of the association's board of directors. In this role he is responsible for business development and enlarging the structure of associate of member companies, meeting with directors of member and potential member companies in Italy and abroad, and with the public administration and universities. He educates people on the issues of diversity and management and LGBT inclusion in the workplace, and speaks at conferences and public events.

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