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Everyone has enough of companies’ hypocrisy Cathy La Torre | Mind The Gap

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In the dynamic landscape of today’s corporate world, bridging the gender gap and fostering true inclusivity have emerged as crucial for businesses seeking to excel in a diverse environment. Cathy La Torre, a distinguished lawyer and advocate, emphasizes that authentic leadership requires a firm commitment to eradicating gender inequalities and nurturing an inclusive culture. 

Such dedication must transcend mere words, embedding inclusivity objectives into the core of a company’s mission, vision, and values. This discussion explores the importance of addressing the gender gap and cultivating genuine inclusivity, examining what these concepts entail and how they can be effectively implemented in contemporary organizational contexts.

"An organization that still refuses to understand and act against the gender gap has no future: in corporate negotiations, potentially discriminatory practices can and must be prevented."

June is Pride Month, dedicated to the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights and the celebration of the community. Many companies ride the wave by displaying rainbow colors for a few days, often only in their social media logos, without actually promoting a holistic inclusive culture. How can we recognize rainbow washing initiatives and what should be done if our company is engaging in it?

Rainbow washing is the practice of leveraging consumer needs, exploiting the emotional connection between the public and the brand. It is easily recognized because the inconsistency is very visible. Limiting support to just the dedicated month as if it were another product to sell ultimately damages the company because hypocrisy is no longer accepted today. Adhering to a cause while giving the illusion of being committed but without addressing the fundamental issues that this cause raises is a choice that does not pay off. No longer is a rainbow flag or a pink ribbon on a website enough if the same company lacks real and concrete policies of inclusion and respect. A concrete example: in June 2022, BMW changed its logo on Instagram to rainbow colors to support the LGBTQIA+ community. However, it did not change it on all its accounts: in Russia and Saudi Arabia, the logo remained the same. If it has to be done this way, it’s better to avoid it altogether.

In many companies, you often hear, “everyone is free to do what they want in their private life, as long as it doesn’t affect their professional life.” If we apply this argument first to homosexuality and then to heterosexuality, we immediately see differences and conceptual inconsistencies. What is unseen homophobia, and how can an inclusive culture help us combat it? Providing practical examples if possible.

What does it mean to do what you want in your private life? I think of the recent case of the communication agency We Are Social, with offices worldwide, which revealed the existence of a male chat created specifically to comment on the bodies of female colleagues, judge their outfits, and exchange photos of newcomers, going as far as rankings with scores and stories of erotic perversions. Were they doing this in their private or professional life? The culture of inclusion does not exclusively concern the LGBTQIA+ community but also women, people with disabilities, and foreigners. Companies that have not yet adopted inclusive policies and practices make not only the workday difficult for each of them but also make it impossible for them to feel appreciated and accepted. And we all know, often from direct experience, that an employee or collaborator who does not feel part of a team produces less. A happy, accepted, integrated person is always a better person in all areas of life.

Only 41% of companies have concrete plans or actions in place to combat the gap between men and women, and only 25% of companies have women in managerial or top positions. A common belief is that the gender gap is only a problem for women, and as a result, many corporate initiatives on the topic are directed only at them. In reality, this is not the case. How do inequalities affect everyone, and how can internal resistances within the company be overcome?

To cite an expert, economist Veronica De Romanis says: “The lack of attention to female labor by the political class reveals a lack of overall vision and, above all, of long-term strategy. Because a small number of employed women is one of the causes of Italy’s ills. For several decades now, our economy has been trapped in a vicious cycle that works roughly as follows: with fewer women working, less wealth is produced; therefore, fewer resources are available for distribution, resulting in increased inequalities that need to be mitigated with borrowed resources, that is, with more debt.”

An organization that still refuses to understand and act against the gender gap has no future: in corporate negotiations, potentially discriminatory practices can and must be prevented.

Meet Cathy La Torre

Cathy La Torre is a lawyer, consultant, and activist. She founded and directs the law firm Wildside Human First in Milan, Bologna, and Rome, which assists people throughout Italy thanks to online services. She specializes in human and civil rights, anti-discrimination law, digital rights and new technologies, and personal data processing. She designs Diversity & Inclusion programs for companies, public entities, and non-profits and is a speaker and trainer on equal treatment, equality, and education for conscious use of digital media. In 2019, she was awarded the The Good Lobby prize in Brussels as the best pro-bono lawyer in Europe, in 2020 the Coraggio Emanuela Loi prize, and in 2023 she won the Factanza media awards in the diversity and inclusion dissemination category. She has published “Nessuna causa è persa” (2020) and “Ci sono cose più importanti” (2022) for Mondadori; “Non è normale” (2024) published by Feltrinelli. Together with Guglielmo Scilla, she writes and produces the podcast “Invertiti – stories of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and cross-dressers who changed the course of history” on all streaming platforms. On social media, she discusses rights, current events, and equality and is also known as @Avvocathy.

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This article is part of "Mind The Gap" a Newsletter we have launched in 2024, dedicated to DEIB & those who actively work towards making the workplace a more inclusive space.

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