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Decoding Workplace Inclusivity with SDA Bocconi Experts | Mind The Gap

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In our exploration of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, we engage in a thought-provoking conversation with the Osservatorio DIS – Diversity, Inclusion and Smart working from SDA Bocconi. They shed light on a crucial aspect: the disconnection between implemented DEI policies and the real experiences of individuals within organizations. As we delve into this conversation, we question the assumption that having policies in place guarantees a truly inclusive work environment.

“We can understand if an organization is inclusive by observing and listening to the people who experience it in their daily lives at work”.

According to the data from The Future of Jobs Report 2023 by the World Economic Forum, a significant portion of the surveyed companies has implemented diversity, equity, and inclusion policies. Why is this not a guarantee that the work environment is genuinely respectful of the diverse identities of the employees?

On one hand, there are DEI goals and policies; on the other hand, there is the experience of people in workplaces. Having diversity, equity, and inclusion policies does not necessarily mean that organizations are fully inclusive: the existence of policies and their implementation can become a bureaucratic ritual (‘having a certification’ or ‘being compliant with some standards’) without, for instance, deep attention to the organization climate, i.e., the atmosphere one breathes and the quality of interpersonal relations in the workplace. We can understand if an organization is inclusive by observing and listening to the people who experience it in their daily lives at work.

At the same time, we keep inviting companies and institutions to become more inclusive, why is this so relevant?

Companies cannot discriminate according to the workers’ identity characteristics (e.g. gender, age, ethnic background, sexual orientation, social class, etc.). It is an issue of justice. What would happen if we proved that it is not convenient for companies to be inclusive? In certain situations, for instance, those where decisions have to be made quickly, respect for diversity could mean conflict, time, and inefficiency. What would we do in this case if we put economic reasons first? Organizations should not discriminate based on identity because it is right not to do so. At this point, we must forget the so-called neoliberal “business case”.

Is there a relation between the educational background and the gender equality in the workplace? And if there is, what can we learn from it?

Education can help women’s economic (and emotional) independence. Today women are more educated than men (even if in Italy the percentage of people with a university degree is still low), but still, they have difficulty breaking the glass ceiling. 

Concerning the educational background, it could be interesting for companies to promote incentives to support employees’ education and training (for instance women in STEM and men and Humanities) and to consider different educational qualifications when promoting careers.

As we conclude this enlightening conversation with Osservatorio DIS, we’re reminded that true inclusivity goes beyond the existence of policies — it’s about the daily experiences of individuals within the workplace.

The call for inclusivity isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s a matter of justice. The discussion challenges the conventional “business case” for inclusivity and emphasizes that organizations must prioritize diversity and equity not just for compliance but as an intrinsic ethical commitment. The insights into the intersection of educational background and gender equality offer a perspective on how companies can proactively contribute to breaking the glass ceiling. As we navigate the complex terrain of workplace diversity, this conversation encourages us to move beyond rhetoric and actively foster environments where inclusivity is not just a policy but a lived reality.

The People Behind Osservatorio DIS - Diversity, Inclusion and Smart Working

Simona Cuomo

Simona Cuomo is Associate Professor of Practice di Leadership, Organization & Human Resources and Coordinator of the Diversity, Inclusion & Smart working Monitor of SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan.

Stefano Basaglia

Stefano Basaglia is Associate Professor of Organization Theory at the Department of Management of the University of Bergamo. He collaborates with the Diversity, Inclusion & Smart working Monitor of SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan.

Zenia Simonella

Zenia Simonella is post-doc research fellow at the the Department of Sociology and Social Research of the University of Milano-Bicocca. She collaborates with the Diversity, Inclusion & Smart working Monitor of SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan.

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

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