Men about Women

Avio Aero's internal campaign to reflect on and discuss biases and habits regarding inclusion and diversity.

Mar 2021

Talking about gender equality in March, when we celebrate International Women's Day, may seem conventional but should not seem overly sentimental. Rather, it should make people think about what a great opportunity there is if they change their perspective. In 2017, the Harvard Business Review was the first to emphasize the importance of bringing men into the discussion, and to this day bringing the topic of gender equality out of the female arena has remained the crux of the matter, especially in companies. 

"Months ago, we were presenting our Women Network activity plan when we were struck by a simple question posed by one of our leaders: but where are the men?". Samantha Pennano, European Programs Director, and Rosa Pisani, Supplier Quality Leader, are co-leaders of the ERG (Employee Resource Group), the internal community that brings together employees interested in and active in gender issues. "It was only then that we realized that our work really risked being too self-referential, starting with the composition of the ERG itself," they say.

"Out of professional bias, we applied reverse-engineering," Rosa continues. "That is, we started with an assessment of the workgroup to ensure male representation. Then, consulting with the executive sponsors, we thought of creating the internal campaign #menaboutwomen, aimed at getting our male colleagues more involved in the design and planning of activities. Not only that, we wanted to be a bit provocative, to understand what they see when they watch us at work."

"It was an internal survey, which affected the whole organization across the board, with nothing formal in the sense of forms or tools. Rather, it was done with communication by word of mouth in concentric circles in each department by the representatives of the Women Network in each office and plant," continued Samantha. “Contributions were also collected in video interviews and they became a single film which was then shared internally to celebrate Women’s Day on March 8th.”

“Initial findings have shown that there is no obstacle to more active participation by colleagues in promoting greater gender equality," explains Samantha Pennano. "The real surprise was finding that the obstacle was probably that they had never been asked for greater involvement."

"A company that wants to change must start by listening to and bring out of people what is not said. This ‘bypasses' rationality and also brings the sphere of emotion into the business context"

"When Samantha and Rosa came to me and asked me at first glance what I saw when I looked at them, I realized that this simple question could highlight a series of personal biases and that this was the starting point for a more complete overview," says Alfredo Marin, Vice President of Product Management and Customer Support and executive sponsor of the Women Network. “A company that wants to change must start by listening to and bring out of people what is not said. This ‘bypasses' rationality and also brings the sphere of emotion into the business context.”

"The campaign will remain active in the coming months and we hope to collect many more ideas, especially from those who work in factories constantly," says Rosa. “Because those circumstances are also where the female presence is lower in numbers and are more likely to have holdover from the past.”

Illustrations by Margherita Fruscoloni Morello.

"From the verbal reports of colleagues, many concrete ideas have emerged, for both awareness-raising activities, as well as organizational inputs. We will share these with HR and the leadership,” concludes Samantha. "What is most reassuring, however, is the willingness to work together for real progress in our company. At last, we are not alone in this journey."