The importance of networking... by women
A year of activities, projects and initiatives by the Avio Aero's Women’s Network, reviewed with some of the protagonists, carrying a shared message about goals and vision.
We have always known that creating a strong network of interpersonal relationships, promoting the exchange of experiences and skills, and broadening the horizon of collaboration produce beneficial and positive effects in our personal lives.
This is also true, and even more so, in the professional sphere, where the creation of a relational network based on gender identity can positively affect people's motivation and performance, and therefore business.
This is the example of Avio Aero's Women's Network, which aims to pool and network knowledge among the company's entire women population, including also, of course, other colleagues.
This network is part of an ERG (Employees Resource Group), an acronym that in GE Aerospace globally identifies different groups of employees engaged on issues of common interest. For each, at the business or brand level, there is a structure (made up of women, but men as well) that guides, cares for and promotes it. One of the leaders of the Women’s Network at Avio Aero is Samantha Pennano.
"During each meeting or for each initiative, the aim we have as a group is to ask ourselves what to improve for all women in life at workplace and how to do it, how to fulfill growth ambitions (horizontal or vertical) and elevate women's leadership," said Samantha, Program Director of the sales team who began her career with the company in 2011. Her background, with a master's degree in engineering management, is technical and based on industrial production. Along her career path, and still now, she leads a team that deals with customers who are major players in global aviation: Rolls Royce, Airbus Helicopters, Turkish Aerospace, and, in naval automation, Fincantieri.
What is most stimulating when thinking about accountability in the Women’s Network is precisely the mission to increase awareness among the female population. "We want women at every level to be fulfilled, adequately paid, and without any reverential fear or bias, but to be themselves in all their authenticity," Samantha continued.
Male colleagues are an integral part of the network, and they are also assigned key roles, whether champion, allied, or sponsor. “The thing that has always reassured us is to find the consensus and participation of colleagues, something we are very happy about. First and foremost, we want to engage them, and then smooth out any perceived differences by affirming diversity as a uniqueness that is of high professional profile in our company. They feel the issues as their own, even in their private lives, and help us remove any barriers" Samantha added.
The Women’s Network is made up of events and seminars dedicated to issues that strongly affect women, as well as mentorship, interconnection, involvement of the rest of our colleagues, and collaborations or partnerships with outside associations and communities with whom we promote cultural and disciplinary exchanges. I think of the guests who often speak on such occasions. In 2022, a total of 13 Women’s Network's initiatives and activities involved more than 100 employees in each event, whilst mentorship programs resulted in 30 mentors dedicated to 39 mentees all along the year.
"The aim we have as a group is to ask ourselves what to improve for all women in life at workplace and how to do it, how to fulfill growth ambitions and elevate women's leadership”
"When I think about the year that has just come to an end," Samantha said, "we accomplished some initiatives that make me very proud, such as obtaining the GEEIS certification, with which we value and state the company’s commitment on gender equality and diversity themes through indicators and metrics that position us in the national context according to the actual degree of progress. Something that is in line with our LEAN culture, devoted to continuously improving ourselves and measuring our progress. Another very significant moment of active participation as well as brand awareness was the meeting with the Global Thinking Foundation, where we hosted Claudia Segre on the subject of economic violence and how to recognize it."
A recent seminar that Samantha mentioned was also with the Turin-based association Prima Luce Maternity Home, housed in its Rivalta di Torino headquarters and in connection with all other regional locations. The conference entitled "Women's Health in the Spotlight: Prevention and Support for Women and their Families” was an important opportunity to present the Phoenix Project by the same association, talking about what women's cancer prevention consists of, how crucial it is and also what a proper health-protective lifestyle looks like.
"We were really glad to have collaborated and would like to repeat other similar initiatives aimed at prevention, health and support toward women and their families"
"The Fenice project deals with women facing oncological disease in the childbearing and perinatal age group. It is a project that really concretely helps not only the woman but also her family unit with a series of initiatives that benefit the body and the mind. We were really glad to have collaborated and would like to repeat other similar initiatives aimed at prevention, health and support toward women and their families," commented Paola Tamola and Caterina Vendetti, professionals of the Legal and Supply Chain departments at Avio Aero, respectively, and additionally a focal point of the Women Network at the Rivalta office.
For Avio Aero, being able to count on a network such as the Women's Network means marching toward common goals and taking actions, initiatives marked by the annual calendar of events and activities. "This is what we want to demonstrate, while giving visibility to the rest of the company and to all women: our aviation industrial world is based on technology and pragmatism, on data and analysis. Therefore, our activity also follows this logic with respect to female colleagues in technical-engineering professions and who work in contact with this technical world. Outwardly, this becomes an important message and structure to convey to young women. The highest example of this was STEM Day last December," Samantha added.
The first STEM Day hosted by Avio Aero was a clearly successful event that the Women's Network strongly desired. The mentorship program, which allows female leaders and role models from various company locations to shadow and support other female colleagues, has been similarly successful. The group wants to continue this commitment in 2023 and also increase outward presence by increasing alliance and comparison with other major companies in aviation and other industries to join forces, learn and exchange experiences.
"I believe that women today still face issues of awareness, attitude and live in a culture which, although it has made strides, retains rather influential legacies. And I believe that real, impactful change will happen more through the achievement of that awareness than through actual change in the surrounding environment. I see it in the younger generations. Their approach is different, more self-confident and above all independent. Even in my, and perhaps other, generations, that awareness is taking hold, and the company, with its culture and concrete commitment, can make it come true by making itself more palatable and welcoming," Samantha concluded.