international women day 2020 - Talking with Patrizia Turri

“Women in any company must work in a context that allows them to grow”

Patrizia Turri, Global Vice President Human Resources of Jobrapido – on equality awareness, maternity leave, and diversity that should always go hand in hand with inclusion

Gender diversity in the workplace is one of those topics that has not lost its relevance throughout the years. Standing for equal importance and representation of both men and women in the working culture, gender diversity is a fundamental aspect of nowadays HR practices that strive to ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities and the same, fair treatment.

Even though it influences both men and women, gender diversity is often revolved around the female representation within an organizational structure. Today, right after the 8th of March festivity, we meet with Patrizia Turri, Global Vice President Human Resources of Jobrapido, to talk about her experience of dealing with “gender-neutral” recruiting, female employees’ empowerment, pay gap, maternity leave – and the entire paradigm of issues to be properly considered while implementing an HR gender diversity policy.

  • Diversity in the workplace has been a hot topic over the past years, and for a good reason. What does Jobrapido bring to the table in these terms?

P.T. In Jobrapido, we are very sensitive about diversity and inclusion, with an emphasis on the latter one. Surely, we are all different by default: in our company, we have lots of men and women of different ages and people of 15 various nationalities. The actual issue that I consider important is how to ensure that this diversity goes hand in hand with inclusion. How to make all these differences coexist within the same working context.

So, to embrace this variety, we started 4 years ago, by moving towards greater awareness among Jobrapido staff, including the leadership team, putting on the foreground the gender diversity – this topic is particularly dear to me. In my previous jobs, I had to deal with rather peculiar geographies, Middle East and Africa among others, where the theme of female empowerment was very felt.

  • But working with mostly Italian employees turned out to be different?

P.T. The working context in Jobrapido obviously has a different starting point. So much so, that when I initially spoke to women in the office about gender diversity, many did not see the point immediately. Then we started delving into the topic, holding meetings with external speakers, involving people in round tables. And eventually, the things got going, even though the participation of women themselves at first was quite “moderate” – perhaps, it is not easy to recognize the problem. But we also had several female “diversity promoters” among the employees who created a small committee of women aimed to support other fellow workers and promote the dialogue.

  • As an HR VP, do you think external initiatives outside the company can stimulate female working empowerment?

P.T. This year we are planning to participate in an interesting event called #IamRemarkable. It is a Google initiative on a global level, empowering women and underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond. Its goal is to improve the self-promotion motivation and challenge the social perception around it. We are selecting about 30 people that on behalf of Jobrapido will attend a 90-minutes workshop at Google. Unfortunately, not many Italian companies participate in it, as yet. But it is highly important to teach women to recognize their goals and their results, not to be ashamed to celebrate their achievements.

P.T. It is probably a matter of how you interpret things. When women talk about their achievements or affirm their self-assurance, they risk a negative judgment of being seen as “aggressive”, or “mannish”, or even “not modest” enough. The paradox is, it is also the perception created by the women themselves inside their minds.

  • From your perspective, is the problem of gender diversity and the need to promote women’s empowerment stronger in companies with many tech profiles, like engineers?

P.T. I have worked in different industries, and I must say that you do not find a complete gender equality in any field. Sure thing, women are always present, perhaps even a lot in numbers. The problem is the distribution of responsibilities and the presence in top management. Then, of course, there are some traditionally “female” departments, such as HR and Marketing. What I believe to be crucial is that women in any company must work in a context that allows them to grow, to become managers. This approach is cross-sectoral and goes far beyond tech.

  • What about special gender policies? There is much discussion around post-maternity part-time or menstrual leave. Some say that such policies, however, are too risky, as they may slow down the career path. But on the other hand, some women end up postponing or even giving up motherhood in order to proceed with their careers.

P.T. We have policies in accordance with our national contract – compulsory maternity, optional paternity. But we try to be flexible, when possible. For example, when a person asked for an extra sabbatical after the maternity leave, we’ve granted it. Same goes for part-time options in some cases – everything is upon agreement. But, unfortunately, I have to admit that we lost some female employees along the way, after they gave birth. And if we talk about junior professionals with moderate income, those women often do not return to work after the maternity leave: having to spend so much on kindergartens and nannies, they sometimes remain at home raising children. Then, with years passing by, some of their skills may become obsolete: 4-5 years in the world of IT implies a lot of changes. This explains why in Italy we have 45% of female unemployment – terrible statistics, in my opinion. But this severe choice – “all Family” or “all Work” – is usually reserved for women, not men.

  • What an HR manager can realistically do to help the women?

P.T. HRs can definitely stimulate awareness, spread the word, use certain type of language that respects everyone equally. We should also do everything possible to facilitate the return from maternity leave, taking into account individual and organizational needs. I prefer to see the people, personal stories and customized solutions, not just the policies. I always start from the role, contextualize it, see how the reference department is structured, what an absence would mean. Some jobs can be done part-time or remotely, others can’t.

  • Lastly, how is it advisable to deal with the pay gap? It is possible to bring female and male salaries at the same level?

P.T. This problem has long roots and starts right upon graduation. When a woman comes from a university, she should get exactly the same salary as her male colleagues-fresh graduates. But in some companies it does not always work like this. I surely look at the candidate as a person with skills, not a man or a woman. But then sometimes I encounter candidates with years of work experience, and the women arrive with a formal “employment status” and a salary bar already lower than men in the same position. I can bring it up with time if the person is performing well, but I cannot do it “tout court”, immediately: there are salary increase plans that need to be put in place. Think that if the woman remains in the same organizational context, where the page gap is not taken care of, the salaries’ differences will just grow more and more. It is something that I strive to not let happen in Jobrapido.

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