How a learning culture can foster diversity and inclusion

The feminist movement in the 70s used a metaphor to define the battle for gender equality: breaking the “glass ceiling”. It’s a metaphor that has never been more relevant, especially when we read shocking statistics about women across all areas of life.

Statistics such as this: just 1.3 million out of 6 million companies in Italy are lead by women. Even though women have had the right to vote in the country for over 75 years, there’s never been a female Head of State or Government. What’s more, female representation in politics is still a lot lower than in other European states.

The social gender gap continues to be a weak spot in western democracy. The Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum shows that women are the only majority that are still treated as though they were a minority group. That’s why talking about female empowerment has become a sort of international mantra. A mantra that’s sometimes mistreated.

We’ve seen some little signs of movement recently, though. In 2021, Italy hosted the G20 summit. It was the first conference on gender equality in history, where President Mario Draghi highlighted that he’d adopted a “roadmap to reach and exceed the Brisbane target, closing the gender gap at work by 25% by 2025 in G20 countries”.

Change the track

So the gender gap and female empowerment are two sides of the same coin. Both need to be worked on in parallel for women to have a real and concrete presence across all levels of society. There are so many ways to get there, from a different approach to leadership to a fairer approach to salaries and welfare packages. We could even go so far as to champion equality of rights and responsibilities, starting with nuclear families and flowing right through to workplaces. One thing is for certain: the world needs a new way of looking at things. It needs new solutions.

But while women have the same opportunities as men, until they are able to compete for the same potential and objectives, this social, cultural and economic change will never happen. They need to have their voices heard, without having to change their way of being. 

It’s not about letting women run on the same race track as men. Instead, we need to change the track to make it more suitable in welcoming the potential that each gender has to offer.

Diversity enriches us

One of the roads we could take is an approach based on management models that focus on harmony in diversity and inclusion. This begins with favoring the link between corporate “Learning Cultures” and promoting D&I.

According to a Harvard Business Review survey, companies that focus on a learning culture are not only oriented towards increased learning, flexibility and mental openness. They’re also more likely to innovate and adapt to new situations.

So, if the world of work started to look at things differently, companies would gain so much. An open corporate culture that welcomes multiple roles and different identity dimensions (through care, collaboration and trust) will be able to strengthen wellbeing, engagement and productivity at work.

A culture that focuses on learning is a way of amplifying different voices that bring new ways of facing challenges and resolving problems. According to research, increasing the level of diversity and inclusion within companies goes hand in hand with putting the emphasis on learning at work.

Learning can be developed on so many levels, from the individual to groups within the company. The managers’ roles remain central, becoming ‘changemakers’ in relation to the status quo.  They also understand how to manage or build new systems that focus on learning, where women can offer a new and precious perspective. It’s a way of ensuring that their potential is considered equal to their male counterparts. Maybe once we’ve done that, we can really be proud of hosting the G20 2021 in Rome.