Strength in diversity - The commitment of the Microsoft Italy GLEAM team to valuing differences and promoting a more inclusive society
By the Editorial staff
We live in a world in which progress pervades every area of our lives and where people can achieve extraordinary results in any sector through the winning combination of technology and creativity. However, several challenges we that we must continue to work on remain – opportunities that we can make more of – and enhancing diversity in the world of work is precisely one of these. It is increasingly evident that inclusiveness is of real value for companies. In fact, an inclusive company attracts talents with diverse multidisciplinary and transversal skills, fertile ground for creativity and innovation: without diversity, innovation – the engine of growth – is lacking, and therefore the whole country loses competitiveness and opportunities for growth.
Microsoft has always supported people and organisations around the world in being more efficient through digital tools, allowing them to express their full potential through new technologies. This vision is also reflected in Microsoft’s corporate culture, which has made Diversity & Inclusion a fundamental pillar. Inclusion and respect, the protection and valuing of diversity, and therefore also of the LGBT+ community, are essential and fundamental elements of Microsoft's vision, both globally and locally. In fact, the company has always been committed to protecting and enhancing the rights of all without distinctions regarding gender, ethnicity, physical condition or sexual orientation. For example, in 1989, sexual orientation was first included in corporate non-discrimination policies, while in 1993 Microsoft was the first company in the world to give same-sex couples the same benefits guaranteed to heterosexual couples.
In the over 120 countries in which it operates, Microsoft encourages membership in GLEAM – The Global LGBTQI+ Employees and Allies at Microsoft – a community of employees who advocate for LGBT+ rights and promote awareness both within and outside the company. GLEAM offers employees support and networking opportunities, as well as helping non-profit organisations in different local communities and raising awareness through education programmes. GLEAM is also active in Microsoft Italy, where it has a team of over 50 people who, on a voluntary basis, combine their daily work with a commitment to supporting the LGBT+ community so that everyone, inside and outside Microsoft, can fully express who they feel they are.
The Italian team carries out both internal training initiatives aimed at colleagues and activities and projects aimed at the local community – clear evidence of a commitment that does not end in the company. Within the company, Microsoft Italy, in addition to enhancing all existing training opportunities, has activated a further series of training opportunities in collaboration with Parks – Liberi e Uguali, a non-profit association Microsoft partners with. Parks aims to help companies guarantee equal opportunities and create an environment that is truly capable of ensuring full respect, acceptance and concrete opportunities to achieve professional growth beyond differences. All this contributes to raising awareness of LGBT+ issues not only for top management, but for all employees, as well as consolidating increasingly inclusive processes and policies, which begin with hiring. The primary objective is to eliminate so-called cognitive biases or the opinions – often prejudices – developed based on what information people have so far had access to. Particular attention is paid to language, so that it is truly inclusive and allows everyone to feel at ease. Often, without realising, we use inappropriate words that push others away and make them less inclined to be open. Just think, for example, of the correct use of personal pronouns to address transgender people. Hence, the available resources, including those available online, aim to improve our awareness of ourselves and others, to ensure we create an inclusive work environment where we can draw on perspectives that are different from our own, fostering collaboration and creativity. At the same time, Microsoft Italia has been collaborating for several years with Milano Pride, usually to create a calendar full of appointments to promote dialogue with all citizens and to raise awareness of these issues. In June, for the LGBT+ Pride parade, Microsoft is committed not only to participating in the parade, but will also organise and sponsor meetings and workshops, often in synergy with other companies, with the aim of spreading the values of diversity and inclusion, in support of greater social equity. During the ongoing global pandemic, a historic moment that has aggravated social inequalities all over the world, especially for minorities, Microsoft Italia has further strengthened its support through donations to support the recovery of small businesses, community organisations, economic operators, and those who aid the elderly or more vulnerable members of LGBT+ communities who are experiencing difficulties due to the spread of COVID-19. Pride 2020 itself was also celebrated by Microsoft in a different way: physical participation in local events was replaced by a global campaign, in a digital format, but no less effective and impactful, which synergistically involved employees from all over the world, who continue to generate awareness and feed the debate on the issues of inclusion and equality.
With the claim "The more we talk, the more we understand", Microsoft has set out to encourage employees to share their stories regarding LGBT+ issues to help people fully express their identity within a truly inclusive community. To show its virtual support during Pride Month and all year, Microsoft has made free backgrounds and freebies available to all, to convey messages of inclusiveness and support; a great little gesture to participate in a virtual parade of colours that lasts all year.