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A cura di Brunswick Group
01 Gen 2024

Marina Bidoli is a Partner at Brunswick Group. She is based in Milan and formerly headed Brunswick South Africa. She chairs Brunswick’s European DEI Committee.

Brunswick is a global strategic communications firm. We advise on critical issues and critical stakeholders at the center of business, politics and society. We help our clients – the leaders of large, complex organizations – understand and navigate these interconnected worlds, and play their role in the world successfully. 

We operate in 18 countries with 27 offices. In Milan we are present with an excellent team since 2007. 

What were you like when you were younger? How were you educated? How did your parents’ cultural diversity influence your growth?

I was born to Italian immigrant parents and spent my formative years in South West Africa, a colony that had been mandated to South Africa after WWI and only attained independence in 1990 under the name of Namibia. Growing up in a small Italian community and only learning English, and later also Afrikaans and German, at multiracial Catholic schools that were largely autonomous from the oppressive South African apartheid state, profoundly shaped my identity and political awareness, instilling values like equal opportunities for all and the importance of good education and hard work.

What did you study? Did you study in your country or abroad?

My first degree was a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences, majoring in Psychology and Industrial Psychology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.  On graduating, I embarked on a journey that included time in Rome before settling in London. The early 1990s marked my return to South Africa, where Nelson Mandela’s release from prison promised an exciting future for the newly democratic ‘Rainbow Nation’.

What was your first role and what expectations did you have when you started there?

I had inauspicious start, handling out marketing flyers for a fax bureau in England but quickly progressed to more promising jobs. My pivotal moment came back in Johannesburg as a journalist at the leading current affairs and business magazine, the Financial Mail (FM). I was excited to be part of South Africa’s political and economic transition. For more than a decade, I witnessed and reported on the nation building efforts, which saw people from vastly different backgrounds and ideologies come together for common purpose. Later an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) at Pretoria University’s GIBS business school pivoted me into the corporate environment – first at Sasol, the energy and chemicals group where I headed Group Communications, and later as a Partner at Brunswick, the international critical issues consultancy. I headed Brunswick’s Johannesburg office before relocating to Milan last year.

How have you seen the Diversity and inclusion change in the last 5 years?

Here in Italy and wider Europe there’s a continued emphasis on driving gender parity and there’s much still to do, not just on advancing women but also across all the other aspects, from ethnic and socio-economic inclusion to LGBTQI+, neurodiversity and the youth, who will inherit this world from us, for better or worse.

What does Diversity stand for you?

For me, it’s about harnessing the potential of everyone that makes up our societies.  The results can be transformative. Take the South African rugby team’s victory at the Rugby World Cup in Paris as an example. Springbok Captain Siya Kolisi’s statement that "Diversity is our strength” is notable. Kolisi's journey from a disadvantaged background to becoming the first Black Captain of the Springboks, and his leadership of the diverse team – which transcended racial, socio-economic and physical differences – to global triumph is truly inspiring and has made him a national hero. Mutual respect between the players and their acknowledgment of individual contributions towards a shared objective is what has made the Springboks world champions.

What are your key commitments?

As Chair of Brunswick’s European DEI Committee, I work with colleagues across the world to unlock our collective potential, both for the firm and our clients. DEI is essential to Brunswick’s success. We want to better reflect the diverse world in which we and our clients live, build an inclusive environment that can benefit from power of diversity, ensure all colleagues can progress at the firm, while also making a positive impact on critical issues. I help ‘connect the dots’ across the firm so that initiatives can be driven at local office and regional level. This means leveraging the inspiring work driven by passionate colleagues across the firm including in the NextGen, Women, Race & Ethnicity, LGBT, Neurodiversity, Socio-Economic and other networks.

Why is Diversity a strategic lever for sustainable growth?

Research consistently demonstrates the benefits of diversity and inclusion for businesses and society. Just recently a BlackRock study found that gender balanced companies outperformed their peers, while a Goldman Sachs Research paper titled ‘Women (still) hold up half the sky’ estimated that even just halving the pay and employment gap between men and women could raise the level of GDP across both Developing and Emerging Markets by between 5% and 6%. And that’s just looking at gender. Harnessing everyone’s potential is vital to solve the challenges and find innovative solutions to the multiple crises of world we live in. This is what will ensure sustainable development for future generations. 

What are the issues that need to be resolved today and what positive changes does the near future bring? How would you like to effect change?

Groupthink is a recipe for failure in our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous). Only by harnessing all the best brains, skills and energies and by finding common ground for collaboration will we find systemic, innovative and sustainable solutions to crises like climate change;  biodiversity loss; social, economic, health and education inequalities; political instability and conflicts; technological disruptions, cybersecurity threats and more. 

How do you define an inclusive workplace?

This is one where everyone feels a sense of belonging and can add value to a company. Inclusive cultures are where everyone can thrive. This makes good business sense.  Growing evidence shows that diverse companies are able to leverage different skills, experiences and knowledge. They are more innovative, creative, and commercially successful than homogenous companies. But to unlock the benefits of diversity, inclusion is needed. 

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