For me, a robust culture on D&I couldn’t be more important for the success of our businesses and enhancing the talents and potentials of our colleagues. Shortly after arriving in Avio Aero last year, I was fortunate to be selected as the GLBTA Avio Aero Hub Leader, and I was thinking of organising a week dedicated to enhancing GE’s (and BHGE's) strong Diversity & Inclusion ethic across the many Avio Aero locations. When I originally pitched my idea to run a D&I Week exclusive for Avio Aero (coming from leading a smaller D&I week whilst working for GE Aviation in the UK ) it was suggested by the Italian HR Council to think big and pioneer a D&I week across the whole of GE and also BHGE within Italy. I couldn’t imagine that together with a voluntary team, compound of Affinity Network activists and HR employees, we’d have been able to set everything up in such a short time. And finally, perhaps magically, the inaugural Italian Diversity & Inclusion Week began on 16th April.
The week was composed of a daily program including a virtual Skype webinar for all employees to access remotely or in dedicated meeting rooms, online awareness building materials, guest speakers from industry, leadership stories, competitions and more. The Kick off, indeed, occurred in the Avio Aero Headquarters in Turin, where a number of GE (Sandro De Poli, GE Italia; Barbara Preti, Avio Aero; Stefania Lovisatti, GE Healthcare) and BHGE (Maria Sferruzza) leaders from Italy and guest speakers from IBM (Doriana De Benedicitis), Parks (Igor Suran), and Ferrero (Annalisa Ghibaudo) shared their stories. The messages and conversations - being moderated by Avio Aero’s Communication Leader, Paola Mascaro - were clear and resonating: inclusion is critical for the flow of thought and great ideas, whilst diversity is imperative for varied, superlative ideas. The following webinars came from our main businesses hubs: Milan (GE Healthcare) and Florence (BHGE), connected live and broadcasted also after.
A vehicle GE/BHGE uses to grow D&I are the Affinity Networks, of which played an important role for shaping the D&I Week program. During our planning sessions, meaningful key messages arose from the vast experiences of their goodwill. What everyone had agreed upon is that the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and many companies talk about D&I. So, what is D&I and why should you embrace it? No, it’s not a buzzword, it’s not a political agenda, it's not a pathway for positive discrimination. It’s about bringing and living “Imagination at Work”, that’s just the General Electric tagline.
GE is 126 years old with more than 290,000 employees located in over 180 countries, so it leads with a very diverse and global mindset. Consequently, the D&I culture has always been strong at GE and will be forever more. For me, inclusion is the stronger of the two, for inclusion brings diversity and not the other way around.
Inclusion is about listening, understanding that we’re all people, respecting and valuing different opinions. It’s about creating a level playing field where our ideas can be listened to, acknowledged, iterated, and used as real business problem solving solutions without bias. As John Flannery emphasises, “we need an environment of transparency and candour to succeed and regain the trust of our stakeholders”. Our great company is nothing without our people and their talent.
Diversity is about different opinions, notions and ideas. The GE’s Affinity Networks we have here in Italy are GE Volunteers, WN (Women's Network), GLBTA (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Allies) and the newly launched PDN (People with Disabilites Network). They’re self-managed and propelled by the benevolence of employees to help with the attraction, development and retention of our great workforce. Personally, I wish for a day where AN's are no longer needed, but bias and prejudice still greatly exist worldwide and within the professional world.
Of course, Diversity is not just limited to these AN’s. Every one of us is different, we like different foods, movies, music, and we come from different walks of life. Nobody should have to worry about having to cover their personality and waste their talent and energy. We’re all here to work, deliver for our customers, and create a successful business for our careers and the next generations to come. For me, I couldn’t be happier to work for a company like GE, where anybody can have a future if they perform.
If you miss any of these events during the week, as a GE employee, you can find and watch all the recorded webinars and content here.Author: Liam Richards