Many of us have faced the realities of the ‘digital switch’ as the novel coronavirus and subsequent distancing measures have forced meetings, seminars, concerts, parties and events alike to pivot to online broadcasting platforms. This too is true for the hundreds of planned Pride parades and marches across the world which have been cancelled and consequently have moved from the streets to online spaces. Resultantly, there will be the first ever 24 hour live-streamed Global Pride, a joint collaboration of Pride organisers from every region of the world, who are all committed to ensuring that everyone, everywhere, can take part in Pride this June.
Originally for #PrideMonth 2020, Avio Aero was geared up to take a leap forward by sponsoring Torino Pride and Salento & Puglia Pride, however, both parades became victim to physical distancing restrictions and evolved into smaller online events. Nonetheless, Avio Aero continues to support the LGBTIQ+ community and voice its values for inclusion, diversity & belonging through a dedicated webinar titled Take Pride in us.
The LGBTIQ+ community has faced an increased hardship because of the global pandemic and the community’s vulnerability, reports HRW. For example, many asylum services remain closed for LGBTIQ+ people trying to flee countries where they may be subject to persecution. Another example may be LGBTIQ+ people forced to lockdown with unaccepting and/or abusive relatives. The list goes on. In fact, the pandemic has amplified many existing inequalities.
Consequently, Pride must not stop. As I explained in my article last year, Pride serves as an important vehicle to draw awareness to the inequality of LGBTIQ+ human rights around the world, whilst providing the opportunity to celebrate the successes. This year, we can celebrate a landmark victory for LGBTIQ+ rights given to us by the U.S. Supreme Court, just two weeks ago, who ruled that that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected characteristics under the Civil Rights Acts.
Thankfully, at GE, we have had a fully inclusive Fair Employment Practice for many years, ensuring workplace protections for employees covering sexual orientation and gender identity expression, and we welcome with open arms the broader movement for equality. On the contrary, ILGA Europe reports, for the second year in a row, European countries are moving backwards on the Rainbow Index (a rank of 49 European countries on their respective legal and policy practices for LGBTIQ+ people) as existing protections are disappearing. This is indicative as to why we cannot take our eyes off the ball…there is still more work to be done.
And this is also why Avio Aero had organised a special webinar on the 23rd of June - Take Pride in us - which was broadcasted to all employees. The 90-minute webinar featured five guest speakers who shared their personal stories and testified why Pride is so important to them. The though-provoking discussions were moderated by Carlamaria Tiburtini – Avio Aero’s Inclusion & Diversity Leader & HR Business Partner.
Riccardo Procacci, Avio Aero CEO & Vice President, opened the webinar with his personal account as to why diversity and Pride is important to him: “I regret and feel in your debt since I wasn’t able to join last year’s Pride parade, and not only for the celebrations: I would have loved to walk there with you, confirming that diversity is an unyielding value both from a moral and material point of view”.
Riccardo was followed by the first guest speaker, Francesca Vecchioni, President & Founder at Diversity, who gave an inspiring speech called ‘You will fall in love without thinking about it’. Francesca explained “the title comes from one of my father’s songs that was written when I was just 2 years old and it continues to inspire me today.” For Francesca, Pride is important for each and every one of us: “a key topic of Pride is about meeting and seeing other people whom have experienced or felt the same as us, for there is a sense of pride but also joy in recognising ourselves…we are not alone. It’s about a global community that’s looking for the liberation of their own authenticity. If we only deal with people similar to us, that’s just a sum in mathematical terms…diversity allows to elevate exponentially instead of just adding linearly”.
Subsequently, we heard the voices of our territories presented by three guest speakers local to the municipalities of Avio Aero’s Italian plants. Marco Alessandro Giusta – a councillor for the municipality of Turin – kicked-off this section of the webinar and enlightened us on how societal change can start with us individually: “when a change comes up in the society you have to start changing from yourself: this is how we embrace the change in a city like Turin (a city actually been active in equality of rights since the early 1970’s) and how we foster that change through training and communication, followed of course, by actions. We need to enable people to express themselves at 360°”.
Antonio Sedile, Salento Pride Representative and Professor of General and Applied Psychology at IISS "Moccia" - Nardò (LE), explained why many people still feel the need to ‘cover’ and hide their true authenticity: “We have so many little communes and towns in Puglia that they’re like separated islands from big cities and from the rest of the world. They have no voice and therefore little chance to be listened to, let alone their feelings. Many people living in these places keep their personal diversity hidden to avoid not living up to their society’s or families’ expectations… those expectations they grew up with. Brindisi has a population of 85,000 people, meaning there are roughly 4,200 homosexuals asking to be listened to (by taking the WHO’s assumption that 5% of the population is homosexual). Homosexuals are not like islands, and the first subject to be involved in coming out is their family.”
Following of from families, Carlo Cremona, President of i Ken APS O.N.L.U.S. (Naples), spoke about how workplaces are just as an important foundation for creating inclusion: “We focused on the workplace as one of the sources where discrimination can happen frequently, and employees who encounter this live with constant stress and sorrow. Consequently, this is very detrimental for both mental health and productivity at work: diversity is an enrichment both for personal and business results. Just like the coming out with family, a coming out on the job shall be done and it’s equally beneficial”.
Concluding the Take Pride in us webinar was Igor Šuran, Executive Director, Parks - Liberi e Uguali, who reiterated the importance for big companies to create and maintain focus for equality even in times of increased volatility: “even though I’m a guest of this digital Pride event, I feel like I’m at home with you and I’m deeply thankful for Riccardo’s words since I wish to hear those words from any other CEO of big corporations and companies in Italy. Every one of us must make steps ahead the inclusion learning curve. Thank you for this event, although it is in a digital format and during such difficult times for live events, by keeping this focus on these themes means so much”.
Avio Aero takes pride in creating the space to raise awareness, stimulate meaningful Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) dialogue, and to provide the time to celebrate I&D achievements. I would like to extend a personal thanks to all our speakers, listeners, Pasquale Felago – GLBTA Affinity Network Co-lead – who has been instrumental in organising the webinar, our fabulous GLBTA Focal-Points and our whole GLBTA family.
Lastly, I would like to reiterate the message – Moving Forward – published by GE’s Chairman & CEO Larry Culp and his call for sustainable change that brings equity and justice to all diverse communities. Following the avoidable and tragic death of George Floyd, a rightful awakening has erupted across the globe to defeat racism and discrimination wherever we find it. Whilst 2020 so far has been fraught with angst, we have witnessed no greater expression of love and benevolence than people effectively stopping their lives by staying at home to protect one another.
I thusly encourage anyone who reads this article to celebrate Pride Month, pay due respect to George and all people of colour who have unjustly lost their life, and to find ways to better equality for all minorities. No doubt this silver lining will pave the way for a better tomorrow as we all take a step backwards and re-evaluate the importance of life.