Article 3

2019-10-22 Stefano Basaglia

LGBT Inclusion Beyond Enclave Cities and Large Companies

A recent conference dedicated to LGBT inclusion organized by the University of Bergamo with Parks - Liberi e Uguali and the In Ca’Pacis TdO Theater of the Oppressed offers us a opportunity to reflect on two aspects linked to the management of diversity in Italian companies.

A first aspect regards the fact that still today, more than four years after the approval of the law on civil unions, LGBT inclusion regards a minority of businesses, principally large ones, with a global perspective. In this regard, it is important to cite the case of two companies that recounted their experiences during the round table discussion coordinated by Igor Suran (Executive Director of Parks - Liberi e Uguali). They are Dow Italia, represented by Elena Di Cunzolo (Commercial Excellence Leader EMEA) and Barilla, represented by Luisa Ercoli (Diversity & Inclusion Manager). Dow Italia and Barilla are two companies that have adopted diversity management and worked on LGBT inclusion at different times and for different reasons. Barilla began working on the issue in 2013 following the outcry triggered by an interview with the company's chairman on a radio show [1]; Dow Italia, on the other hand, began working on the issue in particular starting at the time of the approval of civil unions in 2016, and does it to make its Italian subsidiary comply with a global organizational culture in which inclusion can represent a fundamental element. The two companies, however, are united by the fact that they have adopted diversity management with a responsible orientation, balancing attention towards rights with an emphasis on performance [2]: dealing with diversity and inclusion is both the right thing to do, and it makes sense. In addition, the two companies have promoted attention to LGBT inclusion throughout their organizations: in the office, but also in the factory; at the headquarters, but also in local facilities. Companies like Dow Italia and Barilla can contribute in the local areas where they are present to the process of enhancing awareness and the legitimization of diversity management and LGBT inclusion. The activity of these leading companies should be supported by all actors (individual and collective) interested in LGBT inclusion so that they can put pressure on businesses. 

The experiences of these two large, enlightened companies was also accompanied, however, by the absence at the conference of companies from the province of Bergamo and their trade associations. This is a problem because Italy is a country with a strong quantitative and qualitative presence of small and medium-sized enterprises spread out around its territory. It is still very difficult to involve those that on the one hand are committed to an international dimension, but on the other are rooted in the local territory, with the positive and negative consequences of those physical and cultural roots.

What we observe is a separation between limited areas of the country that look towards social and civil process, and vast areas of the same country that are unable or do not want to push in that direction. The latter think that innovation can take place even without an investment in people and their wellbeing, failing to consider that this wellbeing is also based on the possibility of allowing people to be themselves, free from the cages of prepackaged roles and identities. Understanding how to spread diversity management and LGBT inclusion outside of the spatial and symbolic confines of global "enclave cities" in which large global companies have their offices, is still a challenge to be understood. Going beyond these enclaves is difficult, but not impossible.

A second aspect regards the difficulty of individually and concretely managing situations of discrimination. This difficulty was clearly represented by the Monocromo performance about the condition which many LGBT live through in the workplace. Produced by the In Ca’Pacis TdO company through the interactive techniques of the Theater of the Oppressed, it drew the viewer into the conflict at the base of discrimination, the aggressiveness linked to the asymmetry of power, and a view in which the person is bound by prejudices and stereotypes. What the performance showed us is that discriminated people must first of all transform themselves from "simple victims," unaware of their own discrimination and without tools to act, into "oppressed" who are aware of their own discrimination and able to seek legal tools (learning about and using the laws) and/or organizational tools (being able to build alliances and managing the conflict) to disrupt the system that generates discrimination. Moreover, it becomes clear how each person can contribute to breaking the chain of stereotype-prejudice-discrimination by taking a position, not letting things go, and not turning the other way. If a country discriminates, nobody can avoid being involved.


[1] "Barilla, dallo scandalo a brand gay friendly. 10 modi in cui l'azienda ha rimediato alla gaffe sull'omofobia," Huffington Post, 17 March 2015,

[2] "Diversity Management e prestazioni aziendali," Economia & Management, Milan, 2016/1,