Simona Cuomo, a psychologist, is professor of organizational behavior at SDA Bocconi.
She coordinates Diversity Management Monitor and the Research and Training Center in the Diversity Management area. She is also involved in professional counseling activities in various contexts, particularly within SDA Bocconi MBA and Executive MBA programs
Can you trace the archeology of the Diversity Management Monitor?
Cristina Bombelli, SDA Bocconi professor, was driven by the desire to do research in area that was still neglected at that time. These are the very circumstances that pushed her to even create alliances. Companies with a more international culture were the first to incorporate the importance of the issue. IBM and Ikea played a crucial role in the first place. They find resources and assess emerging areas to start a project. Then in 1999, within the School of Management, there was the final structure. This is simply how Diversity Management Monitor came into existence . Over the years, Diversity Management Monitor has been accredited as the Italian reference point for research on the topic of women in organizational contexts. The network of partners has grown up to the current 33 companies.
Can you describe your activities?
In addition to research, which has developed over the years in multiple directions, Diversity Management Monitor takes on gender, intercultural, disability, age issues The Centre provides services to member companies, such as thematic workshops, training days and ad hoc projects.
The research made it possible to identify the most critical areas, and develop training courses that allow to specifically address such issues. We can thus offer concrete help to tackle the obstacles that are, more commonly, likely to jeopardize potentially very bright careers.
The Centre has succeeded throughout the years to be accredited by many leading companies. What were the most effective topics?
The Centre is the only existing organizational network in Italy and is firmly anchored to a school of management of with international prestige. This allows you to tap into extensive and transferable skills.
In addition, the relevance of the theme was set over the years within organizations in the first place, and increasingly, even for society.
Do you think the activity of the Centre has been more effective in creating a more women-friendly environment in firms or in improving the self-perception and goals of individual professional women?
Both. The first is the central mission of the Centre, the second has been reached with training activities specifically dedicated to female empowerment and their continued success.
You tell us something about the latest research that was carried out?
We are gladly finalizing a research really important for the Italian context, because it aims to counter a common stereotype, that the cost of maternity for businesses. Let us assume that this is a cost greatly overestimated. This is then a matter that is not based on reality, but then acts in the processes of implicit discrimination within organizations. Unfortunately, motherhood turns out to be a major obstacle in the career development.
In addition, we starting a research on: Workforce aging Job quality and HR Management. The research is to be carried out in partnership with Boston College and the Cranfield School of Management.
The aim is to see how we can guide HR practices taking into account different targets and thus organizational needs, with a particular focus on the age issue.
What is to be considered the greatest success of the Centre?
It was set up with a stable network and a partnership with major companies. This allows us to anchor our research to the reality of business.
Referring also to your experience as counsellor, which do you think are the main advantages that a woman can obtain, attending an MBA?
As with men, the acquisition of managerial skills and the ability of an overview to manage the organizational complexity. For women, however, strengthening self-esteem and security is an even greater payoff.
Being part of WIB is a tremendous opportunity and challenge which continuously inspire me. An opportunity because I am fortunate to work with a great team of women who are intelligent, resourceful and ambitious. Challenging because we still have to break through some of the barriers and preconceived notions of feminism attributed to an organization established by women.