During my “Organisational Behaviour and HR Management” MBA course at Swiss School of Management, our Professor Syed Mohsin Ameer Mukhtiar asked us to work on a case study for the final exam.
Consequently I decided to involve Laura Iacci for this following interview, witch I made in the context of the collaboration with one of my clients: CRESCITA Association, who is a member.
C.R.E.S.C.ITA stands for “Career, Recruiting and Executive Search Italian Association” and it represents, since 2012, the companies and professionals active in Human Resources that deal with headhunting, executive search and recruiting processes for qualified personnel.
I was called upon by this organization to define online the communication and marketing activities, specifically through the institutional website, the LinkedIn page and the digital ADS.
Together with the board of directors, it has been possible also to set up a calendar of monthly webinar events, involving members, technical partners and industry professionals.
Here is the English translation of the original article, which can be read in Italian on the website of CRESCITA.
Interview with Laura Iacci, CEO of Skill Risorse Umane and CRESCITA partner
We could define Laura Iacci’s as a “rational passion”: in all that she told us in our telephone interview, and which we are proposing to you in this in-depth article, what predominantly emerges is the art of balance. In fact, it is not easy to talk about such overblown topics as women’s careers or differences in economic treatment between men and women, especially in Italy.
The contribution of Laura from Skill Risorse Umane, a CRESCITA associate, is that of differentiating teams – as they do in the company she founded and has led for twenty years now – by appropriately mixing not only skills but also the ‘blue’ quotas among all the ‘pink’ ones, to avoid a blind formal rush towards female teams and achieving a form of exclusion in reverse.
Already with the in-depth study dedicated to the skills that should guide us in the future, we presented this member’s contribution with the keyword “Resilience”: today we are entering even more into the merits of the subject to talk about the relationship between genders and the world of work.
In recent years, in Italy, there has been a lot of talk about wage differences between men and women, especially at the highest professional levels: since this is a historical topic, from your point of view, is discussing it just a new fashion, or is there some change taking place?
I think that this is a complex question to answer, and that it leads us to talk about several interconnected elements: first of all, we are dealing with a gender gap in the so-called STEM professions, which give access to careers in the technical-scientific field, which are also the most highly paid careers. In this respect, school guidance is very much at fault, with women most often footing the bill for the wrong choice.
Schools, in fact, by suggesting paths that the labour market does not seek or that are not linked to gender, as is conventionally believed, push girls more often towards humanistic disciplines than scientific ones.
A second element to be taken into account is welfare, which in Italy still does not provide families with adequate tools to reconcile life and work times, with direct consequences on the choices that many women make.
In short, the issue of wage inequality is absolutely topical and affects us particularly in Italy. But it is something that starts from the access to professions and has to be understood at a cultural level because no law, however much it may accelerate towards a fairer and more inclusive treatment, can guarantee the result of a concrete greater equality between genders.
It strikes me very much that you spoke of ‘families’ and not ‘women’ when you mentioned the welfare tools we have available…
Don’t children belong to the whole family? In other European countries, it is finally normal, both in terms of legislation and culture, to conceive of alternating mother and father in the family partnership when a newborn child arrives.
And what do you think of the Pink Quota Law?
I think this law is a useful tool and if it helps us, in Italy, to achieve results like those of the Anglo-Saxon models, then I welcome it.
Will a law replace the logic of merit in the labour market?
All aid, in this sense, should be understood as ‘tools’, as opportunities that are finally being offered to young women today, and that previous generations did not have.
But it will always be necessary to prove that you are the right person in the right place, regardless of gender. A right to a career is not automatically a privilege.
I am happy that, as a mother as well as a professional woman, I have been able to contribute to helping my daughter’s generation, working on cultural and educational battles that were right to address. But I have also worked to give her a better orientation at school and to transmit to her a work culture with an entrepreneurial slant, for which you are called upon to express not only technical but also personal skills.
Do you think there are any differences in the culture of women’s careers if, for example, we look at the labour market in other countries?
There are, and the US and Northern Europe continue to be the best examples of a rewarding work culture also for women’s careers.
Let’s think about the key elements of this culture: result-oriented approach, company management strategies, objective and non-discretionary measurement of results, qualitative measurement of relationships too, which is a foreign concept to our country, but very important, for example.
The very culture of human resources is open to measurement in these markets, and I find this to be a further element of great cultural innovation to bring to Italy.
But there are virtuous examples in our country too, we know that we are not the last in the class.
(Laura laughs, ed.) No, we are not the last in the class. And I can confirm that we also have many good examples.
I can give you my personal experience by talking about what I observe happening in northern Italy, which is where I mainly work: more and more women are leading teams and companies, in a process of ‘forced’ inclusion due to the technical skills that our young professionals are finally showing strongly.
Not to mention their shrewd ability to conduct the entire interview, negotiation and presentation phase in the company, and to end up knowing how to sell themselves much better than other candidates, who were perhaps used to the rules of the labour market a generation ago.
I believe that the elements we have just talked about, the goal-oriented approach, the choice of some particular skills, the measurement of objective results, are those elements on which the game is played for the evolution of our whole country-system that can concretely help to break down the pay-gap we are discussing.
From abroad we are often told that the impact of women in Italian society is absolutely important. How do you imagine the contribution of women in our country in twenty years’ time? Can the Italian professional be an international reference point, and in what terms?
We are children of a different culture from that of previous generations, so it is true that the Italian woman can make her voice heard. In the future, I believe that the role of women will also increase in importance in industry, even though there are currently few examples of female entrepreneurship.
Here, I would like to reiterate that we should all try to work more as ‘entrepreneurs’ and ‘businesswomen’, rather than as professionals or consultants, if we want to be an international reference.
Let’s move on to career paths: what is your personal experience, both as a recruiter and as an entrepreneur?
I started working in this sector, as a consultant, at the age of 23, as soon as I graduated. Since twenty years ago it was a very different environment from the one we have today, I still remember the faces of clients and colleagues who saw this girl entering a typically male world.
It took commitment and stubbornness, starting with the decision to set up my own company in the field of organisational management and human resources and, I must say, the whole sector has come a long way, with a very high number of female recruiters today.
With regard to the point of view I enjoy as an expert on career paths, I can only add to what I was saying a moment ago how the new generations of women are more motivated than a few decades ago, and how much social intelligence they demonstrate. Two very rewarding qualities that I would recommend focusing on.
Speaking of advice, what is the best suggestion you have given, in all your years of experience with companies, to a client company beyond the mandate?
This is a piece of advice that we, as Skill Human Resources, often give at the start of a selection process: that is, to remain free of prejudice, in all senses: in the sense of gender linked to the role, but also in the sense of belonging to different ethnic groups, or even in the sense of discovering, right in the company, that you already have the skills that you are going to look for outside.
We also recommend always assessing first the conditions for rewarding someone internally, rather than starting a selection process a priori, and often this assessment reveals surprises that various forms of prejudice would not allow to be revealed.
And has it ever happened to you that a client had a precise expectation of a result, wanting to guide the consultancy work in some way?
Yes, it often happens. In these cases my suggestion is to make experience and results available.
Entrepreneurs are convinced by numbers, by budgets, and beyond our empathy and persuasion, it is the numbers that can help convince the client of what we are doing for him.
Documenting with salary surveys why the budget for a role is inadequate, for example, always helps to redress the balance in the consultancy and research work we do for the client company.
And you know what? That this is what I am referring to when I say that we should be inspired by the Anglo-Saxon markets and their attitude to results and objective measurement.
We cannot talk to companies with our gut ideas, our discretionary experiences. We also need to prove them by objectivity. Faced with these, no client usually continues to insist on precise expectations of results, and instead lets themselves be guided. For us, that is the great result.
To conclude, what is your vision for the GROW Association?
My colleagues already know: for me, all members will have to grow more and more as entrepreneurs of a consultancy company, than as consultants. This will allow a complete change in attitude towards the industry and the client, and in terms of better market positioning. Will they accept my challenge?
We will see. But we are sure that Laura Iacci’s contribution, just as in this interesting interview, will give us a lot of food for thought and… growth.