An open culture does not need predefined quotas

Miriam Bressan of Red Hat expresses her views on how an open culture, open to gender diversity, can be a wealth for organizations.

open culture

When we talk about gender equality, the debate is fierce: we are talking about women’s quotas, about the clash of the sexes and potential inequalities. The reality is that women are motivated, capable of excellent performance and above all very skilled. Despite this, we still experience structural discrimination: we are stuck in positions that are below our level of competence. And not just before entering the famous “button room”, but at all levels of management. How is it possible to distribute an open culture more fairly to leadership positions? This is a question that our society has been asking for years. Some employers have voluntarily set targets, while in some countries specific rules have been adopted in merio – in Italy, the Gulf-Moscow Act, approved for the first time in 2012, requires listed companies to reserve at least a third of their positions in management organs.

Opinions about quota imposition may be different, but it is scandalous to note that especially in male-dominated industries like IT, simply praising the presence of a woman in a developer or consultant role. Because? You never hear “it’s great that we have so many men on the team“. From the point of view of women, this way of thinking does not give their performance the appreciation they deserve. We did not get the job because we are women, but because we are good. And this argument applies not only to gender but also to all other diversity criteria such as age, origin, religion or sexual orientation.

Living diversity, or at least being able to discuss it, is no longer a cosmetic operation in many companies, but a real motivation to create an equal and respectful culture. Such an “open” culture is open to different ideas, approaches and perspectives. For whether it is about making decisions or resolving conflicts, knowing the different ways of thinking and behaving and understanding the complementary power of this diversity can radically change work and lead to entirely new results. Renewals only occur when you think “outside the box”. A team that is as diverse as possible has the best conditions for success, so it should not matter who concretely comes up with an idea. Everyone should be free to present their proposals: a positive culture is also this – and it is the only way to create innovation. This principle of an inclusive corporate culture is typical of the open source world and can be applied to the selection of candidates: the job should simply go to the person who is most qualified for it.

But in order for women and other minority groups not to be excluded from the start, companies must break unconscious patterns. We all know all too well that hiring decisions are not only based on objectively measurable criteria, but that we always like to choose people who are like us. Companies therefore have no choice but to train their teams to recognize and deal with unconscious biases so that they can make truly free decisions. But stereotypes also stem from the word choice in job ads. Adjectives that describe required qualities such as analytical or assertive create images in our minds that have a deterrent effect – even if they are supposedly gender neutral. If you want the best talent, you have to pay attention to the language.

Change begins in the mind, it is often said. And red hat it’s well on its way. One reason is certainly the open source culture, based on sharing and comparison. A culture from which all sectors can take an example.

from Miriam Bressan, Manager Solution Architecture at Red Hat

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