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Giulia Giuffrè: «Harassment at work? Report them here “

Giulia Giuffrè, grandson of the founder of Irritec, a Sicilian company that has been dealing with irrigation since the 70s, is one of the ten Sustainable Development Goals Piooneer 2021, or those entrepreneurs awarded by the UN Global Compact for having done special work in promoting sustainable development goals through the implementation of important principles regarding human rights, the environment, work and anti-corruption.

«My daily mission is to sensitize people to the correct management of water, so that one day those who buy a tomato at the supermarket will ask themselves:“ How much water was used to produce it ”and can make an informed choice», explains Giulia Giuffrè.

She, director and ambassador of sustainability, is also part of the board of directors of Confapi Sicilia with responsibility for Equal Opportunities and is the spokesperson for the project 6libera, the first digital observatory against harassment and violence at work: “I am convinced that, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises, greater attention is needed on these issues. I sincerely believe in the importance of a new sensitivity that breaks down certain cultural legacies that still tend today to diminish the role and professionalism of women and towards which we must no longer be indulgent. I recently had the opportunity to discuss these topics on the occasion of the seventh edition of the “Mondo Donna” award organized by the Pro Loco of my city, Capo d’Orlando, and dedicated to women who have particularly distinguished themselves in the work, cultural and sports fields. and in social commitment “.

When, how and why did you decide to devote yourself to this topic?
«As a woman, mother and entrepreneur, I feel the duty to give my contribution in spreading a culture that promotes the rights of women, countering their stereotypes and discrimination. The issue of gender equality, in fact, is not only a requirement but also a fundamental human right and a necessary prerequisite for a sustainable world. As a company we try to offer our contribution to building a better, fairer and more respectful society, without inequalities and which recognizes the value of women, with particular attention to the agricultural sector. Agriculture, in fact, in addition to representing a strategic asset for the Italian economy, is today one of the sectors with the highest percentage of female employment: in the fruit and vegetable segment, for example, one in three companies is led by a women and about 70% of the employed are women (Source: Istat). It is a positive sign, but it is not enough: we need to enhance the role of women in all sectors ».

You are involved in the 6free project, but what kind of violence do women suffer in the workplace?
“I believe that the types of violence at work are not very different from those encountered in other areas. Violence can take many forms, from verbal to physical, but in the world of work it can be accompanied by threats, such as losing one’s job, being demoted, being bullied … and these actions can come not only from the employer, but also from colleagues or colleagues, from customers and from all those with whom we interface in the professional context. Although sexual harassment in the workplace is expressly prohibited by law, the word “end” to this phenomenon still seems too far away. The data presented in the post-covid survey conducted by Istat is worrying: only in 2020 calls to the public utility number against violence and stalking increased by 79.5% compared to 2019. A growing phenomenon , which also involves many women harassed in the workplace and sees
increasing attention also at the institutional level. In May 2021, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy – for the first time for a crime related to the phenomenon of domestic violence – for failing to act quickly enough to protect a woman and her child from acts of violence. domestic service put in place by her husband, requiring judges to protect the victims of violence and their image without rooted male and sexist stereotypes and prejudices. Last April, moreover, the Italian government established that the country’s recovery also involves a more ethical economy, recognizing incentives and contributions to small and medium-sized enterprises, which guarantee women equal job and career opportunities ».

If a woman is a victim of workplace harassment, what steps do you recommend?
“Report. Asking for help is the hardest step for a woman who is a victim of harassment, because it requires you to become aware of what you are going through. Many women, in fact, do not report, fearing that they will appear excessively sensitive, of not being taken seriously or even risk losing their job. But defense is a right of the victim, who must in no way be ashamed of taking the first step towards freedom. There are occasions when a more pronounced joke can be really offensive to the recipient. It occurs often and above all in workplaces where personal knowledge is scarce and one is confronted with different sensitivities. You should feel free to bring the harasser’s attention back to your point of view, reacting promptly and blocking the offense. But it’s not always that simple. In any case, there are reference figures, such as dedicated company interlocutors, to turn to for help and deal with the situation, together with whom to plan the steps to be taken and define the measures to be taken, obviously guaranteeing maximum confidentiality. In any case, it is essential to remember the toll-free anti-violence and stalking number 1522, activated in 2006 by the Department for Equal Opportunities precisely with the aim of developing a wider system action and helping victims to ask for help, counteracting the phenomenon of violence. Victims can also contact institutional figures and those not in charge of protection by law, as indicated on the 6libera.org site in the section “SOS Victim” ».

Do you have data, numbers, which describe this reality?
«Women are more exposed to violence and harassment in the workplace than men: any woman, regardless of her hierarchical position, can suffer injustice and mistreatment at work. This creates a hostile and unpleasant work environment for all women. In Italy there are about 1.4 million victims and the figure is even more worrying: 81% of women who have suffered harassment choose not to report. 79% of European executives are aware that harassment and violence in the workplace raise stress levels in the company (as found by the European Business Survey on New and Emerging Risks), but less than 30% of organizations in Europe have procedures for managing stress and abuse in the workplace. From this awareness, the 6free observatory was launched, which aims to strengthen prevention and awareness-raising policies, counteract the culture of silence, reduce the imbalance of power between employer and worker, fill the information gap on the severity and diffusion of phenomenon and its risks for the benefit of institutions and social partners who must plan more incisive and targeted policies ».

What should women work on to be more “free”?
“Every woman has the right to be free. Free to express herself, to dress as she prefers, to reach the professional role she aspires to and for which she may have studied for years. In short, every woman has the right to be herself and the duty to fight against stereotypes, prejudices and attitudes derived from a by now ancient cultural heritage. It is a process that will take time and effort but each of us can and must do our part ».

The stereotype that struggles to fall?
«One of the most widespread stereotypes today is that women are not suitable for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines. Although girls graduate in progress and on average with higher grades than male companions, once they enter the world of work they do not get the same results, in terms of employment and pay. A gap that makes us understand how the current scenario, especially the Italian one, is still far from conceiving the roles of male and female as balanced. Worldwide, women’s wages are also around 20% lower than that of men, even in cases of work of equal value (Source: ILO, World Payroll Report 2018/19). I am convinced that, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises, greater attention is needed on these issues. I sincerely believe in the importance of a new sensitivity that breaks down certain cultural legacies which, even today, tend to diminish the role and professionalism of women and towards which we must no longer be indulgent. Irritec, like many manufacturing companies, has a low female presence due to the lack of candidates for positions in the factory. My goal is to increase the percentage of women employed in the company by implementing policies that favor the number of applications in the production plants. An important action for the territory in which the company operates, Sicily, where only one third of women have a job (Source: Coldiretti on Unioncamere 2018) ».

Your advice for women?
«I advise all women to be courageous and to team up, in private life and at work. We ask for help and we demand respect. But I also want to give advice to companies, whether they have women or men at the top: do not be indulgent in the face of harassing acts but implement preventive measures to combat the emergence of conducts harmful to human rights and the dignity of working women. Not opposing violence means accepting it and allowing it collectively, with devastating consequences for individual workers and the company climate. To do this, it is useful to contact 6libera, the project that helps companies to offer a free workplace
from violence and harassment. As a digital observer, 6libera aims to help victims to register (anonymously but securely and certified) the reported harassment behaviors. But not only that, it also represents a concrete support for all those women who, victims of violence, have been forced to leave the workplace only because they have found the strength to report: 6libera helps them to relocate to a different professional context, accompanying them in the process of re-acquiring one’s independence in safe and ethically responsible companies, “ambassadors of equality”, as we like to define them ».

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