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UniCredit Group and the Gender Diversity Program

UniCredit Group and the Gender Diversity Program
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Below you find the interview with Alessandro Profumo published on "Corriere della Sera" on 15 September.

First step on the ten-year route: a corporate women's network.
Profumo, the bank and the "D factor" (female employment).
UniCredit CEO launches plan to fill 50% of the top management positions with women.


Alessandro Profumo has always maintained that "women must play a greater role in all areas of Italian public life".

He has now decided that UniCredit will be strongly committed to achieving this, as he considers that more women in top management positions will increase the group's competitiveness. He will not go along the route of introducing quotas, to which the bank "is opposed, as it is against the culture of merit, but a programme to foster female talent, which will lead to a top management in ten years comprised equally of men and women.

Mr Profumo unveiled the project in the last few weeks to 100 of the bank's key managers at a meeting in Turin to discuss the bank's strategy. The meeting focused entirely on women's professional career development in the bank. "we are not talking about this topic because it is politically correct." , said the UniCredit CEO, "We are talking about diversity because it is in our interest....we have to use the UniCredit Gender Diversity programme as a catalyst for a far more significant cultural change.".

The Project Owner is Monica Poggio, 42 with one son, who joined UniCredit last year as Head of Executive Development following a career with multinationals in the pharmaceutical and engineering sectors. The first step will be the creation of a UniCredit women's network, which will be instituted in October, to become operational by the end of the year.

"An international group such as ours, which is present in 22 countries with local banks", explained Rino Piazzolla, Head of Human Resources Department in UniCredit Group, "must create a system of values and leadership that has, at its core, the ability to recognize diversity as a value. We already have many women in important positions, but we realized that there was no structured focus on increasing this number: we have no pipeline of women in managerial positions. In fact, although 57% of our employees are women, only 8% are in top management. We therefore undertook a programme of analysis to find out the size of the phenomenon, why women managers leave and what stereotypes still persist in our group. Finally, we decided not to introduce quotas, which would be against our strongly merit-based culture, but to create mechanisms that would support the professional development of women. We set ourselves a ten-year objective that by 2018 we will have the same representation of men and women in management as we have in the group. We will also appraise managers on their ability to generate female and multicultural leadership".

"There is now a great deal of research that explains why it is important to encourage female talent", commented Monica Poggio. "In preparation for the meeting in Turin - the occasion when the group's strategic issues are normally discussed and which, this time, was dedicated to gender diversity - we gave participants various articles and analysis that showed that valuing female talent is a business issue not an ideological principle. Confronting gender is a positive step forward in cultural terms, added Ms Poggio".

From discussions with group managers, two particular issues emerged. The first is "the need to redefine the leadership model", according to Piazzolla. "Women, for example, do not promote themselves and therefore it is necessary to discuss winning leadership behaviours".

The second is visibility.

As can be seen in the chart, the group has a strong female presence in eastern Europe, in particular. Currently there are ten prominent managers in UniCredit (see chart on this page), of which two - Maurizia Angelo Comneno and Marina Natale - are in the Management Committee. Almost all the Boards of Directors of the group's main banks include women, starting with the board for the Group (Marianna Li Calzi) and recent new appointments to the board of the Banco di Sicilia (Maria Luisa Averna and Josè Rallo). There are also two women on the supervisory board of HVB (Beate Mensch and Jutta Streif) and one on the supervisory board of Bank Austria (Karin Wisak-Gradinger).

According to government figures, 72.2% of a sample of 133 banks did not have a single woman on their boards of directors in 2006. And although women now represent 40% of employees, there are only 0.36% of women in the "manager" grade compared to 3.11% of men. Various studies have, however, shown that companies with more women on the board of directors report greater profitability levels than others.