HeForShe: Stefano Maifreni | Founder, Eggcelerate

Stefano Maifreni

Stefano is an Executive MBA graduate of the London Business School, and holds a MSc. (Hon.) in Telecommunications from the University of Naples “Federico II”.

He is a Tech London Advocate with focus on Cybersecurity, Fin-tech, and IoT, and a Mentor with Oxygen Accelerator and Mass Challenge the Digital Catapult.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? 

I have always been a supporter of diversity. My revealing moment was when I had my first management role. My team was very diverse concerning gender, age, and background and that allowed us to see any problems from different angles and to develop collective lateral thinking.

My best achievement is my young daughter, though! It makes my life very interesting, with no risk of getting bored. However, I can see a pattern, e.g. regarding “girl” and “boy” divide and gender-biased toys and games (like princesses and pirates) that might be signs of something more deeply ingrained in the culture. I find it extraordinarily conservative and outdated.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

It’s important for everyone, not just for men. We should extend this to sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, or faith. I think we should aim for workplaces, and a society at large, where these things are merely irrelevant. Not to say that the identity of any person is not relevant, but this sort of “clustering” should not find any space – as it is fertile soil for stereotyping and ultimately for intolerance and discrimination. Rather, I think discrimination brought to the extreme can become positive: imagine you can “discriminate” one person to the next one; it means you accept each one for what they are. Discrimination has two meanings in English: “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex” and “recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.” – we should move from the former to the latter.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently? Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?

As a man, I don’t feel welcome to this kind of conversation. I see the risk to reverse discrimination, creating women-only conversation, groups, etc. I think the same about clubs that are accessible only to people with a specific sexual orientation, sports events for people of a particular faith or part of a political institution, and so on. We are creating a counter-discrimination that I don’t think is the right answer.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

Normalise it – neutralise it. Instil a company culture whereby colleagues are colleagues: their sensitive traits and preferences don’t count. It’s all about objectives and performance.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

I have mentored people of all sort of backgrounds, mainly in start-ups and SMEs and I haven’t noticed any difference concerning having the courage of leaving their comfort zone. It was all about personal experiences, not gender.

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