Il Congedo Originale

Transforming organisations through the power of caring

Despite some progress being made, maternity still remains a taboo subject for businesses. Whenever people talk about it, the discussion nearly always revolves around the issues surrounding maternity leave: what the law states, the amount of leave due, return-to-work date, possible benefits, and so on.

What is missing from this conversion is primarily a culture of caring – the recognition that this most noble and human of acts is also one of the most personally enriching as well as something that can provide the individual with all the skills required to tackle the complex demands posed by our market and our organisations.

Here, Sonia Malaspina and Marialaura Agosta start their journey with their own personal experience within a large company like Danone. They pave the way for a paradigm shift in culture that is needed now more than ever, as they share a series of clear, specific steps that all businesses – regardless of size – can implement with confidence.



from the foreword by Francesca Vecchioni

This book aims to involve and include as many people as possible by exploring the issues surrounding parenthood and caregiving, as it attempts to carve a path that goes beyond the conventional model. And looks to the future!

And once you’ve seen it, there is no turning back.

The Authors

In chemistry, the term ‘elective affinities’ is used to describe chemicals that are naturally drawn to each other, but the same can also be said of people; we first met in 2016 and there was an immediate spark between us because from then on, we have been increasingly championing the cause that we have called Il Congedo Originale. Il Congedo Originale is all about how, by caring for people in the workplace, it enriches them as people, making them better professionals. Il Congedo Originale tells the story of a necessary generational shift because this is the vision to be pursued.

“The journey towards accepting each person’s uniqueness is also one of self-discovery, and a journey that makes us better people. The journey of those who struggle to be included in a community is a painful one, and often leaves scars that do not heal. In our experience, organisations that welcome and embrace the excluded will benefit from their huge reserves of energy and creativity, and will reap the rewards.”

Sonia Malaspina – Marialaura Agosta

Sonia Malaspina

Sonia Malaspina was born in Milan in 1970. After graduating with a degree in Languages from the Milan’s Università Cattolica and a Masters in Human Resources and Organisation from the SDA Bocconi School of Management, she has held HR positions in businesses across various sectors. Since 2011, she has worked for Danone, where she is Director of Human Resources Italy and Greece. Effective 1st of September 2023 she is Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Director Danone Italy & Greece. She is a member of Danone Italy’s Board of Directors.

She has been instrumental in helping Danone Italy achieve Gender Equality European & International Standard certification in 2018, B CORP certification in 2020 and Certification for Gender Equality UNI PdR125:2022 in 2023. In 2011, she launched the Parental Policy in Italy, supporting parenting in the workplace. This has now become policy in all Danone companies worldwide. In 2011, she launched the Parental Policy in Italy, supporting parenting in the workplace. This has now become policy in all Danone companies worldwide. Sonia has presented the case for Italy to the Italian Ministry for Equal Opportunities, to UN Women, to the International Labour Office on the centenary of the law protecting maternity in the workplace, and to the Council of Europe and the Global Salzburg Seminar. Over the past 12 years, she has been meeting with the mums and dads returning to work in Danone after parental leave and she heads up a team studying the link between their experience of caregiving and the development of their managerial skills. In 2020, she launched Danone’s Caregiver Policy that provides company support to those of its employees who are caring for vulnerable people.

Sonia is an activist when it comes to caregiving, equal opportunities and elevating each person’s uniqueness as an agent for value creation, both economically and socially. In 2021, she gave a TED Talk in Legnano. The subject of the talk was “Achieving gender equality in business” (available on Youtube). Since 2021, she has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Fondazione Adapt. She is also an alumnus of the InTheBoardroom executive training programme and, Since 2022, she has been Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Winning Women Institute.

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Marialaura Agosta

Born in Sicily in 1990, Marialaura Agosta now considers Milan her home. After graduating in Classics at Milan’s Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and a Masters in Human Resources and Organisation from the SDA Bocconi School of Management, she started her own professional Human Resources journey in a variety of settings before joining Danone in 2016. Since then, she has held roles in both HR and Internal Communications.

She is a passionate campaigner on issues like equal opportunities, inclusion and valuing the uniqueness of each person, and since 2018 has also taken on the role of Inclusive Diversity Manager in Danone Italy and Greece. In addition to fostering a culture of inclusion in the company, she was able to create a team of D&I ‘activists’ so that this culture could be properly disseminated throughout the business by people who were motivated and eager to share such good practices. In 2018, she helped guide Danone Italy to achieve GEEIS (Gender Equality European & International Standard) Certification and, since 2022, she has been working to achieve Certification for Gender Equality UNI PdR125:2022, a milestone for the dissemination of gender equality culture in businesses. Within the business, she supports and champions value partnership for inclusion (Fiocco in Azienda di Manageritalia, Lifeed, Parks – Liberi e Uguali, Valore D, etc.). She is a firm believer in caregiving as a value generator and shares Sonia’s values and principles of inclusive diversity as part of this innovative generational ‘relay race’, a wonderful journey in which they are the pacemakers!



Conferences, press releases and seminars: all the events where the authors of Il Congedo Originale have or will feature.

About us

References to websites, newspapers, press agencies and other media that have mentioned us or published our updates.

The “7 fellow travellers”

The Pillars of Il Congedo Originale

The Emotional Pillar requires Proximity

The Cultural Pillar requires Courage

The Organisational Pillar requires Determination

The Economic Pillar requires Integrity

We firmly believe that Il Congedo Originale can and must become a movement that is capable of changing the narrative on caregiving, which has value and potential, especially in the workplace environment, and is something that can enrich us all equally, both personally and professionally.

But that’s not all: we are convinced that the younger generation is already sowing the seed of self-care and caring for others more vigorously and more widely. However, we want the message of Il Congedo Originale to also reach those who risk being overlooked in the working world.

That’s why, as the authors, we have decided to invest all the proceeds from sales of the book into printing more copies to be given away in schools, universities, training courses and masters programmes that we have identified on our journey. We will share their updates with you here.

Achieving gender equality in business | Sonia Malaspina

Join our community

Would you like to be one of our fellow travellers, helping us train, support and encourage the men and women who want to achieve gender equality in the workplace? Each of us can make a positive difference by supporting each other – together we can give maternity and paternity the social value it deserves.

How? By putting Il Congedo Originale into practice.

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