By Elodie Denieul
On May 22, 2013, PWA Milan organised a well-attended panel discussion on women in politics in Italy, more precisely on what could and should be a female leadership in politics.
Four women, with diverse and striking backgrounds shared their points of view with us:
- Chiara Bisconti, member of the city council of Milan in charge of quality of life, sport, spare time, human resources, animal welfare, park and town planning, after having been Human Resources director of Sanpellegrino and leader of the Nestlé Gender Balance Project until 2011;
- Marina Calloni, expert in politics and professor at the Milan-Bicocca University in the department of sociology and social research;
- Lucia Castellano, Director of different penitential institutions, among them the Bollate prison until 2011, when she joined the city council of Milan, before being elected at the regional assembly of Lombardia;
- Gabriella Danza, E.U senior expert consultant in charge of technical and financial assessment of the projects under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument Cross-Border Cooperation in the Mediterranean on good governance, decentralisation, youth and women advocacy / public policy, after having been in charge of international programs on gender equality and women’s empowerment and rights in the Balkans, the Middle-East, North Africa and Yemen.
- Laura La Posta, journalist at Sole 24 Ore and editor-in-chief of Rapporti 24, acted as mediator.
La Posta, started with the joke: “Had it been Lehman Sisters, it wouldn’t have resulted into this mess,”and introduced the debate with a question: how can women change politics in a positive way?
Calloni made two observations: first, over the past decades, women have obtained participation and representation; however, what about leadership? Second, the female voting abstention rate is much higher than the male one. Hence, this question: what is the relation between formal (numeric) representation and substantial (quality) representation? In this respect, the 2013 election campaign was the worst since a long time: even though women have never been as numerous in the Parliament as today, their presence in the media during the campaign was one of the poorest ever. Calloni also noted that all the progress in female representation in politics has been obtained thanks to incentives, such as the law “pari opportunità” dated 23 November 2012. She insisted on the importance of proposing and sponsoring political education aimed at women, as well as maintaining close contact with the constituency.
Danza, who worked in the Middle-East and in the Balkans, underlined how difficult it was to introduce the North-European experience in those regions, where religions have a strong influence on family life, which explains why women are more reserved in politics than in other regions of the world but how despite the struggle were the ones healing their countries. In Italy, she sees sexism and ageism as the main obstacles to a meaningful female presence in politics. Danza underlined that the social fabric in the Balkans was reconstructed by the women: they were the ones who dared to take challenges. She regretted that in Italy, due to materialism, eagerness for challenges and vision have declined.
According to Bisconti, the difficult times we have been going through since 2008 should not be considered only as a crisis, as they are more about a true change of society. She added that diversity of experiences should be valued – e.g. in the public sector, experience of one who has worked in the private sector and thus has a pragmatic approach; likewise, a woman has to maintain her way of seeing things in order to affect change, at the same time, to be conscious that men have their own different ways of thinking. She thus reminded how the “Legge Golfo-Mosca” was passed: known under the names of the two women members of parliament who sponsored it, it is the perfect example of a bipartisan law. She then announced that the city council is working on a project of exchange between the public and the private sectors. She further encouraged women to get involved in “consigli di zona”, which are, according to her, a really good way to become educated about politics.
In this respect, Calloni underlined the interest of the “liste civiche”. She regretted that the dignity of public work has been declining and insisted on the importance of teaching the fundamental civic principles and the institutions to the young.
Everyone agreed on the need to “mettere al mondo la politica di nuovo” as Monica Pesce, PWA president, concluded the meeting inviting everyone of us to get involved, declaring that in these times of discontinuity, women can and must make the difference.