The Growing Power of Women in Business – The Italian Experience

As an International Gender Champion, Ambassador Andrea Perugini pledged to launch a networking group of Italian, Dutch and international female entrepreneurs and professionals, based in the Netherlands and engaged in the Dutch-Italian economic relations. The first step towards the creation of the networking group goes back to the time before the commitments were made. In April 2018, on the occasion of the Women Leaders International Summit in The Hague, Ambassador Perugini hosted a seminar on the role of women in innovation, science and industry.

In May 2019, building on this successful event and in view of fulfilling his commitment as a Gender Champion, Ambassador Perugini invited 30 women entrepreneurs and professionals to an informal meeting to discuss the creation of a group engaged in promoting gender equality. On this occasion, attendees shared inspiring ideas, and various proposals to advance gender equality emerged. 

During the discussion, attendees underlined that, in order to make progress towards a gender equal world at work, it is important that women support other women. In particular, it is essential that experienced women coach and guide the youngest to face a male dominated world, by sharing their personal experiences and motivation. Furthermore, encouraging women to challenge gender-biased organizational policies and practices was pointed out as a key measure, linked to the necessity to build individual’s gender confidence.

Moreover, quotas were generally considered as a supporting element towards gender equality, not as an objective to attain but rather as an instrument. It was explained that in Italy, “Quote Rosa”, the Italian law on quotas passed in 2011, had been decisive in increasing the number of women in companies. In his intervention, Ambassador Perugini stressed that, according to the 2017 Gender Equality Index, over the last 10 years, Italy is the European country that has achieved the widest improvements on gender equality indicators, with Italy’s score increasing by 13 points (against 4,2 as the European average).

In relation to legislation, participants shared the view that more steps should be taken to change laws related to part-time work, which were generally considered discriminatory and to make the parental leave for fathers compulsory.

Finally, when it comes to recruitment, the value of inclusion was noted. According to the attendees, this notion should not only relate to gender but to all types of diversity: in terms of background, sexual orientation, religion, nationality and race. Pursuing policies that promote diversity were said to have a positive impact on employees and on the organization as a whole.

In addition to the creation of an informal network, Ambassador Perugini is advocating for the drafting of a set of guidelines and best practices on gender equality that should inspire and complement internal staff recruitment and career progression policies of Italian, Dutch and international companies based in the Netherlands and dealing with bilateral business promotion. Members of the informal network are currently sharing their proposals on the group and the guidelines among themselves and with the Embassy of Italy. A formal event will take place later this year.