The tinge of corporate leadership is becoming increasingly pink in the wake of the rising number of women managers. "The most recent data available from the Italian Social Welfare Institute (INPS) reveal that women held 18.3% of private management positions in 2019 (versus 17.6% the previous year), with 32.3% under 35 and 28% under 40. Their vigorous growth persisted in the latest period, where managerial numbers have picked up again in recent years after slumping under the weight of the crisis that began in 2008. In fact, private managers decreased by 3% between 2008 and 2019 (-5% at the end of 2017), -10% men, as opposed to +49% women. Also over the last year, when executives actually increased somewhat more substantially (+1.1% 2019/2018), it was virtually only women who grew (+5%), compared to +0.2% for men". This is how Luisa Quarta summarises the data from the latest Women's Report (click here to download) published by Manageritalia, the national federation of executives, managers and executive professionals in commerce, transport, tourism, services and advanced services. With a membership of over 37,000 managers, the federation has 13 associations throughout Italy.
Luisa Quarta works as Manageritalia Lombardia's coordinator for the organisation's Women Managers Group, which was set up to bolster women's participation in the workings of associations and also enhance their role in terms of economic and social fabric.
"The managerial surge, which touched unprecedented heights this year, continues unabated and the 'feminine clout' of under-35 and under-40 managers bodes well for the near future". Quarta explains further: "The number of women managers has been increasing for years. This is most likely because the young women entering the labour market often have equal, if not more advanced, levels of education than men. There has also been an improvement, albeit not entirely convincing, in the merit-based and diversity-enriched cultures embraced by companies and society in general".
The regions sporting the most "pink" include Molise (30%), Sicily (25.5%) and Lazio (24.1%), followed equally by Basilicata and Lombardy (20%). The lowest three regions in the ranking are Calabria (14.6%), bottoming out below 10% with Abruzzo (9.3%) and Trentino-Alto Adige (9.2%).
While the very limited number of managers and family businesses in smaller regions and provinces often affect these figures considerably, this phenomenon is pronounced and bound to increase in Lombardy, Lazio and the more economically advanced provinces. Milan (8,251 women managers, 39.1% of the national total) boosts the figures of the Lombardy region (10,171 total women managers, 48.2%), yet together they account for the province and region with the highest number of women managers, followed by Rome (4,165; 19.7%) and Lazio (4,312; 20.4%).
Yet despite such promising figures, Quarta says that "there is still a lot to do and we have been working for years to encourage a cultural change first of all, but we also act with concrete actions. One example is the 'Un Fiocco in Azienda' programme, conceived to assist parents and companies face motherhood smoothly and also make it easier for mothers to return to work. Our efforts also encompass the 'Change Work with Productivity & Well-being' programme, where we have been bringing smart welfare, smart working, inter-generationality and work-life balance projects to companies for over a decade.
The growing number of women managers is also bolstered and underpinned by the numbers of private executives, managers in their own right and a real reservoir for future management. Women now account for 30.4% overall, 37% among the under-35s and 34.3% among the under-40s. Lazio (34.9%), Sardinia (34.3%) and Lombardy (32.2%) continued showcasing their leadership in pink. In this regard, the 17% growth in executives from 2008 to 2019 entailed a 40% leap for women and only 9.3% for men.
The coordinator points out the "remarkably consistent gains in the private management sector, especially the tertiary sector, where women are becoming more prominent. In private management and especially in multinational companies, this factor is linked to the recognition of merit and, in any case, to years of policies aimed at promoting diversity and also productive but smart work
The COVID-19 pandemic remains, however, outside this survey. Nonetheless, Luisa Quarta is quite sure that, although the growth trend may slow down or come to a standstill in the immediate future, the lessons of the crisis will have a positive effect in the long run. "The pandemic has proved that we can work from home. We will soon switch from emergency-driven home working to sensible smart working", explains the coordinator. "Above all, the way work is organised must also change, facilitated by legislation and driven by the needs of companies to remain competitive. We can no longer procrastinate, since this step will significantly benefit individuals and companies in terms of work-life balance, well-being, productivity and competitiveness. And in this regard, we managers have a lot to do and even more to give".
Something the manager feels needs to be done now. "As we have seen over the past year and to an even greater extent in families, with schools closed and children at home all day for months on end, women almost exclusively bear the full burden of family life. And when you can no longer count on grandparents to take care of the grandchildren because of forced social distancing, the already precarious balance on a woman's shoulders begins to tip", concludes Quarta. "We should move towards a more intelligent way of organising work for promoting the well-being and productivity of people and companies from a win-win perspective. And we must do so by embracing "smart". We must also become smart in family and social life by not burdening women all the time. This goal requires a really robust cultural change and genuine service support for family tasks".