Career and salary opportunities for women are still much lower than for men: the average pay gap, the difference in salary for the same job in the Italian private sector, is 21%, among the highest values in Europe.
What the data say
While these are only examples, they help to capture a reality in which the working world is still full of obstacles and barriers for women. This was demonstrated by an analysis conducted by Bain&Company, which interviewed over 40 companies from eight different industries, employing 350,000 people.
The Italian labour market is heavily skewed against women and equity is still a distant goal.
Researchers are weighing in.
The workplace gender gap not only appears in the form of wage differences. The Bain&Company report underlines how there are more and more qualified women in Italy who remain outside the labour force, with the gap growing as age increases.
And that’s not all. One in five women suffers physical harassment in the workplace, in 2020 the rate of jobs lost by women was double that of men, while requests for help for domestic abuse increased by 70%. Last but not least, only one in ten listed companies has a woman CEO.
The 2020 Cerved-Fondazione Marisa Bellisario Report took a snapshot of the numbers of women at the top in various sectors: “Across the country, women CEOs account for only 6.3% of the total. In universities, the proportion of women is decreasing at every career step: 47% of permanent researchers, 38% of associate professors and only 23% of full professors”.
Then comes politics. While women make up just over half the population, under-representation in institutions is virtually a constant: from the second De Gasperi government to the close of the last government (Conte II), out of the 4,864 presidents, ministers and undersecretaries who were sworn in at the Colle, only 319 were women, tallying only 6.56% of the total.
While the gender gap is a hot topic in many countries, such an extreme imbalance exists only in Italy.
The rest of Europe could also take a leaf out of the book with proposals for immediate implementation.
In Iceland, for instance, companies and public offices with over 25 employees have to prove that the wages of men and women are identical. And in the UK, Germany and Belgium, companies with over 250 employees must publish data on the salaries and bonuses of men and women every year.
How politics is faring
Meanwhile in Rome, as COVID-19 has apparently exacerbated the working and economic conditions of women, efforts to bridge a gender gap that is no longer acceptable are already in hand. The Gender Pay Equity Act was unanimously approved in the Labour Commission of the Chamber of Deputies on 23 June.
“A proposal that merged provisions from ten separate bills”, explained deputy from the Partito Democratico Chiara Gribaudo, “and provides for the creation of new transparency and guarantee mechanisms for women workers through the staff situation report and the creation of a gender equality certification to reward virtuous companies. Today, the Global Gender Gap Report ranks us among the worst countries in Europe for economic differences between men and women, estimating that it will take more than 200 years to achieve equality”.
It doesn’t stop there. The Recovery Plan also sets its sights on having more women in the labour market, as recommended by the European Commission. The measures include, for example, a priority clause for the recruitment of young people and women in companies that will draw on European funds to implement the projects in the plan. Yet the subject cuts across the entire National Recovery Plan.
A glimpse of the future
At the Rome-based Women20 summit held in July, the G20 group dealing with gender equality and representing civil society outlined projects, proposals and strategies to increase the number of women in employment and invest in women’s entrepreneurship, to devise a global action plan against gender stereotypes and for cultural change, and to put the fight against violence against women at the heart of the international agenda.
“For the first time ever, the G20 is broadly addressing gender issues while traditionally focusing on economic issues”, wrote Linda Laura Sabbadini, central director of ISTAT, in the newspaper La Repubblica at the end of the Women20.
There is a strong sense that something is changing, that there is a growing awareness of a potential and also desirable pink revolution.
Linda Laura Sabbadini
Countries agreed on a roadmap to meet and even exceed the Brisbane target of reducing gender gaps in labour force participation rates in G20 countries by 25% by 2025. The roadmap includes 17 indicators to monitor progress towards full gender equality in employment.
These commitments were reinforced at the G20 conference on women’s empowerment in Santa Margherita Ligure in August. “We need to combat the inequalities affecting women, girls and young women in all areas, including the family, education and work”, said Equal Opportunities Minister Elena Bonetti.
Goal 5 of the UN 2030 Agenda states that “while the world has achieved progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world.
Any loss of female talent is a loss for all of us.
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but the necessary condition for a prosperous, sustainable and peaceful world. Ensuring women’s and girls’ equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity as a whole”.
“Every loss of female talent is a loss for all of us“, said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi at the opening of the Women’s G20 in August. “As G20 countries, we have obligations not only to our citizens, but also to the global community. We must defend the rights of women everywhere in the world, especially where they are threatened”.