Recently, Italian women organised massive protests against Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who is actually under investigation for allegedly paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl. However, Berlusconi’s recent blunder only was the catalyst for the protests and not the only reason. Certainly, Italian women feel that Berlusconi’s dalliances with young women humiliate the sex as a whole and degrade female dignity. But women’s anger in Italy results from an escalating gender discrimination in many fields, which is – if not fostered, than at least not contained by the Italian government.
Image source: guerillawomentn.blogspot.com
Actually, women in Italy suffer from a huge gender gap in terms of economic empowerment: They are mortified by the female unemployment data, the salaries, the career perspectives and the precarious jobs. Italian women tend to be more graduated than men and tend to have better grades, yet only one in two women has a paid job in Italy. Women are paid 16.8% less than their male colleagues. One woman in four leaves her job after maternity; of every 100 children only 10 find a place in daycare, fewer than five in 100 in a public nursery.
Women represent only 21% of government ministers, and less than 20% of deputies in parliament. In public companies, only 6,8% of board members are women, while they account for only 3,8% of CEOs. Women professors have half the chance of their male colleagues of getting tenure at an Italian university, and according to Eurostat, in 2010 Italian women were half as likely as Italian men to become legislators, managers and entrepreneurs.
One line that is often repeated is that Italy does have a tradition of strong maternal figures within the family. But Italian women feel that gender discrimination is not only a problem of Silvio Berlusconi’s politics: leftist politics in Italy in the past never promoted women either.
However, some things are changing slowly. To promote gender diversity, Italy is close to follow France’s example, as Italy is on its’ way to pass a quota requirement for boards of companies, unions and institutions (called “quota rosa”). The law, required by the European parliament, is being discussed in the senate and should be ready for approval by parliament soon. If it passes, this will be a step in the right direction, even if Italian women will have to thank Europe for it.
For a lot of Italian women, it is bitter to admit that in 2011 Italian women have to take to the streets simply to remind that they have a mind and not just a body, while in more civilised countries women campaign for paternity leave, better childcare for working mothers and more progressive adoption laws. But the fact that one million demonstrators said “basta!” is a positive and welcome sign to the whole world watching astonished from abroad. And it is with a bittersweet sense of irony that the news broke that Berlusconi will go on trial on April 6, 2011 for paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his powers in the attempt to cover up the alleged offence. The three judges, incidentally, are women.
Related article on this blog: Gender quotas in Germany. Dare it like France?!