(Please check against actual speech delivered)
· Thank you Caroline de Camaret (Europe Editor in Chief – France 24), Claire Annesley (Professor at University of Mancherter) and Maryia (MEP).
· The four points raised (Quotas – Presence of women in EU and National Politics – Women Solidarity – Women management style) are very interesting and are key to the debate on women empowerment.
· Let me start by sharing with you the Italian (and my personal) experience in these sectors.
· Today – in 2013 – we still face the issue of gender inequality in private companies and in public administration. Figures show that women comprise only a small percent of high ranking positions. To tackle this problem, not too long ago, Viviane Reding proposed a plan to impose gender quotas on company boards, but met with strong opposition.
· Quotas are generally disliked by both women and men. However, they seem to work. They seem to be the only possibility to achieve a higher participation of women in politics and governance. Quotas are a controversial tool that we would all prefer to avoid, but sometimes they seem to be a necessary compromise in order to close the gender gap.
· Look at Algeria, for example. At a certain point the political parties had realised that quotas were the only way to tackle long-standing prejudice against women, particularly in rural areas. The change has been driven by president Bouteflika. Since the 2012 elections, 32% of Algeria’s parliamentary seats have been occupied by women.
· Italy managed to introduce quotas in 2011. With law n.120/2011, we adopted a highly-innovative law for our country, aimed at ensuring equal access to boards of directors and boards of statutory auditors of companies listed on regulated markets. The law obliges companies to reserve at least one third of decision-making positions within these bodies to women.
· If companies to not respect this principle, they will have to pay penalties that go from 100.000 to 1 million euros.
· This is a very important measure. But is it really successful?
· Studies show that encouraging female presence in the board of directors increases productivity and profits. Companies that have at least two women in their board of directors, for example, are estimated to be at least 18% more profitable.
· Despite this important result, the presence of women in decision making positions is still too low in Italy. Since the law passed, the percentage of women in these positions is only 17,2%. There is still a lot of room for progress.
· 17% is the same percentage of those countries that actually do not have mandatory quotas. So what’s the problem? Maybe it’s in the will to access high management? In fact, women often stop at middle management. Why is this? Does it have to do with the difficulties linked to managing both private life and work?
· Heather Jackson, founder of the Women’s Business Forum said that she is “bored of hearing about women on boards – putting women on boards is a short term cosmetic solution”. She suggests that “we should fix the leaking pipeline of female talent at middle management and if companies implement the best practice now, in the long run we can solve the issue once and for all”.
2. Presence of women in EU and National politics
· As far as the presence of women in EU and national politics is concerned, there is still a lot to be done.
· When we talk about women in leadership, we mean women in America and Europe. However, we should also consider the big leap forward by the BRIC countries. About 80% of women are in the pipeline in professional careers in China and India. This is due to the fact that ambition has been fed by opportunity.
· In Europe, when thinking of at women in power, Angela Merkel comes to mind. I believe she is a powerful women because of her self-code of conduct. From my point of view, her success comes from the pragmatic way she faces politics. There is a gender input in the way she acts nationally and internationally.
· Other important leaders in European politics are Cathy Ashton who once said: “Where women prosper, society prospers” and Christine Lagarde.
· As Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, during my missions, I am very often confronted with situations where I am the only women: at political meetings, at the table of negotiations, at international debates. I would like to see a better gender balance in the institutions and among politicians; on the other hand I do also believe in the importance of including male leaders and policy makers in strategic debates like today’s one. The women’s forum creates an important arena for discussion, and it would have been very interesting to have the opportunity to challenge prominent leaders and politicians in the discussions as well.
· I would like to share with you the numbers of the Ministry in which I work: the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. There has always been a great gender gap between diplomats at the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Traditionally, this was due to various factors including traditional prejudice, the hard working environment, marriage, etc. The proportion of female diplomats taking office has always been relatively low, which has resulted in the low female proportion of senior diplomats (at or above the level of ambassadors). This is also due to the fact that Italian women entered the diplomatic Career only in 1964.
· In the last few years, however, the number of women that enter the Italian diplomatic career has been growing. In 2012, 42% of the winners of the Diplomatic Competition in Italy were women. Despite a slight decrease in this trend in 2013 (34%), the numbers are still very encouraging.
· Madeleine Albright once said that “the only way a woman could truly make her foreign policy views felt was by marrying a diplomat and then pouring tea on an offending Ambassador’s lap”. This is not the case anymore.
· At EU level, the investigation of 46 member states conducted by the European Commission indicated that the number of female ambassadors took up around 12% of all the ambassadors, and the number of female envoys occupied 13% of the totality of envoys, female counsellors took 30% of all the counsellors, and female consul-generals occupied 19% of all the consul generals, among which women’s proportion was only 12% — 13% in the senior diplomatic position — head of a diplomatic mission (level of ambassador). As far as the European External Action Service is concerned, only 3 women out of 15 individuals (20%) sit in the high rank positions in Brussels Head Quarters. While, only 23 out of 141 (16,3%) Head of EU Delegations are women.
3. Women solidarity
· I think that women solidarity is built upon the common need to manage private life and working life. This is what really women – with a family – share.
· When women are at the head of an Office, a Company a Ministry, there is usually greater attention to guarantee better working hours, the possibility of having nurseries in the working place, maternity leaves, paternal leaves etc. Nevertheless, this should apply always, even when men are leading.
· One thing that has always fascinated me is the way women know how to build networks. We should encourage the creation of coalitions of women to address global challenges. I’m thinking of the fight against food insecurity, water shortage, climate change, and their role in conflict areas.
· Take the strength of women in conflict areas, for example. Women face several gender-specific threats in conflict and transition countries, including gender based violence in both the public and private spheres and yet some of them have the energy to come out and lead public opinion against these atrocities.
· Furthermore, it is widely accepted that women have a role in peace building processes. They are agents of peace. While participating to peace processes, they focus the attention on the protection of human rights, justice, national reconciliation.
· I am convinced that the transition of the countries of the Southern shore of the Mediterranean will be measured also on the degree of participation of women to the political and economic process. (Today in the MENA countries only 26% of women participate to the labour market, against 52% of the global index).
4. Women management style
· One of the key points of this debate is the kind of contribution that women can provide once elected, and how they can mark a difference as leaders. Having more women in the political arena will rebalance the power relations that shape social, political, economic and cultural life. Women in key leadership positions will become role models for entire generations of women and lead to their empowered. They will work in order to guarantee that policies are developed with a gender perspectives and that societies are built on the assumption that women and men do have the same rights and responsibilities as citizens and as individuals. They will tackle problems like violence against women that is more and more affecting women all around the world.
· The issues of violence against women and women’s participation in political and civil life are closely linked. Violence against women acts as a barrier to women’s participation in decision-making, whether it is happening at home or in the community. Domestic violence can affect women’s mental health and cause low self-esteem, anxiety and fear, which hamper the ability to travel outside the house and to get involved in public life, and in some cases to work. Women’s isolation from public life contributes to increased violence. This widespread phenomenon should represent a priority for every government and I believe that having more women in leadership position will help fighting against this crime.
· It is often said that women have a passive attitude for leadership because they are not competitive.
· As Sandberg said, the key is not pushing harder. The key is being attentive, objective and focused on opportunities that emerge in life and work. It is about knowing your passions, being bold and taking calculated risks. And, above all, it’s about not letting yourself be guided by pressure and fear”. Women should be leaning into the whole of life and grabbing the opportunities that emerge with both hands.
· Perhaps, past generations may have had their difficulties in doing so. Often, other factors prevailed in front of a “competition” and in front of opportunities that just could not be exploited in that specific moment.
· However, I see changes in the new young generations. I see that women are just as competitive as men and are keen in taking all the opportunities they have, provided there are the conditions for them to emerge. It’s a matter of conditions, I suggest – not a matter of psychological tendency.
· Leadership is for women. If you recognize that women are equally able to innovate and compete, and you take this asset for granted, you cannot however automatically jump to the conclusion that women are better leaders than men.
· What we should do is take the concept of leadership a step forward. Assuming that the ability to lead needs to be proved in reality (whatever the gender), society should focus on building a new type of leadership. It should encourage a women’s ambition to lead – and you don’t need quotas to do so -, but at the same time it needs to push leaders to behave in a different, innovative way. The world needs a new kind of leadership.
· Openness, listening, creativity, role-modelling are important qualities for leadership in a world in which the old hierarchical and vertical form of power is clearing fading away. The book I suggest on this topic is Moises Naim’s “The End of power”. Women are able to play a comparatively positive role than the men in the aspects of natural affinity, good communication skills, public media, handling daily consular affairs.
· What we should really think about is: what kind of leadership do we need? My friend Charles Kupchan and I believe that today’s world is a world that is no longer dominated by a single power. It is a world dominated by a multitude of actors and the risk of anarchy is high. We cannot underestimate the increasing importance and the great potential of networks, and the growing ability to create connections among individuals.
· At the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we made the promotion of the role of women around the world a key element of the Italian foreign policy. We are convinced that empowering women across the globe is not only a means to consolidate democracy, but also a way to enhance economic growth and development in societies.
· Let me take this opportunity to share with you the important initiative that we are carrying out at the Farnesina. Looking to EXPO 2015, we launched the Women for EXPO project, with the aim of giving EXPO 2015 a women flavour, starting from the crucial role of women in all sectors related to the theme of Expo 2015 in Milan: Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life.
· Expo 2015 represents a unique opportunity allowing participating countries to share views and best practices on how to address the universal and complex theme of nutrition. As such, we believe that Expo 2015 has the potential to become the first Expo where women are key.
· At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we set up an International Board to raise awareness within the public opinion and policy makers on the link between improving women’s conditions and creating sustainable food systems. Among the members, we have Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, WFP, Maria da Luz Guebuza, First Lady of the Republic of Mozambique, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chair of the African Union Commission, Patricia Espinosa, Ambassador, Former Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Irene Khan (here with us today), Director General, International Development Law Organization IDLO, Moushira Khattab, Former Minister of Family & Population of Egypt, Human Rights Activist, Samia Nkrumah, Chairwoman Convention People’s Party of Ghana, Vesna Pusic, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1991; Chairperson of the National League for Democracy in Burma, Vandana Shiva, Environmental Activist and Author, Hanna Tetteh, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ghana, Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1997.
· We started our work last November, with a side event at FAO entitled “Women and Nutrition: ideas for a sustainable future”, and in December with a workshop focusing on the role of women in Latin America.
· In 2014, we will hold a number of global conferences in all the continents: we will have one in Africa in Maputo; one new poverty in Europe during the Italian Presidency of the EU; another global meeting in North America with a focus on health; and a conference dedicated to Asia during the ASEM Summit in Milan.
· The outcome of the conferences and the contribution of the members of the International Board will lead to the “Women’s Charter on food security”, which will contain the main measures to protect the universal right to adequate and healthy food. The Charter will be presented for the signature of Expo visitors and then submitted to the UN as a contribution to the post-2015 Development Agenda debate.
· We strive to leave a legacy of Women for Expo by launching three cooperation projects in collaboration with civil society organizations in the field food security with a focus on the role of women and girls.
· We are keen to embark as many women as possible on Women for Expo project, therefore, we have asked each General Commissioner to nominate a woman to act as a focal point of the project in the respective country.
· We were talking about building networks. Apart from the international board, we are inviting all interested women to become Women for Expo Ambassadors and mobilize women in their respective countries to become actively involved in Expo through the “Women’s path” that will be created inside the Exposition site connecting the different Pavilions.
· We invite women associations and foundations to organize conferences and /or take part in events that will take place during the Expo semester May 2015-October 2015.
· Let me take this opportunity for thanking the Women’s Forum for accepting the invitation to have their meeting in 2015 in Milan. This is an excellent opportunity for you and for us. Thank you!