· Good afternoon to everyone. I apologize for the late arrival, but I was at the Quirinale Palace, assisting President Napolitano during His meeting with the President of the European Commission, Josè Manuel Barroso.
· First of all, I would like to thank the European network for Women in Leadership for organizing the WIL Biannual Meeting and the French Academy in Rome for hosting the event. Thank you also to the Embassy of France. I am delighted to take part to this very special gathering.
· It is always difficult to speak at the end of the day, especially after so many important speakers. It is also difficult to speak at the end of a Conference to which unfortunately I could not participate from the beginning.
· Allow me to spend a few words on the general issue of “Women and competition”. Today – in 2013 – we still face the issue of gender inequality in private companies and in public administration. In fact, figures show that women comprise only a small percent of high ranking positions. Why is this?
· Part of the literature – such as Sheryl Sandberg, in her book “Lean In”- affirms that to rise to high ranks, you have to be willing to enter competitions, and women are not “into competitions”. It’s a matter of attitude, they suggest.
· Drawing from my personal experience, I must disagree with this theory. This could have been true perhaps for past generations, when – for women – other factors prevailed in front of a “competition”. In young generations, I see that women are just as competitive as men, provided there are the conditions for them to emerge. We cannot ignore the fact that the role of women in some societies is still not fully recognized and that much still needs to be done to leverage gender equality in the public and private sphere. It’s a matter of conditions, I suggest – not a matter of psychological tendency.
· Competition is for women. In the last few years 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.
· 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 foreword. 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”.
· 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 an important initiative that we are carrying out at the Farnesina. Last May, Minister Emma Bonino set up the Women in Diplomacy Committee, whose aim is to promote women’s role in society and their access to international careers. The Committee will be involved in the organization of events and specific programs, such as the “Women in Diplomacy School”. In particular, this school will be open to the participation of women across our neighbouring Mediterranean countries and the Gulf.
· With the help of an International Board, the Committee will also work in view of EXPO 2015 in Milan. Women will have a very special role in the EXPO 2015, whose theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. The issue is closely related to the role of women: they are the first source of nourishment and face major challenges regarding nutrition and food security. The involvement of women will be a key element to properly develop this theme and we are working to include “women” in the mainstream of the EXPO.
· The 2015 EXPO will be an innovative one, not a traditional XIX century World Exposition. We have a great team, who is doing an excellent job. With this in mind, I strongly invite you to consider organizing your next WIL Biannual meeting in 2015 in Milan, during the EXPO 2015.