Italy vs gender equality – Part two

Percentage of women in top decision-making position

Both in the public and in the private sector, the percentage was extremely low until some improvements in policies, during recent years. One of the most important was established in 2013. It introduced mandatory quotas in the boards of companies listed in the Stock Exchange and in companies owned by the public administration.

In the Italian parliament there are no mandatory gender quotas. Women make up half of the present cabinet (in office since 22 February 2014) composed by only 16 ministers, but they are the minority in the whole government if deputy ministers are also counted (9 women out of 44). However some quotas are promoted at the local level, where both sexes must be represented within regional governments. According to the law 215 issued in 2012, electoral lists cannot have more than 2/3 of men or women in the elections for municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants. For municipalities with more than 15,000 inhabitants, the law calls for the exclusion of the list from the electoral competition if the gender quota is not respected. Furthermore, voters are allowed to express up to two preferences provided that they choose candidates of two different sexes or the second preference is invalid.

Gender equality machinery

The lack of efficient institutional mechanisms for promoting, enacting and monitoring legislation on gender equality in Italy has always been a problem. A satisfactorily solution has never been adopted at the national level of central government, despite the wide spectrum of solutions introduced over years.

In 1997 the Department for Equal Opportunities (MPO) was established. Its field is gender equality and this Department is part of the office of the Prime Minister. It has been headed by Ministers without portfolio specifically appointed for this task, by Ministers who held other important offices at the same time (Labour, Welfare), or high government officials (sottosegretario), as in the present cabinet. However, its tasks have always been impaired by inefficient resources, short terms of office(9 minister in 18 years ) and in some cases lack of experience in gender issues. Another problem is the personal interpretation of the topic of gender (in)equality.

Furthermore, Law 198, established in 2006, created a National Commission for equality of men and women. Composed of 26 members representing women’s organizations and civil society organizations, it collaborates with the Minister, although not much publicity is given to its activities.

At the local level, Equal Opportunity Commissions (CPOs) were active in each institution of the public sector since 1988 (regional, provincial, municipal administrations, universities, local units of the national health system, etc.). Their performance is extremely diverse. Some confine themselves to dealing with minor problems of the staff while others are active in promoting gender equality in society at large. The CPOs have recently been transformed (by Law 183/2010) into CUGs (Unified Committee for the rights of the employees), which combine the former commissions for gender equality with the committees for protection against mobbing.

Equality Advisors were created in 1991 at the regional and provincial level to deal withcases of employment discrimination. They have been coordinated in a network headed by a National Equality Advisor since 2006.They cooperate with employment offices and equality bodies to monitor the concrete implementation of equal opportunity principles and can stand in court next to the victims of gender discrimination. In this case, too, there are considerable discrepancies in performance.


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