Working Women in Italy: Opportunities, Challenges, Achievements

JCU President Franco Pavoncello , Helen Romana Viola (left) and Oria Gargano (right) at the Working Women in Italy event

JCU President Franco Pavoncello , Helen Romana Viola (left) and Oria Gargano (right) at the Working Women in Italy event

On September 17 John Cabot University and the Casa Internazionale delle Donne hosted a panel discussion on the opportunities, challenges, and achievements faced by working women in Italy.

The event was sponsored by the Guarini Institute for Public Affairs, JCU Student Government, the Ipazia club, JCU Community Service Program, and JCU Women’s Leadership Initiative.

JCU was honored to hold this event at the Casa Internazionale delle Donne, (International Women’s House), a historic center for women’s rights in Rome. The Casa is home to over forty associations that provide a wealth of services to empower women, ranging from cultural activities to health care, as well as legal and psychological counseling to victims of violence.

JCU President Franco Pavoncello introduced the two speakers, Oria Gargano, President of the BeFree Association and Helen Romana Viola, journalist for Radio Rai, who shared their experiences in the male-dominated working world of Italy.

Ms. Gargano illustrated the new program that she and Ms.Viola started at Casa Internazionale delle Donne, “Be Free from Violence,” to raise money in support of women who have been victims of oppression.

Ms. Gargano explained that their mission at Casa Internazionale delle Donne is “to explain to battered women that they don’t have to be ashamed.” She stated that over 3,000 women a year being helped by this organization and she stressed the importance of continuing the efforts to support women by funding this new campaign. She explained that violence against women is “old and deep” in many parts of the world, and that in 2013, 173 women were killed in domestic violence cases in Italy.

Gargano and Viola will be hosting various fundraising events in the upcoming months here in Rome, including a photo exhibition followed by an auction of the photos. All of the proceeds will go towards financing the “Be Free from Violence” program.

After Ms. Gargano’s speech, Radio Rai journalist Helen Romana Viola described the roles of working women in Italy. As a female journalist with many years of experience in both Italy and the US, Ms. Viola addressed the change in women’s roles: female journalists were very few in the 1980s, yet today they make up about 70% of news rooms. Nonetheless, women hold very few positions of power in the media. “In Italy, we don’t have any Oprah Winfreys,” explained Viola.

Despite the struggles that women face in Italy’s working world, Gargano and Viola have both risen to very important positions. “It takes time,” says Viola, “you can’t expect things to change overnight: To fight for power in a male-dominated working market you need drive, perseverance and, most of all, patience.”
*JCU English Literature major