Guarini Institute for Public Affairs Presents Discussion on Gender Equality

On July 12, John Cabot University’s Guarini Institute for Public Affairs presented “Gender Equality – Views on Italy and the US,” a discussion with Rossella Canevari and Anna Di Lellio, moderated by journalist Patrizia Feletig. The speakers described their experiences with gender-responsive policies in Italy and the United States and the current outlook for gender equality.

Rossella Canevari holds a degree in Lettere Moderne from the Università Statale di Milano. She is President of Eatart, a non-profit association that since 2010 has been promoting Italian talent at an international level and is active in the field of female empowerment and gender issues. She also works in communications and is a journalist and novelist. To date she has published five books of fiction, all of which deal with very delicate and controversial issues related to the world of women. Anna Di Lellio is a lecturer at The Graduate Program in International Relations at New York University, as well as an author, editor, and film producer. She also co-founded the Kosovo Oral History Initiative and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Merits by the President of the Republic of Kosovo.

Gender Equality - Views on Italy and the US. From left: Patrizia Feletig, Anna Di Lellio, and Rossella Canevari.

Gender Equality – Views on Italy and the US. From left: Patrizia Feletig, Anna Di Lellio, and Rossella Canevari.

In regard to her time working in the US and Italy, Canevari said that she had a great experience and “never felt like the main characters of her books,” which were often women facing harassment and inequality in the workplace. She believes that consciousness on the importance of gender equality is growing and, now more than ever, women have greater power to create real change.

Di Lellio emphasized the importance of context in our experiences as she described her professional background. Having joined the workforce much earlier than Canevari, her experience was through the lens of a different generation. In the 1980s, she moved to the United States, and her experience there contrasted greatly to that of Italy. As a student, she felt more independent and respected by her professors. Additionally, it was not until seeing the Anita Hill harassment case on television, that she realized that she had previously experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

Di Lellio also highlighted the importance of context in data. Italy was ranked 63rd in the 2021 Global Gender Gap Index, while Rwanda was ranked 7th despite having a high femicide rate. The rankings had been largely determined based on the number of women holding positions of political power, and without this context, the index showed a misrepresentation of the actual level of gender equality within the countries.  

Feletig then introduced a topic currently at the forefront of gender equality debates – the United States Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and revoke federal protection of the right to have an abortion. Both Canevari and Di Lellio agreed that this decision opened the door for politicians to continue to strip the rights of women. They emphasized that, because abortion only involves female bodies, it should not be a matter decided by the government. Additionally, the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is one that disproportionately impacts women who are already disadvantaged. In comparison, the right to an abortion continues to be federally protected in Italy. However, the clause of conscientious objection in Law 194 allows doctors to choose whether they are willing to perform abortions, and much like in the United States, this impacts disadvantaged women significantly more than those that can afford to travel to find an alternative doctor to perform the service. 

While gender inequality is often centered around women, men and the LGBTQ+ community also face gender discrimination. Canevari and Di Lellio emphasized the importance of intersectional feminism as this approach considers not only inequality toward women, but all forms of inequality and how they interact. Gender equality is equivalent to human equality, and one must defend the rights of everyone to see change for themselves as well.