In Italy, women are increasingly finding their own place in the job market. As the Sole 24 Ore reported, female employment reached 48.8% in June 2017, the highest figure since ISTAT started recording this information. Even so, according to the latest data published on the 30% Club Italian Chapter website, whose aim is to promote a greater participation of women in leadership, men still occupy the majority of the middle-top management positions.
Nowadays, women account for 10% of CEOs in companies below a €50m turnover, while the figure falls to 4% in companies above a €200m turnover.
Good news from the stock-listed companies and those with government participation, where the quota is approaching the 30% aimed at by the Club.

We had the chance to discuss the topic with Odile Robotti, member of the Steering Committee of the Italian Chapter of the 30% Club.

Can you please introduce yourself and the 30% Club?

Besides managing Learning Edge and teaching at Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, I promote two social goals that I am very passionate about: gender balancing in leadership and governance and inclusion, particularly regarding gender and age, in organizations and in society.

My interest in promoting women led me to the 30% Club, a group of Chairs and CEOs who are committed to better gender balance at all levels of their organizations. I immediately liked the initiative for various reasons. Firstly, because I believe that the commitment of top leaders is essential for the promotion of gender balance in leadership. A lot can be achieved with training and women’s networks and initiatives, but leadership has to change from within. Secondly, because of its quantified and time-based goal (30% of women in leadership and on boards by 2020). Thirdly, because members join individually, which I think guarantees deeper commitment.

In 2015 I started the Italian chapter of the 30% Club and now we have almost 90 members. Amongst the various activities of the 30% Club Italy, we promote scholarships for women MBAs. This is because the MBA is a typical path to leadership in which women are still under-represented. Another problem with women MBAs is that their career progress is, on average, slower even after the MBA. It’s as if women profited less from their MBA then men….of course we know this has nothing to do with the value of women or their capabilities. It has to do with their difficulty in navigating the work environment, understanding unwritten rules, finding sponsors, getting into leadership networks… This is why our joint scholarship with MIP comes with a mentor….

30% Club & MIP: can you explain the value of this project?

The 30% Club collaborates with the top European Business schools in promoting women’s presence and success in MBA courses. So it was important for us to have MIP as a partner here in Italy. Beyond helping two women with a scholarship and mentor, which is in itself very important, I think the scholarships send a clear message to women. The message is that we want them to take the chance and give it a try. We think that the scholarships can encourage more women to apply. Sometimes it’s just getting the application in where we are stopped.

 Can you present the benefits for the students?

The scholarship helps by reducing the cost of tuition, which can be a material and psychological barrier. The support of a mentor who is a senior leader (C-level executive or CEO or Chair) helps by preparing the women for a successful career. The mentors, carefully chosen to match the winners’ industry, background and interests, follow them through the MBA with advice and tips. Typically, they will meet every 3-4 weeks to discuss aspirations, career options and development needs. This is very useful in securing the right job and in succeeding once back to work.

For many students, an MBA represents a lunchpad for their career. That is why MIP, in collaboration with the 30% Club, supports the participation of women in its programs, offering two partial scholarships of 30% to International Flex EMBA candidates.