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Gender gap, diversity and inclusion in work in Italy and around the world.

The experience of Doctors Without Borders
07/03/2023 Divulgatory Research Download PDF

The contradictions of women’s employment in Italy: 58.7% of new graduates are women, +20% CEOs, 200 thousand in the Third Sector, but only one in two women work

  •  Research conducted in collaboration between Rome Business School and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) analyzes the situation of women and work in Italy and possible solutions for closing the gender gap.
  • In Italy, one in two women work, earn less than their male counterparts and choose part-time contracts to a greater extent (49 percent of cases against 26.2 percent men), despite being more educated (58.7 percent of new graduates are women).
  • The 40 million allocated by the NRP for women’s employment should focus on developing policies to support women’s leadership, motherhood, in equal pay and work-life balance.
  • Giving more growth opportunities to women is the key to improving the economy (+ 10 million jobs and 75 percent economic growth globally).
  • Women are the protagonists of the Third Sector in Italy: compared to about ninety thousand men, there are about 200 thousand, and their presence is indispensable, as MSF demonstrates with its work in Afghanistan, where it is mainly women who care for other women.

One in two women in Italy does not work, earns one euro less than a man and holds only 32 percent of leadership positions. Although today for the first time in our history there is a woman as president of the council, of the Supreme Court and at the head of historic parties such as the PD, Italy is still far behind other European countries in female employability (50.2 percent vs. a European average of 62.7 percent).

This is what emerges from Rome Business School’s research, “Gender gap, diversity and inclusion in employment in Italy and the world. The experience of Doctors Without Borders,” developed by Maria Luisa Garofalo, Talent Acquisition & Development Coordinator Doctors Without Borders Italy and Valerio Mancini, Director of the RBS Research Center.

The researchers analyzed how in Italy there are more female graduates (58.7 percent) compared to 41.3 percent of men, but that once they enter the labor market, they do so to a greater extent the part-time mode: 49 percent compared to 26.2 percent for men (Inapp, 2022), still demonstrating the difficulties they face: stereotypes, discrimination and the difficulty of reconciling work and personal life, particularly after the covid-19 experience.

In fact, it was covid that completely revolutionized the world of work today: remote work and the use of artificial intelligence in automation continue to grow. A lot of research is needed to develop this technology, particularly in science and technology subjects. In Italy, 24.9 percent of college graduates (aged 25 to 34) have a STEM degree, but the gender gap is very marked: the share rises to 36.8 percent among men (more than one in three graduates) and falls to 17 percent among women (one in six graduates). Alarming then are also the data regarding the most in-demand digital professions of 2022, which include robotics engineer, data scientist and cloud architect, but in our country only 12 percent of cloud computing professionals are women, and they account for 15 percent of data analysts and 26 percent of artificial intelligence professionals (Rome Business School, ER 2022).

According to the E-Work Observatory (2018), female Italian workers have an average salary 27.8 percent lower than their male colleagues, with an hourly wage of 15.2 euros compared to 16.2 euros for men (Istat, 2022). Moreover, in the Mezzogiorno, only one-third of women between the ages of 15 and 64 are employed, and the World Economic Forum (2021) puts Italy in third place, only after Greece and Costa Rica, in the unemployment rankings for young women.

Women as the key to economic recovery

Giving women more opportunities to work not only supports their empowerment but also strongly affects the world economy. There are multiple institutions that affirm this: for the Harvard Business Review (2022) a gender balance would enable $28 trillion of global GDP by 2025; for the European Institute for Gender Equality (2022) an increased focus on gender equality could an increase, globally, of 10 million new jobs more sustainable economic growth estimated at 75 percent; according to the European Institute for Gender Equality, greater gender equality would lead to an increase in GDP per capita in the European Union from 6.1 percent to 9.6 percent by 2050; and the International Monetary Fund adds that making use of women in strategic positions would enable the economy to grow by 35 percent globally.

Italy is growing in the number of women at the top: last year, CEO positions held by women increased from 18 percent to 20 percent (Women in Business 2022), although there was a global decrease in women CEOs (-2 percent). However, the gap remains high: our country ranks 63rd in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, where Iceland, Finland and Norway are at the top, with a pay gap that stands at around 5.6 percent.

The importance of women workers: the work of Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan

In Italy, Médecins Sans Frontières has set specific goals in EDI issues: to develop a more inclusive and aware culture; to define and implement policies and procedures aimed at preventing discrimination or injustice; and to further increase ethnic-cultural diversity at all levels of the organization, focusing especially on training, sharing, and mobility. Today, MSF Italy presents a Management Team composed of more than 50 percent female figures, and at its head, as president, is Dr. Monica Minardi.

Women are the protagonists of the Third Sector in Italy: compared to about ninety thousand men, there are about two hundred thousand. MSF recognizes their essential contribution especially in missions, particularly in countries where MSF could not work if not through the employment of female staff.

“They are an indispensable resource without whom the Organization could not reach some types of patients, including women and children. The perspectives and experiences women bring are invaluable in addressing the complex challenges that arise in contexts of war, crisis or natural disasters,” says Maria Luisa Garofalo.

One example of how women’s involvement is crucial for MSF is their work in Afghanistan, where for cultural and religious reasons it is very difficult to allow the doctor-patient relationship between individuals of different sexes. In its 7 projects on Afghan soil, MSF provides health care covering areas ranging from gynecology, pediatrics, emergency and vaccination, employing a medical team of 51 percent women. Their presence is essential because, particularly since the Taliban’s return to power, Afghan women are forced to be treated only by other women. The absence of female staff in MSF’s team would leave women completely excluded from access to the care offered by the Organization.

Not only that, the current requirement for Afghan women to go out accompanied by a male relative to escort them limits their ability to reach a hospital when no male relative is available to accompany them, or when a trip, already difficult for a single person to sustain, becomes unaffordable to sustain financially. This is compounded by the ban that prevents girls from attending high school and college, participating in social life and working with NGOs, leaving Afghan women increasingly isolated and vulnerable.

Toward closing the gender gap

The authors state that “policies need to be implemented to support women’s leadership, equal pay, work flexibility, maternity support, smartworking, ensure work-life balance, and actively involve them in decision-making processes without discrimination or segregation,” making use first and foremost of the 40 million allocated by the NRP for women’s employment. It is necessary “to make room for women in the top echelons of business, close the hiring gap in newly emerging professions, and develop a strategy by companies aimed at inclusion and supported by specific action plans that put women at the center, enhancing their professionalism and ensuring their equal treatment in both career and salary spheres,” they conclude.

Moreover, it is evident from what they report with the experience of Doctors Without Borders how EDI issues are of global interest and application, but how they nevertheless take on different meanings and characterizations depending on the contexts. Their work demonstrates how the support and inclusion of women in the third sector is critical to ensuring an effective humanitarian response itself.

“Women bring unique skills and perspectives and are often the only ones who can fulfill certain roles,” says MSF’s Maria Luisa Garofalo. “There is a great need to work to eliminate gender discrimination and violence, promote women’s education and career development, and provide support for women’s leadership initiatives.”