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In Italy the most important reform is bottom-up

Ils prétendent avoir aussi la tête mieux organisée, et, en conséquence, ils se vantent d’être plus capables de gouverner; mais je leur montrerai des reines qui valent bien des rois.” Voltaire, “Femmes, soyez soumises à vos maris”, in Mélanges, pamphlets et œuvres polémiques, 1759-1768.

Now Italy may need many reforms. But most of them, if implemented during this current recession, will divide further the country in its weakest moment and will backfire. Better to wait for better times. Some reforms, however, don’t need to wait: they push forward this country. To this category belong the changes for society that women across Italy are asking Voicing their convictions.

Yesterday Piazza del Popolo in Rome, one of the most beautiful squares in the world, was bursting in excitement for thousands of women gathered to ask to be listened to and given responsibility (organized by the movement Se Non Ora Quando, ”if not now, when?”) . And they will, if they continue in expanding their movement and networking among them.

Because networking is the way to go, say Stefano Gagliarducci and Daniele Paserman who published their paper “Gender Interactions within Hierarchies: Evidence from the Political Arena” in the prestigious journal Review of Economic Studies. Like Voltaire during his times, but supported by novel data on Italian municipalities’ composition of local Councils, they argue that changes at the top of the hierarchy of organizations, strategic for larger changes in society regarding women empowerment in economics and politics, is slowed down by the presence of male networks and the absence of female networks.

Here are some of their results: “We find that in municipalities headed by female mayors, the probability of early termination of the legislature is higher. The likelihood that a female mayor survives until the end of her term is lowest when the council is entirely male, and in regions with less favorable attitudes towards working women. The results show quite clearly that a higher proportion of women in the council is associated with a lower probability of early termination. A 10 point increase in the percentage of women in the council (roughly a one standard deviation increase) reduces the probability of early termination by 0.6 percentage points. This evidence is suggestive that group dynamics are an important factor in driving the gender difference. Our results may provide an alternative explanation for the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions.”

When women do reunite, whether within the board of a company or a City Council, when they forge alliances within their ranks, the final result is victory. For all of us, for the country.

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