Leadership in heels

On October 20, author, blogger and international education specialist Sasha Perugini gave a talk at the Chalet Fontana about being a boss "in heels". She also happens to be my boss. (Yes, I am that lucky.)

Nicoletta Arbusti of the cultural association Consonanze invited Perugini to participate in their ongoing lecture series, Donne modello: imprenditoria e creativita' al femminile (Women role models: female entrepreneurship and creativity). She was joined by Alessandra Toni of InformaGiovani to present Sportello InformaDonna - an exciting initiative launching this month to provide a wide range of services to women in Florence. I was thrilled to hear about it and hope it truly gets off the ground, unlike so many other well-intentioned progressive projects in this city. 

Perugini started by asking the audience (including 4 men out of about 25) on a scale of one to ten where we think we are in terms of the gender gap in Italy, with ten as perfectly equal. I was thinking about 4 or 5, but it's really more like 2 or 3, as she then demonstrated with some graphs presented at the EUI's State of the Union conference on Women in Europe and the World last May. Interestingly, the men estimated the gender gap much more realistically than the women did. 

Women in Europe and the World conference in May 2016 at the gorgeous EUI in Fiesole.

Women in Europe and the World conference in May 2016 at the gorgeous EUI in Fiesole.

While she is also a boss who can in fact appreciate heels, just like apparently most women leaders in Italy, Perugini explained she had thrown out the word tacchi to be provocative and spark a dialogue, which is exactly what she did. The conversation was fantastic, ranging from a heated nature-nurture debate about biological differences (one of the few I'm pretty black and white about: overwhelmingly on the nurture side. I mean, come on); to Hillary (of course); to a sense of: this is happening, we will reach parity, it's just a matter of time; to the difference between provoking a response for how you dress and inviting rape. 

In response to Toni explaining that InformaDonna wants to give work-life balance advice to mothers, Perugini said she hopes we can start offering men such lessons too. A woman lawyer in the audience expressed perplexity over her four year old daughter's refusal to wear blue because it's a boy's colour. Everyone seemed to agree it came from school and the media but no one knew exactly what to do about it. Another lawyer was exasperated over always being referred to as Signora on the court steps or assumed to be a secretary, especially considering most of the lawyers in Florence are women (all the ones I know certainly are). 

It was so invigourating to be part of this public conversation, and to learn about Consonanze's lecture series on inspiring women and the InformaDonna project. I'm definitely looking forward to more like it.