October 22 might have been the most important day of 2022 for Italy. A target was reached and no one was sure this was possible. After years and years of male-dominated governments, Giorgia Meloni has become the first female prime minister in Italy. But how did this happen and what does this mean?
The path wasn’t easy. From the birth of the Republic, Italy waited through 30 single-gender governments, and almost 30 years, before having the first female minister. From 1994 to today, the percentage of female representatives in governments has undoubtedly increased, but with varying and unsteady trends. In 2013 a record was reached: 7 women out of 20 members, for a percentage of 35%. Despite the progress, it’s clear that gender equality was and is still undoubtedly distant. But on October 22 of this year, there was a fundamental turning point: Italy is now ruled by a woman, the first female prime minister.
Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that Italy has reached this milestone late compared to many countries. From the end of the 1960s to today, worldwide, around 80 women have become presidents and prime ministers. From Germany, where Angela Merkel was Chancellor for fifteen years (from 2005 to 2021), to Finland, with the election of Sanna Marin, the youngest prime minister in the world at only 34, women who hold the role of head of state or government are getting more numerous.
Nonetheless, on a global scale, currently, out of about 200 countries, only 20 are led by female heads of state, but Europe has 30% of female ministers against 19% worldwide.
But how do women in power influence a country? According to research done in 2018 by the Pew Research Center, 61% of the interviewed believe that female political leaders do a better job at being compassionate and 42% say women in high political offices are better at finding compromises than their male counterparts, while only 8% think men are better. Overall, women in politics prioritize the environment, education and social policies.
But this is not just a set of clichés or a simple form of simplification. Statistics show that during the pandemic if, on one hand, women all over the world lost their jobs at nearly twice the rate of men, increased their time spent on unpaid household work and childcare, and experienced violence at home more than pre-pandemic, on the other women as heads of state proved their competence.
Countries led by female politicians in these harsh times, such as Denmark and Finland have been internationally recognized for the effectiveness of their response to the pandemic: they were proactive in responding to the threat of the virus, by implementing social distancing restrictions early, seeking expert advice to inform about health strategies, and unifying the country with a comprehensive response and transparent communication.
On top of all, while we observe how a woman will tackle complex post-pandemic issues and the Ukrainian crisis, having a female politician as leader of any country gives us one certainty: females will have a voice, their needs will be listened to and satisfied more easily than before. They will not be simply neglected as they have been for thousands of years. On the contrary, they could finally be prioritized. This means that for young teenagers like me there’s hope: the hope that, when we will grow up and start our careers, there will be more equality and more opportunities for us.