Women leaders in Europe: the election of Giorgia Meloni as Italian Prime Minister

Culture - November 2, 2022

It is 2022 the year that will be marked in the history books as the one in which, for the first time, the Bel Paese will have seen the election of a woman as Prime Minister: Giorgia Meloni. “A great responsibility,” as the PM herself wished to share during her keynote address to the Chamber of Deputies on October 25. Institutional yes, but also emotional; Meloni did not just go to wear a new political garment, she also laid the groundwork so that in the future we can think of her term as that of the first Italian woman Prime Minister who has been able with professionalism and pride to hold her own in a very complicated historical period for Italy. Yes, a great responsibility. However, the Premier’s commitment over the past two decades suggests that she does not lack strength and resilience; qualities that are essential to emerge from yet another crisis and to manage international relations with awareness.


The future is built on history


During the speech, Meloni also mentioned and thanked all those women who laid the “foundation stone,” those who “granted” her the daily struggle to get to sit among the highest offices of the state. It was a long list recited with passion; for a moment, it seemed that Giorgia Meloni was alone with “her women,” that everyone around her had disappeared to leave room for the weight of the figures passed in review.

Among the many burdens that I feel weighing on my shoulders today, there cannot but be that of being the first woman to head the government in this nation,” said the Premier and then went on a journey of words about women who “dared, by impetus, by reason, or by love. Like Cristina (Trivulzio di Belgioioso), elegant organizer of salons and barricades. Or like Rosalie (Montmasson), stubborn enough to leave with the Thousand who made Italy. Like Alfonsina (Strada) who pedaled strong against the winds of prejudice. Like Maria (Montessori) or Grazia (Deledda) who by their example opened wide the gates of education to girls all over the country. And then Tina (Anselmi), Nilde (Jotti), Rita (Levi Montalcini), Oriana (Fallaci), Ilaria (Alpi), Mariagrazia (Cutuli), Fabiola (Giannotti), Marta (Cartabia), Elisabetta (Casellati), Samantha (Cristoforetti), Chiara (Corbella Petrillo). Thank you! Thank you for demonstrating the value of Italian women, as I hope to be able to do as well.“. A long round of applause accompanied the heartfelt thanks and the hope that we will succeed in our goal.


This election, beyond its symbolic significance, actually represents a huge breakthrough on a national and international level. Inclusion and equal opportunity are, among other things, a point on which the new government intends to take concrete action. All of the women Meloni mentioned have made significant changes; what is left of them is not representation, but a stern, important, indisputable legacy on the level of practicality. There is more: each of them moved in different spheres and environments, another non-random element on which the PM’s attestation of esteem rests. From the world of education to that of publishing, via institutions and science: a parterre of names that history will not forget.


Giorgia Meloni thinks big, but with humility: this is what emerged from the speech. On the other hand, a leader, regardless of gender, must be able to stand up to difficulties with strength, never forgetting the starting point. A challenge, certainly, a heavy burden, but also the engine that drives those who lead a nation. And the other women in Europe who have been able to juggle and hold top positions in the political landscape also attest to this.


Women and Europe: policy narrows gender gap, but there are still many steps to be taken


Before Giorgia Meloni was elected, Nilde Iotti, Irene Pivetti, and Laura Boldrini had served as president of the Chamber of Deputies, while Elisabetta Alberti Casellati was the only woman president of the Senate of the Republic. In the rest of Europe, however, a wave had already started, and long ago, a gender shift ready to break down “the glass ceiling”


Consider England. Premier Liz Truss, already resigned, went into the leadership role after Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher.


In Finland, Sanna Marin broke another taboo: not only is she a woman leader but she is also the youngest person to assume the title, at only 34 years old.

Danish Prime Minister Matte Frederiksen has been in office since 2019, while in Lithuania, Ingrida Šimonytė heads the government.


The list does not end there: since 2017 Katrín Jakobsdóttir has led the Icelandic government, and in Estonia Kaja Kallas has held the post since last year, as have Magdalena Andersson in Sweden and Elisabeth Borne in France.


Not forgetting Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament, and Christine Lagarde, number one at the European Central Bank.


This information is not intended to be a manifesto, but a warning: the change taking place knows no ideologies or parties; women and men can and must share the same political space. A warning, it said, for girls and young women who aspire to bring their voices to institutional buildings by assuming the highest office.


Speaking of women and the gender gap…


Taking a step back and returning to the speech delivered in the House by Giorgia Meloni, we report another passage concerning women and gender inequality. The PM spoke about the family, highlighting how the policies adopted so far have not achieved acceptable results. Meloni also added that it is time to put an end to the demographic winter that, for some time now, has characterized birth rates in Italy.

To get out of the demographic glaciation and return to producing those years of the future, that demographic GDP we need,” he explained, “we need a massive plan, economic but also cultural, to rediscover the beauty of parenthood and put the family back at the center of society. It is then a commitment of ours, also made in the election campaign, to increase the amounts of the single and universal allowance and to help young couples obtain a mortgage for their first home, working progressively for the introduction of the family quotient. And since family projects go hand in hand with work, we want to incentivize women’s employment in every way”, yes, women’s employment. Indeed, accessibility to the labor market is hindered to a large extent precisely by parenthood; many women often find themselves forced to choose between a career and being a mother. In that sense, the words spoken by the president have already been heard over time-it is the numbers, objective data, that determine the critical issues and disparities related to the world of work-what is innovative, however, is that for the first time it is a woman leader who is speaking them, from that microphone, in that space. This part of the speech was also greeted by thunderous applause; a sign of how much the new executive believes in the leader’s intentions and abilities. No hesitation: in more than an hour of speech, an unstoppable stream of thanks, goals, strategies and dreams.

Meloni boasts another “record”: the very rapid formation – in just 27 days – of the new government, a “duty to the Italians: the very difficult contingency in which we find ourselves does not allow us to hesitate or waste time. And we will not.”

The “glass ceiling” has collapsed, Italy goes through change and does so in the sign of Giorgia Meloni.