“The cooperative is the form of enterprise which has the greatest number of women in top level positions”, states the President of Confcooperative, Maurizio Gardini. The figures collected by the Confederation of Italian Cooperatives speak for themselves: 23.6% compared to 16% in limited liability companies.

These figures are as high as 26% if we include positions of responsibility in the management and control of the cooperative. Between 2005 and 2014, the percentage of women members in the companies which are members of Confcooperative increased from 37% to 41%, whilst the percentage of women employed in these companies increased from 57% to 61%. “These figures are the reflection of the cooperatives’ specific commitment to the construction of a change to be achieved through the pursuit of emancipation, growth and development, which is designed to establish a truly integrated society. If cooperatives are successful in creating progress and jobs, even in this crisis period, we believe that they can also foster a new perspective for the participation of women which favours its promotion in other sectors,” adds Gardini.

However there is still a long way to go. “The removal of the factors which prevent women from entering the world of work is, first and foremost, an ethical challenge faced by the whole of civilisation, rather than a challenge related to the market, corporate culture or the establishment of new paradigms of development.” Over the last ten years, the employment of women has increased by 0.9% in Italy, which places the county at the bottom of the league table in the European Union, with only Malta below it.

One in four women, in other words two million potential women workers (according to Istat), are not even looking for work. This is due to familiar reasons, such as the lack of care services for children or for the elderly. The employment rate for mothers in Italy is 54%, whilst the OECD average is 66%. Gardini concludes that “there is a clearly a need to encourage policies which promote a good work-life balance.”