As the world struggles to recover from the devastation of the COVID pandemic, the Women’s Forum G20 Italy aims to ensure that gender equity in STEM and other fields is baked into the solutions.
By Sandra Guy, SWE Contributor
“Where are the women who will design … innovations so critical to our future?” This fundamental question, posed by Chiara Corazza, Ph.D., is key to the upcoming Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society. Dr. Corazza, the Women’s Forum special representative to both the G7 and G20, spoke to SWE Magazine in a videoconference interview from the forum’s headquarters in France.
The G7, or Group of Seven, is an intergovernmental political forum consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The G20, or Group of Twenty, comprises both these seven wealthiest democracies and other industrialized and developing nations. The Summit of the G20 Heads of State and Government will be held in Rome Oct. 30 and 31, 2021.
Prior to the summit, Dr. Corazza will lead the Women’s Forum G20 Italy conference in Milan Oct. 17-19, aimed at making concrete progress with the theme, “A She-covery for All.”
“This is our responsibility to see what will be done. Such important things cannot be fashionable or trendy; it needs to be deep.”
– Chiara Corazza, Ph.D., special representative to the G7 and G20 Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society
Recommendations from the forum will be discussed by G20 leaders and will address how Italy can reopen after the coronavirus pandemic, “envisioning women as key players in facing new global challenges, from inclusive technology, jobs of the future, ethical and responsible finance, to urgent issues such as climate change and access to health,” according to a press release.
The goal is “to put women at the center of decisions of economic, social, technological, and scientific knowledge where we can bring added value,” Dr. Corazza said.
Dr. Corazza used a pie to illustrate the aims of the Women’s Forum: “We don’t just want a piece, not even half. We want to put in the ingredients, to choose what [ingredients] you put in and the priorities. The pie will then be more tasty for both men and women.” She is quick to point out that, “It’s not [about] women wanting to take the place of men. It’s to be there in such a crucial moment because the world needs us.”
“By putting innovation in the foreground, we aim to highlight how inclusive innovation can add to the call for women’s leadership globally,” Dr. Corazza said. “Whether it is women in STEM, women fighting climate change, women designing cities of the future, or women behind improved mobility, we must place women where things are changing.”
As an example, Dr. Corazza mused, “Where are women in climate change? If you’re a company invested in energy, it’s a challenge to recruit, attract, and retain women.” Citing a Global STEM Workforce study by the World Economic Forum that shows women made up 15% of the global engineering workforce and 12% in cloud computing, she added, “We need to figure out how to convince young girls from ages 5, 12, 18, and 20 to go from school to the boardroom to make sure they can transform the world.”
The G7 and G20 as a catalyst toward a She-covery
Dr. Corazza has called G7 “the engine to drive the next phase of gender equality around the world.”
“The G7 is now more important than ever,” she said. “It is a stabilizing force and a collective demonstration of the value and power of building new connections. The advanced economies that are its members often lead the way in creating policy and sparking innovation beyond the bloc. By putting their combined weight and will behind gender equality, the G7 can act as a catalyst in closing the gender gap.”
Dr. Corazza also is hopeful that some of the heads of state in the G20 understand what “She-covery” means and that a paradigm change is needed.
“And that they understand the world cannot be as it was before the pandemic,” she said.
To make progress, the Women’s Forum G20 Italy will involve both governments and businesses, the latter including heavyweights such as computer giant Microsoft and Henkel, a German chemical company that owns Dial soap and All detergent, which have announced programs to ensure pay equity and get girls involved in STEM, respectively.
“The challenge of recruiting, hiring, and retaining women in STEM professions has to be taken jointly at the highest level by private and public stakeholders,” Dr. Corazza said. “It’s the only way to scale up what works. After seeing what works and what doesn’t, I concentrate on saying, ‘The right place is G7 and G20 [because] it’s a gathering of the best champions of private and public sectors.’”
The Women’s Forum G20 Italy also comes at a critical time to address the coronavirus pandemic’s outsized impact on women, Dr. Corazza said.
“We are at a turning point,” she said. “We cannot go back to the Middle Ages very easily. … It’s so important that, now, the big decisions are taking in [post-COVID] relaunch and recovery plans. The priorities should be feminine.”
Dr. Corazza’s zeal for getting results suffused her four years (2017-2021) as the managing director of the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, a Paris-based “do tank” — a takeoff of the term “think tank” — aimed at promoting women’s leadership and initiatives worldwide “on topics that concern the whole of humanity.”
Now is the time
Women’s outsized suffering from the pandemic adds to the urgent push for equity. More than half of the respondents to a G7 survey said they had suffered anxiety, depression, or burnout during the pandemic, and more than one-third said they felt no one was helping them, according to the “2021 Barometer,” a survey of 3,500 women and men throughout the G7 countries. The survey was conducted April 8-20  by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society.
A majority of single mothers, low-income women, and women with young children said they believe they’ll have difficulties recovering from the pandemic, the survey showed. A big part of their concern centered on gender stereotypes, which they see as “extremely widespread” and a barrier to bettering their situations.
Yet the respondents also said they believe giving women greater access to STEM professions would be beneficial in promoting economic growth and developing artificial intelligence tools and digital applications that are efficient and that benefit everyone, the survey found.
Five businesses participating in the forum have committed to boosting girls’ and women’s equity in STEM, adding to the sense that now is the time to push for equality. They include:
Microsoft: The computer giant is expanding its pay equity data to include its 10 largest employee sites outside of the United States.
Snam: The foundation of this energy infrastructure operator and one of Italy’s largest companies fosters an inclusive culture through initiatives that fight stereotypes and promote gender equality, and that encourage young women to undertake study courses in scientific and STEM subjects.
Generali: The Italian insurance company aims to increase the number of women in managerial positions to 38% by the end of 2021. To achieve these goals, it has launched two programs:
- Lioness Acceleration Program, an 18-month journey for female senior managers that is supported through mentoring and coaching and by a panel of international experts on leadership topics
- Elevate, a 12-week program for female managers including six webinars and two live sessions
Henkel: The “RicercaMondo” program aims to bring children closer to the world of science, encouraging them to learn in an easy and fun way. It was launched under the name of Forscherwelt (Researchers’ World) in 2011 in Düsseldorf. The study program includes teaching units for grades IV and V of first grade primary schools.
Gucci: The luxury Italian fashion house has committed:
- $2.5 million (USD) over the next five years to feminist organizations, groups, movements, and activists
- Developing and implementing a worldwide public awareness campaign calling for the global community to #ActForEqual, estimated at $15 million (USD) in pro bono media placements over the next five years
- Achieving gender pay parity for equivalent positions within the organization globally by 2025
In addition, Gucci’s global campaign for gender equality, CHIME FOR CHANGE, continues to mobilize support and resources for women-led movements and gender justice organizations reaching girls and women around the world. To date, CHIME FOR CHANGE has supported more than 442 projects with 162 nonprofit partners in 89 countries.
As for the forum’s recommendations and results, Dr. Corazza said, “This is our responsibility to see what will be done. Such important things cannot be fashionable or trendy; it needs to be deep.”