An italian article and a discussion about local cultures in Europe

this discussion took place on the discussion list of EWM and we thought it was so interesting that we wanted to insert it in our forum discussion on the new website

It started with an invitation to have a look at an article

and here the discussion goes

dear all, I guess English is a lingua franca.
So the paper was about woman, Maria Cannata 57, Master in Math
with a thesis on stochastic processes,
today in charge ...of the Italian Public Debt.

She has had a career at the Minister of Treasury.
As often in very difficult moments,
some realize the right man for the job is a woman.
The article says she is competent and *imaginative* about
State financial products (to counteract Finance and
financial markets).

some news about Foundation Marisa Bellisario:

a Foundation for women entrepreneurs, that among other
thigs, keeps an archive of excellent curricula of women
fit for high jobs in the public administration.

you have to clock either Italian or English.
It is funny the quite different photo they have on the Italian
and on the English home page. Cultural differences? ..:)
I like the Italian one, but would have definitely made it much
less titillating to a male taste:)
(would have been sufficient to lower the large bag)

Love, Laura Tedeschini


Dear Laura, 

Thanks very much for the link. I thought the different photographs were quite interesting. The Italian version is not exactly what I would have expected to see on a website promoting gender equality! I mean, really, a headless woman  with her skirt split all the way up to her thighs? Come on!


Sara Munday

oh, well, do not forget where it comes from.
Evidently we do not think of this woman as headless,
but an impersonal generic woman.

The slit is a bit high. The fact is that this image caters
to women, and we do dress up for other women too, here.

We do not particularly think there is only one look.
Look at Cannata's photo, and you will see your standard,
cheerful, dependable mathematician.
Love and solidarity in many disguises,


Dear All.

Here is what I wrote to Laura about this before seeing Saras response - moderated a bit. I think these things have a lot to do with culture as Laura says.

Lisbeth Fajstrup

Dear Laura.

I prefer the Italian picture as well - she does have nice legs I am sure the cultural differences are part of this. I still remember the EWM-conference in Kloster Loccum, where an Italian woman gave a talk. In high heels, "netted" stockings and all in all "dressed to kill" including make up. I loved it.
I am very much used to that women have to "play it down" if we want to be taken seriously. So it was very refreshing to see that she would dress up for us, an all female audience. And I had the impression, that you can do that in Italy without anyone thinking that it means you are stupid. Is that true?
On the other hand, I also like to be able to relax and not care. So I am not sure where the balance is.

best wishes


dear all, I am sitting at my desk with a young colleague,
we discussed it, here is our view:
Of course also in Italy it can go that if you dress "to kill"
some will not take you seriously. But they will listen to you
and make up their minds.

Attached you will find two more Italian women at the top
of male posts in difficult times:
Emma Marcegaglia, president of Confindustria
Susanna Camusso, Secretary general CGIL (the largest, left wing Union)
the two of them together, as they represent the two counterparts
in all labor conflicts.
Very feminine, both.

ciao, Laura and Paola

Dear Lisbeth,

I was in Loccum, I gave a talk and I am used to be in high heels. But I do not think your refer to me for age limit. 

This is an interesting discussion. As I understand you mean that looking for and catching a right dress-care balance is always difficult.

Yes, it is difficult. No, you can't  "do that in Italy without anyone thinking that it means you are stupid" or at least in the past and in scientific communities.

Still the risk always exists but I think it is a bit "european".  Men or men-like dressing women is the best even for the colors. Are americans a bit different? I think yes.

Laura showed Marcegaglia and Camusso, the first is high-position rich with diamond (seeming)  jewels at  common people meetings and the second one looks very simple, most in trousers.

I think they are special examples.

Interesting to go ahead in this discussion


Rosa Maria Spitaleri

Dear Rosa-Maria.

Yes, I am referring to you :-) I just wasn't sure, you wanted to be mentioned by name. I remember you as looking really great. You even said it in Loccum, that we should also dress up for each other - we did talk about it.

Best wishes

Dear Lisbeth,

I am very glad you remember me, in such a "great" looking, and our conversation, I remember too with pleasure our meeting and exchange.

I recently had a discussion about that with ladies friend of mine. 

They expressed very severe judgement about young women, in that case lawyers, who were used to dress "to kill men" at work,  even if very expert and professional.

We had in our Parliament   Honorable Women Members who suddenly updated their looking at the new position but not their believing and soul.

Thus confusions, mistakes are possible and balance is difficult to find out. Local, national rules are strong, and even hidden, and change ways is very hard.

What shall women do? I think speaking and writing about that are fundamental. 

Studies about the use of women body are getting more numerous, interesting and useful also in Italy.

Looking forward to meet you again

best regards Rosa Maria

Dear all,

Perhaps I reacted too hastily, sorry for that. I should remember that cultural differences do play a part here. I was just a bit shocked to see such a typical, advertisement-like potrayal of a woman, if that makes any sense.


Dear Sara.

I understand your reaction - the discussion in Loccum was quite an eyeopener for me. As Laura says, the slit is quite high, and I am also very much against "objectification" of women. Looking at the picture again, I see a woman climbing the ladder of a career. In high heels and perhaps even pregnant (or is that her jacket).

I really like the idea that we can be women the way we want to. Dress up or not. High heels or my beloved Teva-sandals. Without worrying that it may be taken the wrong way. But how much and how little it takes to be "too much" depends on what is "usual". I think the differences between northern and southern European dress code is true for men as well. It is very much culture.


Dear All.
Ursula Martin tried to send the following to the list, but it was rejected. So I am resending it for her:


Can I recommend Athene Donald's blog for ongoing discussions of such issues "