Renzi-Thor and the Breaking of the Glass Ceiling

In a previous post, I compared the new Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to Marvel's character Thor, but he reminded me of recalled the popular character before his week among the "mortals," rather than the leader he would become after that.

Good news: the difficult week Renzi spent assembling his government served him like Thor's week on Earth. Even better news, the new government represents the biggest break ever of the glass ceiling, in Italy and beyond. Very few countries have a 50-50 executive, equally formed by men and women: now Italy is one of them, instantly moving from the bottom to the top of the gender parity ranking. Moreover, women -- all between their 30s and their 50s -- now head some of the most relevant Ministries: Foreign Affairs, Defense, Economic Development, Health, Education, Institutional Reforms, Public Administration, Regional Affairs.

Renzi had a struggle with the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano over a few names, notably over the Foreign Minister, where Napolitano wanted the more seasoned Emma Bonino to be confirmed in her job. Renzi did not give in, claiming that "Italy is no longer a country where a skilled woman in her 40s cannot become Foreign Minister."

The argument is more powerful than it might seem at a first sight. In Italy, people in their 30s and 40s were until so far a "lost generation," squeezed by the elder generations, unwilling to give up any of their power. It is not by chance that Renzi decided to take the helm of the country now, because over the next few months the government will have to name the CEOs and the Boards of all the major national companies: being in control of the government today thus means marking the future political and economic framework of the country.

The comments -- both in public and in private -- after the new Renzi government was announced, reflect the sharp gaps marking the Italian society: a rather widespread enthusiast reaction of the younger generations, versus the older generations, at a loss in a country they suddenly do not recognize as the one they have known so far. 66-years old Emma Bonino's acid remarks for her failed confirmation at the head of the Foreign Ministry -- notwithstanding that the new Minister Federica Mogherini graciously acknowledged her work -- splendidly exemplify with state of mind.

Of course, young, competent people and gender parity are not, per se, the guarantee of success for the government, especially in a country characterized by lack of a real spoiling system and by a bureaucracy strongly decided to block any substantial change. But it is indeed a very much needed, extremely good start. As Renzi-Thor tweeted: "It is going to be a difficult task. But we are Italy, and we can make it."