The ‘Gender gap’
The Global Gender Gap Index published by the World Economic Forum in 2015 shows that, while the world has made progress overall, stubborn inequalities remain. The issues highlighted in the Gender Gap report are on the agenda of the EU and the W20 : they include, for example, whether women are ready to take on more challenging roles, what are the barriers to their professional growth and how to lower them, and how to engage men in supporting the reduction of the gap.
Some women choose to dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to their profession and to career advancement. These ‘Professional’ women work in small companies, large corporations, law and consulting firms, advisory and professional groups. They can also be entrepreneurs in a wide range of social or for-profit enterprises.
Data show that society in Italy and in other countries is still predominantly male dominated. In this environment, professional women go thru the phases of their life – marriage, maternity etc. – while working; sometimes it is easy, and sometimes it is hard. In many areas, professional women find their numbers reduced with progression in hierarchy or seniority.
Why this matters to me…
I think that is not uncommon for a professional woman to appreciate the possibility of sharing ideas with likeminded individuals of her same gender. For sure, this is the way it is for me and I am very interested in debating with other women topics such as how to deal with a predominately male audience or how to manage the pressure of society and its norms on decisions regarding the balance between working and personal life. I grew up in Milan but my career has brought me to different places and I have only recently relocated back to Milan after 20 years of being away. Therefore, I was happy to find a volunteer association that addresses some of these the very issues.
The Professional Women Association of Milan
‘Gender diversity and innovation to advance real change’ these are the themes beyond the activities organized by the Professional Women Association of Milan – in short: PWA. (Web address pwa-milan.org). Two years ago I joined PWA, first as a member and then as a board member. I was interested in the fact that PWA cooperates with business schools and other women organizations and networks, so that we can join voices and contribute to the gender gap debate where PWA carries our thoughts and opinions. I also liked the fact that all PWA volunteers on the board believe in providing our members with opportunities to connect and learn from one another, and to create relationships that are enriching, authentic, and of great value.
PWA 2016 Calendar
PWA organizes events and activities in downtown Milano and I believe that these venues are terrific opportunities for sharing ideas, networking and tackling some of the issues we all face.
So let me tell you what is on the PWA calendar for 2016: the Networking Aperitivo, approximately 1 per month; the Speaker Events, approximately 6/year; the Executive Lab Workshops, quarterly; the Mentoring Program and the Me-Totem Project, the Member Clubs and Cultural initiatives.
All PWA events are open to members and guests, while participation in the mentoring program and in the Member Clubs is member-only.
I think the best way to understand what we do is to participate in a Networking Aperitivo, so I would gladly invite you to one: they take place on Wednesdays from 7:00 to 9:00 PM in locations in the center of Milan and are a great opportunity to hone or acquire networking skills in a fun, welcoming environment. What does it feel like to participate in a Networking Aperitivo? Something like walking in a room full of professional women whom you have never met before, approaching total strangers around a yummy buffet, discussing the topics introduced by ‘teaser’ short seminars on, for example, negotiation, mindfulness, emotional intelligence and walking away with a bunch of business cards with the names of new friends and professional contacts.
See the calendar of 2016 events (link to calendar), and you can sign up for the newsletter on the PWA site so that you will always be informed of activities. Once you became a member, you have access to dedicated services: you can join likeminded members to create a new ‘PWA Members Club’ or join an existing one. With your club members, you can explore the topics that are important to you and profit from interaction with fellow members and the club leader. Clubs started by members in 2016 include the ‘Entrepreneurs’ club, and the ‘New Visual Image’ club, among others.
You can participate in the Mentoring program as a mentee and enjoy the opportunity to approach the issues that matter to you from a totally new angle with the help of a professional women outside your company and/or industry. Or you can apply as a mentor to share your knowledge and help a talented individual to tackle her challenges successfully.
You should also know that PWA is the Milanese chapter of the European Professional Women Network (EPWN) so in addition to local events, members can access PWN Webinars which are available through the global PWN site on topics such as Leadership, ‘How To’, and interview Videos ‘from the experts’. (web site https://pwnglobal.memberclicks.net/) All these activities are included in your annual membership fee.
What’s in for you?
At PWA we share a passion for what we do and take all occasions to leverage on the knowledge, resources, and learning opportunities we can generate as a group so that our skill set strengthens each time we participate in these activities.
If you are an international woman who has just relocated to Milan, you can benefit from all advantages afforded by participating at PWA activities and by becoming a member. Participating in PWA events is an easy way to get to know likeminded women with whom you can make friends.
And remember, once a member you are a member everywhere! As PWA belongs to PWN and PWN has chapters in many cities in Europe and worldwide, if you find yourself in another city for travel or work you can participate in the local events! A full calendar of what is happening at all PWN chapters is available on the PWN site.
Thanks for your interest in PWA. I look forward to welcoming you to the next PWA event!
Article by Rossana Berardinelli
Professional Women Association (PWA)
Corporate Membership Co-Director