Martina Rogato

The project: Young Women Network

How would describe yourself?

I like to think of myself as Greta Thunberg, without braids, who dedicated first her academic and then professional life to the theme of environmental and social sustainability.

In life I am a sustainability consultant, meaning, I help organizations and companies to develop environmental and social sustainability projects. In parallel, I am an activist within the Young Women Network.

Could you tell us more about Young Women Network?

YWN was founded in 2012, but formally registered as an association in 2014, from the intuition of ​​Teresa Budetta. After gaining experience abroad, she had realized that Italy was lacking a support network dedicated specifically to young women early in their careers. At the time in Italy  there were already associations that dealt with gender equality, but they dealt with issues less close to this  younger age group.

Now, YWN is run by 37 girls, all volunteers who all have different professions in life.

Young Women Network was therefore created to support young women who have the desire to have an extra support network compared to that of their family unit or friendships. Our main goal is to promote the empowerment of young women, understood as provisioning them the possibility of becoming the best version of themselves from a professional point of view, providing them with various types of tools.

Today YWN is present in Milan and Rome, with a network of over 450 associates.

Foto: Young Women Network

We support the concept of Empowerment through 4 macro activities:

  • Professional networking: to bring together women from different professional backgrounds (a sort of alternative to the male “changing room networking”). We combine physical networking with online networking, through a dedicated platform, to exchange ideas, experiences and advice.
  • Soft Skills Coaching: We are specifically dedicated to training young women on the subject of soft skills, such as public speaking or negotiation skills. These are often difficult skills to acquire, also because even if there are courses available they are often expensive. The courses are provided by both women and men, but 80% of the beneficiaries are female.
  • Mentoring: Every year we select members on a voluntary basis, who want to participate in the mentorship program, through which we assign each young girl a mentor with more experience (about 10-15 years of experience) who can support them in a path of professional growth of at least 6 months. This also makes it possible to stimulate an intergenerational dialogue. This year, among other things, we have decided to include 10 boys in the mentorship program, who will be joined by a female mentor, so as to create role models that are not only men, whilst spreading female leadership as a reference for young men.
  • Advocacy: We try to dialogue with decision-makers in various sectors, from politics to firms, on issues of gender inequality and the gender gap. We have excellent relations with the municipality of Rome and Milan and we have been among the non-profit organizations convened by Minister Vincenzo Spadafora to frame the issue of young people and gender equality in Italy. Last but not least, we are the only youth association that has had the opportunity since 2017 to take part in the G20 Engagement Group on gender equality
Il gruppo di Young Women Network

What challenges do you face more often?

Uno dei grandi problemi che riscontriamo a livello Italia è la poca credibilità che viene data a figure giovani in ambito lavorativo. Si parla di una fascia di persone tra i 25 ai 35 anni, nei confornti dei quali ci sono ancora molti pregiudizi purtroppo. Farsi valere e condividere contenuti di valore diventa sfidante se sei giovane, se sei una giovane donna lo è ancora di più. Quindi una delle nostre sfide è quella di restituire credibilità e dignità alla nostra generazione.

The activity you carry out with YWN falls within Goal 5 of the 2030 agenda, Gender Equality. In your opinion, is there sufficient awareness among young women on this issue? How much work is there still to be done to achieve the objectives set?

What we have found in 8 years of activity is that awareness on gender inequality is not immediate. We have noticed that after the end of university studies, once young women enter into the workforce, it takes them a couple of years to realize that they initially entered with an equal status to their male peers but then the inequalities increase over the years. Not only that, they are often subject to discrimination or micro-harassment in the workplace. Awareness is therefore there, but it is more solid after about 2 years of professional experience.

It is no coincidence that from this year YWN and 60 other organizations committed to gender equality have decided to build a coalition called Women’s Inclusion and which serves to make a common front and ask companies and institutions for certain measures to advance equality gender.

However, there is still a lot to do. The 2019 Report of the World Economic Forum on gender equality also says so, in which Italy ranked at the 76th place (losing 6 positions compared to 2018), in Europe we are only above Greece and Malta.

The only strong measure that has been made in Italy is the law that protects the less represented gender in the Board of Directors, but obviously it is not enough because it concerns only women in top positions and especially young women are not affected by this measure.

Foto: Young Women Network

Talking about concrete actions, can you tell us what you are doing as an association?

We have many, for example we have asked for mandatory paternity leave, in terms not of days but of months; we ask for the elimination of the pay-gap regardless of the size or turnover of the company, facilitations for female micro-enterprises and life balance measures –  also for freelance workers. 

What is your superpower?

Resilience! But since it is a slightly overused word, we can say the ability to adapt to change, which also comes from personal experiences. In 2016 I lost various things from a personal point of view and then also from a professional point of view. Getting closer to the association helped me a lot: by chance, the founder of the association had to leave the role of president when she moved abroad. It was an opportunity to get back to fighting on the front line and to be in contact with many young women, which gave me the right push to restart.

Unforeseen events happen in life, we must accept them and have the clarity to always look on the positive side.

How can we all become superheroes?

By informing ourselves well, from reliable sources, and following our passions.

Furthermore, we always think that the work we do and that allows us to develop professionally can also have positive effects on the environment and on people if only we want it, there is no need to change your life!

Interview by Ilaria Capocci and Adriana Bianco, Global Shapers Rome Hub