Isabella Lenarduzzi

Nowadays 60% of young graduates from European universities are women and our society is facing a dilemma: either we accept a very low return on education investment with under-represented and underpaid women in the labour force and management positions - or we give everyone the opportunity to fulfil their talents” - asks Isabella Lenarduzzi, a Belgian businesswoman and entrepreneur for women in business, provoking changes in the current situation by encouraging women to take action.

 

Today the nationally and internationally recognised women's leader remembers the way she had to go: “I have always been a feminist. I discovered that I have to be feminist not only for myself but for other European women too, because the status of women was not clear and not fully achieved.”  For this indigenous discovery Isabella has two reasons to be thankful: firstly - a joint business with two male partners: “every time I was more feminine in my way of doing business and of being a leader, they would laugh at me and say: “you shouldn't behave like that, it's not the right way. If you want to be recognised you have to behave like that that and that…” And the other is marriage with a man from the South of Italy: “At a certain point he told me that now I am a spouse, a mother, I don't have to have external professional projects, I have to be with my family, so I have to be at their service”. Isabella understood the importance of having one's own opinion and stance in life and found the strength in herself to change the situation breaking the personal and business ties stopping her flourishing as a person. Isabella was aware that such a step “for other women that are less assertive than I am and are less financially autonomous than I - is much more difficult”. That was the beginning of JUMP. She now shares her knowledge with the members and attendants of the Women's Academy and the Forum JUMP - the most famous of all professional women's forums.

Isabella thinks:  “Women in leadership positions find themselves with an identity dilemma: if they act like a typical male leader, they are perceived as 'hard' or 'cold', because their behaviour jars with that of the stereotypical woman”. Therefore the colour pink is dominant in her office and what she wears and has become a business colour just as grey, black or blue. “Pink is associated with femininity for good or bad reasons and I really want women to be themselves and get promoted to higher positions within companies, organizations. I really want them to be what they really are, profoundly, to wear skirts, dress in pink and other really pretty colours.” Isabella notices that more and more men in the professional world wear pink ties and that's really great - the feminine colour has found its own space.

For more than 25 years Isabella Lenarduzzi has been developing social companies and entrepreneurship: “since the age of 12 I have really wanted to change the world", - smiles the entrepreneur, - In my 20's I discovered that thanks to private companies I was able to change the world even more than with associations only, because a company means efficiency, you invest a lot of your own capital, your own resources and don't have to wait for the state or other organizations to give you the money to build your project. And it was perfect for my personality”.

Now it seems Isabella has a clear vision and a very reasonable recipe: gender equality needs regulating. "It's dramatic to say so, but the reality is that society doesn't evolve enough to have everybody on the same playfield. We really need regulations”, - states Isabella and lists: firstly – regulations that have penalties for racism as well as sexism are a must, secondly - regulations to push men to dedicate more time with their children; thirdly - to eliminate the pay gap and push more women on to company's boards. “And that is not all”, - smiles Isabella, - “Regulations are nothing without penalties, but regulations are also nothing if there aren't enough people within the role. It means a change to politics 30-40 per cent of women politicians are needed. In order for  companies to change, at least 3 out of 10 people on the board need to be women.

Isabella is sure it is always better to have more than one method when making decisions whether of male or female origin.  Diversity is what matters. “When the decision lies equally in the hands of men and women it becomes more balanced. It makes perfect sense - two heads are better than one. The same applies to gender, so two genders are better than one!