Challenges stack up for Italian women

A new exhibition at Britain’s National Gallery is a timely reminder of how Italian women through history have been at the avant-garde of feminism.

On display will be the work of Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian baroque painter considered one of the most accomplished artists of the 17th century. She was also the first woman to become a member of Florence’s august all-male academy of the arts, joining the likes of Michelangelo and Titian.

Today, astrophysicist Fabiola Gianotti, the first woman director-general at Cern in Geneva, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and the designer businesswoman Miuccia Prada are among Italian women blazing a trail in their respective professions.

Yet like much in Italy, a country of contrasts struggling with long-term economic malaise, the picture of most women’s role at work is far from as rosy as these individual success stories suggest.

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