October 26, 2021

Carolina Gianardi: "Gender gap? From single standalone measures to a multi-year structural plan"

Graduated in Business Administration and with a Master in Corporate Finance at Bocconi University, Carolina boasts a long working experience in Italy and abroad in the financial services division of the General Electric Group, first as Financial Planning Manager and then CFO, until becoming Sales and Marketing Director and finally Head of the Consumer Division.

In 2008 he joined Poste Italiane, first in Bancoposta, then in the Corporate and Public Administration sales network; he then became Head of Strategic Marketing and finally of the Customer and Innovation HUB of the Group. Today he is Vice President and General Manager of the Global Commercial Service division of American Express Italia, as well as a member of the Board of Directors of Italian Angels for Growth.

In this interview we will discover her background, her passion for the world of innovation with a focus on the theme of gender equality.

What is your background?

I am a native of La Spezia who, over the last 30 years, has split my time between Milan, Mondovì, Kettering (Ohio, US) and Rome. I was born professionally in finance roles that over time have increasingly shifted towards business, mainly in the financial services and insurance sector. In recent years I have progressively combined my life as a manager of large companies with that of an angel investor and that of a supporter of initiatives to support the professional development of women.

Why did you choose to be part of IAG?

In 2014, I made my first investment in an Edutech startup, ahead of the interest in recent years in the sector. It was an experience closer to the Family & Friends approach than the Angel Investing approach. This, together with the fact that I come from a family of entrepreneurs, I think has triggered the desire to devote myself to the themes of innovation and start-ups in a more continuous but also structured way and since some professionals / friends were already members of IAG I have deepened and then decided to become a member. Among other things I had the opportunity to be part of the screening committee and currently to be an advisor of a reality of primary importance in the panorama of Italian venture capital in continuous evolution and growth.

What do you appreciate most about the services offered by the IAG association life?

It is a network of highly valued professionals engaged in many different sectors with whom you can discuss not only the life of the association but also broader business issues. In addition to the possibility of participating in screening activities that allow you to have a continuously updated view on innovation issues, the association provides opportunities for continuous training and updating. I particularly appreciate the work done in recent years to create partnerships with territorial or sectoral realities that support the Italian entrepreneurial fabric.

Yours is a story of professional success. In addition to being passionate about start-ups, you are founder and president of a non-profit association supporting women's professional development (PWN Rome). Covid has shed even more light on the difficulties women face in the world of work. What concrete initiatives have already been implemented at the national level and what do you think is needed to support women professionally?

After PWN Rome, with the desire to reverse the decades-long negative trends in the country on the issues of employment and representation of women, we formed #InclusioneDonna, an alliance of over 60 associations representing over 50k women. For 3 years we have been interacting with institutions convinced that the country needs to move from single standalone measures to a multi-year structural plan. On the PNRR, we have therefore made ourselves spokesmen for 3 priorities, then provided for in the plan, which we believe are the basis for any real change that is not just "pinkwashing":

- the application of the principle of gender impact assessment on every economic/social measure, starting with PNRR projects

- the implementation of gender certification for any private and public company with the consequent possibility of recognition of rewards

- the construction of a business intelligence platform to measure the country's progress and monitor the effectiveness of measures implemented to reduce the gender gap.

There are still few women entrepreneurs, particularly those who choose to venture into founding a startup. What advice would you give to a woman who would like to embark on this path?

I would give the same advice I would give to a man: make sure you have a business idea that solves a real problem, build a strong and diverse team in terms of experience and skills, identify sparring partners with whom to confront and challenge each other especially at the beginning.

Perhaps the only thing I would add that would be different is not to minimize your project and to be "bold"; too often female founders present themselves to potential investors as if they are doing them a favour by listening to them and not instead that it is they who are giving investors an interesting business opportunity.

Advisor of Italian Angels for Growth, Champion of Rentuu, what role do you foresee for start-ups in the economic growth of the country?

The Italian economy has always been characterized by a strong level of successful entrepreneurship; today, new technologies give the possibility to grow their businesses faster also by expanding the geographical area and this means more employment, support to supply chain economies, more GDP for the country. The world of start-ups, whether they become unicorns or successful SMEs, undoubtedly represents an important contribution to the future of this country.