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Gender Equality: “The ability to project yourself into the future, keeping in mind your history”

By Barbara Cittadini, President of the Italian Association of Private Hospitals (AIOP)

JULY 2019.

Since May 2017 and for the very first time since its establishment, the Italian Association of Private Hospitals (AIOP) has a female President, Mrs Barbara Cittadini. Born in Palermo (Sicily), graduated in political science at Universita’ Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, she holds a Master in "Executive heath management" at the Bocconi University in Milan. Since 1994, Mrs Cittadini has been president and legal representative of the Casa di cura Candela, since July 2016 president of AIOP Sicily and since June 2012 National Vice president of AIOP.

Among other tasks, Barbara Cittadini is a member of the thematic group Health-Life Science of Confindustria (the Association of Italian Industries). Last November 8th, she was awarded the recognition of Cavaliere del Lavoro by the President of the Republic of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, for her commitment in making the health system in Sicily more efficient, with the aim of improving the access to health care by the local community.

Mrs Cittadini, can you please summarise your experience as a woman entrepreneur in healthcare?

The role I hold is for me source of pride but, above all, of responsibility. It represents a recognition that combines the pride of being a woman, Sicilian and entrepreneur, with the ability to operate in such a sensitive sector as healthcare which protects a constitutionally-guaranteed right like health; in addition, the wonderful but complex region where I live, Sicily, makes "doing business" a very difficult and challenging job. I started working when I was twenty-two and I have never experienced the difference of being a woman in the work environment. I am aware that I had the privilege to start my career with a role and decision-making autonomy that made things easier for me, but I never experienced any particular problems of integration at work.

Concerning my role as President of AIOP, I am very proud to represent 550 private hospitals, members of our association. I see this experience has an opportunity to always seek for a better balance between efficiency and effectiveness and the economic sustainability of our NHS.

It is crucial for me to stress the importance of our hospitals - the private component of our NHS - which have a great responsibility in the protection of citizens’ health. We are at the service of the entire population and its demand for health. This is such an important and delicate task!

The first objective that I envisaged to achieve during my mandate is representing the interests of all AIOP hospitals and clinics - large, medium and small - respecting and valorising their diversity, because the uniqueness of every single hospital is an asset for us. As President I will continue working to create new forms of collaboration to strengthen the entire health chain and the role of AIOP.

Every day, AIOP hospitals are committed to satisfying, in an efficient and effective way, the health demand of the Italians, who continue to choose us for the quality of the care we provide. In fact, we must always bear in mind that health is the most valuable asset that each of us has. Therefore, the perpetration of a health system that is struggling to function is unimaginable.

What advice would you give to a woman willing to start a career in healthcare?

Beyond the approximate theories about the differences between men and women, which I am not particularly fond of, I am convinced that what really rewards a professional path, of any kind, is training, competence, commitment and tenacity in the pursuit of your objectives. I am convinced that as women we have sensitivity, we develop empathy and we have a propensity to be determined in what we see as priorities in our lives; we struggle to find a balance between professional roles and family commitments, which is not always easy to find.

The peculiar characteristics of being a professional in healthcare are based on communicative competence, organizational capacity and systematization of commitment, on the quality of the human relationships, on the efficiency of the teamwork, on the management of networks of relationships and on the ability to mediate between different positions.

These attitudes seem to me the effective keystone to be able to facilitate the shift, already in place in healthcare, from the "cure" to the "taking care" of the patient. As a matter of fact, in the last fifty-sixty years, many women have shown professional skills in the world of medicine, from general surgery to any specialized branch and, when appointed, they have shown equivalent skills and competencies as Director general or health directors.