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Feminine energy: new female professionals thriving in STEM

New skills and new professional figures, especially in the technical-scientific and digital areas, will be essential in managing the complexity of the energy transition. In Italy, however, enrolments in STEM disciplines are still lagging behind, particularly among women. For this reason, Terna has launched a series of concrete initiatives to change this scenario, beginning with education.

There may be no "right answer" to the question of how best to celebrate International Women's Day, but there is definitely one key word we should focus on. That word is concrete: no vague proclamations or slogans whose meanings will be forgotten the very next day, just concrete steps to bring us closer to the much longed-for goal of gender equality, which still seems so far out of reach both at global level and — even more so — in Italy. And that’s exactly what Terna has decided to do: the company that manages the Italian electricity transmission grid has committed to numerous initiatives focusing on Diversity & Inclusion and Engagement. The aim is to promote mutual respect and greater awareness of inclusive conduct and language as well as to overcome stereotypes and, above all, to reward merit, by joining in various projects promoted by non-profit associations like SheTech and Sistech. At the heart of all we do are the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), which still feature a vast gender gap that must be remedied in order to help the economy to grow and society to advance.

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A group of students enrolled in the Level II Master's degree in "Digitalization of the electricity system for the energy transition", designed by Terna in collaboration with the universities of Cagliari, Palermo and Salerno as part of the Tyrrhenian Lab project (photo Terna)

Female representation in STEM disciplines: the situation in Italy. According to a recent analysis conducted by the strategy consulting firm McKinsey, although more women than men overall hold a degree, just one in three graduates of STEM subjects is female, or more specifically 38%. Moreover, women occupy barely 22% of all tech roles across European companies. This gap has also been confirmed by the STEM Observatory of the Deloitte Foundation. According to its data, Italy still has few graduates in these disciplines (24.5%), and the figure is even lower among women: in fact, just 15% have chosen to study these subjects. And what does ISTAT say about the matter? The official figures paint a clear picture: in 2022 (the last available data), just 23.8% of young people between 25 and 34 years of age held a degree in scientific and technological disciplines. This percentage is an average of the figures for men (34.5%) and women (16.6%). If these trends continue, McKinsey claims, the proportion of women in tech professions in Europe is on course to reach 21% by 2027.

But what are the reasons behind this gap? The study explains that there are two critical points along the pathway of development that leads from primary school to the workforce where female talent tends to be lost, in Italy as well as throughout Europe. The first significant drop-off in the percentage of women in STEM takes place during the transition from primary and secondary education to university, when the figure drops by 18%. The second comes during the transition from university to the workforce, when another 15% is lost. One factor in this phenomenon is Italy’s lack of an orientation service, which would support not only women but indeed all students.

The numbers at Terna. At Terna, the glass ceiling has been well and truly shattered: in fact, it is one of the few listed companies to have a woman as its Chief Executive Officer, manager Giuseppina Di Foggia. Excluding the Chairman and CEO, five of the eleven Directors are female.

Additional encouragement comes from looking at the numbers of women employed in STEM disciplines: as of 31 January 2024, around 900 women were working at Terna, over 400 of whom had roles and responsibilities involving scientific-technological matters, including those employed in the Plant Units. Compare this to just one year earlier, on 31 December 2022, when the number of women with STEM duties came to just over 350. This represents an increase of almost 20% in the number of women employed in the most highly technical and technological structures over the course of just one year, the result of a process of growth with a continuous upward trend.

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Terna employees at work in one of the headquarter of the company that manages the italian transmission electricty grid (photo by Terna)

A boost from Sistech. Remember when we spoke about the importance of keeping things concrete at the start of this article? Well, that may have played a part in inspiring Terna’s decision in March 2023 to do something concrete for women, by providing eight STEM scholarships for refugee women. The initiative is a collaboration with Sistech, a non-profit association active in Italy, Greece and France, which promotes refugee women’s access to the digital & tech world of work in order to foster inclusion and diversity through skills, re-qualification and opportunities in work and in life.

The project, entitled Boost, consists of granting quarterly scholarships for the study of data science, web or software development, digital project management, cyber security and digital marketing. And that’s not all: the refugee women who have had the opportunity to take part — most of whom are of Ukrainian or North African origin — also enjoyed access to language courses, psychosocial support, babysitting services and logistical help. In other words, they received across-the-board assistance in which the women within Terna also played a part. In fact, several of the company’s female workers decided to donate their time to support the refugee women through mentoring, job shadowing and tandem language learning. They helped them along their journey of professional inclusion, to write their résumés and to submit applications, all on a completely voluntary basis. Now, these efforts are beginning to bear fruit: some of the women who received a scholarship thanks to the collaboration with Sistech have had the chance to attend an interview and be considered in Terna’s selection process, while one has recently begun working for the company.


Testaments. «Terna is a vital partner for Sistech because they believe in the importance of inclusion in the workplace, but also understand it takes time and commitment to make real change» said the non-profit's founder and CEO Joséphine Goube. «Through our daily collaboration, Sistech and Terna are empowering refugee women, allowing them to chart their own professional paths».

Christiana G. began working at Terna at the start of March. In the years before that, she acquired technical skills in video-making and visualisation tool. It has been a long journey, and this is unquestionably a fresh starting point for her; but where did her interest in the STEM sector come from? «Years ago, I saw how the world was changing and made the decision to get into innovation and grow along with it. I’ve had to overcome a variety of challenges along my journey of professional retraining, chief among which was finding the time: as a girl, on my own, in a foreign country, I had to work to support myself and pay the costs of my courses. Now, thanks to Sistech, I can study when and how I want». With this experience behind her, Christiana has a clear professional goal: to find a steady job and work in a company where she can learn new things and share her skills with other people. After all, her favourite part of her journey was seeing other women like herself and no longer feeling alone.

Her journey is similar to that of Eren S., who has always felt drawn to the world of technology and creativity. Learning Italian as a foreign language was undeniably difficult, but posed no obstacle to her professional ambitions. Today, she is passionate about her future work: «I’ve met lots of young women from different cultures and had the opportunity to visit some of the most important companies in the field of technology. I want to use my skills to create web solutions that can improve people’s lives, particularly those with special needs».

Also brimming with energy is Ahlam A.: on the day when she wrote her first line of code, she realised that this was the world for her. It was the beginning of a journey of professional development along which she acquired a variety of technical skills in programme writing and for computers. Today, her goal is «to have a start-up of my own».

«Terna is a vital partner for Sistech because they believe in the importance of inclusion in the workplace, but also understand it takes time and commitment to make real change. Through our daily collaboration, Sistech and Terna are empowering refugee women, allowing them to chart their own professional paths».


Terna’s other initiatives to promote gender equality. Terna has long been committed to achieving gender equality, and continues to carry out a variety of initiatives in the areas of Diversity & Inclusion and Engagement, aimed at encouraging fairness and rewarding merit.

«At Terna, we are firmly committed to creating the most inclusive work environment possible, promoting fairness, combating discrimination and valuing people in all their diversity and uniqueness, which represent the company’s most important asset, as well as recognising merit, a quality inherent to all and a catalyst for social inclusion» explains Daniele Amati, People, Organization and Change Executive Vice President at Terna Group. «When it comes to gender equality, we’ve already begun and are continuing to launch a series of initiatives which will allow all our personnel to fully develop and improve their own talents and skills through innovation and retraining. Our efforts», continues Amati, «particularly focus on guidance and training for female students and young professionals, above all in technical-scientific and digital disciplines, STEM subjects, and all areas in general in which women are under-represented or absent, and which constitute the main employment opportunities today and for the future».

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Daniele Amati is Executive Vice President for "People, Organization and Change" at Terna Group (photo by Terna)

In addition to the Boost project in collaboration with Sistech, the company also supports the Role Model initiative from ELIS as part of the School–Work scheme, which involves female workers going into Italian high schools to encourage all students, boys and girls, to follow their examples and take up careers in STEM.

The company also supports the Data Girls initiative, which is part of the GROW - Generating Real Opportunities for Women project promoted by the Luiss Business School. The aim is to attract women into the field of data management, thereby increasing the rate of female employment in the digital sphere. And that’s not all: another collaboration with Luiss consists of supporting the Master’s Degree in Data Science & Management course by funding a two-year scholarship for a female STEM student.

Finally, there is the partnership with the non-profit association SheTech, which deals with issues of gender equality in the digital and tech sector. This initiative has brought Terna’s women in STEM into the SheTech community, giving them the chance to meet female professionals from other companies by participating in events, workshops and other initiatives.

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The students of the second edition of the Level II Master in "Digitalization of the electricity system for the energy transition" as part of the Tyrrhenian Lab project (photo by Terna)