Meet the ENWE network’s database with more than 360 profiles of women academics and researchers based in Italy.
Launched as a tool for contrasting the underrepresentation of STEM women experts in Italian news, the 100esperte database – part of the ENWE network – has grown to currently counting over 360 names and contacts of not only female scientists, but also economists, experts in finance, international politics, and the most prestigious women historians and philosophers on the Italian scene.
We asked the database a few questions to learn more about their mission, selection process, and upcoming projects.
When and how did the 100esperte project start?
The 100esperte project was conceived in 2016 by two members of the Italian women journalists association GiULiA: Luisella Seveso and Giovanna Pezzuoli, who unfortunately passed away recently. Colleague Maria Luisa Villa then joined them. The initiative was launched by Monia Azzalini from the Osservatorio di Pavia.
100esperte was born to compensate for the shameful absence of women experts in the media and to remove any alibi for journalists who say they cannot find competent women in the scientific and cultural fields to contact. The project consists of a database intended for journalists (but also schools, universities, conference organizers, agencies, and press offices) with over 360 profiles and contacts of female scientists, economists, and experts in finance, international politics, and the most prestigious women historians and philosophers on the Italian scene. The database also has an English version, and it’s free and available to use for everyone.
Who financially supports 100esperte?
The project was launched in November 2016 at the Science Festival of Genoa. It is supported by the Representation of the European Commission in Italy and developed thanks to the Bracco Foundation. In addition, it enjoys the patronage of the Italian National Association of Journalists, Italian public broadcaster Rai, and the National Equality Councillor at the Ministry of Labor.
The 100esperte database started with profiles from the STEM sector. Why did you decide to expand to other fields?
The first area of the project was dedicated to STEM disciplines, a vast field of scientific knowledge vital for society’s development. Then, we decided to broaden the database with Economics and Finance experts, areas in which female representation in the media, panels, and public initiatives is low, despite the presence of top-level female professionals. The same goes for women experts in international politics, often involved in prestigious experiences in Europe and beyond, and authors of critical geopolitical studies. The latest addition (to date, but the database is constantly updating and expanding) is dedicated to History and Philosophy women experts, featuring internationally renowned scholars who can offer an original and highly impactful reading of current events.
What are the selection criteria for experts to become part of the database?
The experts profiled in the database are currently over 360, all chosen through a selection that responds to exact criteria. Applications are examined and approved through a methodology agreed with a scientific partner. The experts in the STEM areas were selected in collaboration with the Genders (Gender & Equality in Research and Science) research center of the University of Milan. The Bocconi University of Milan, and especially professor Paola Profeta, were responsible for choosing the experts in the economic and financial sector. Istituto ISPI for International Politics picked the international politics experts. University of Milano-Bicocca professor Marina Calloni selected the philosophers, while Cecilia Novelli of the University of Cagliari selected the historians. A scientific committee of industry professionals is appointed to supervise selections for each section. The applications result from active search, self-nominations, referrals through the snowball sampling technique, or recommendations by colleagues who are already part of the 100esperte community. In general, the criteria are: research topicality and innovation; territorial representation (to identify expert who represent and express different geographical realities); gender and generation (to give visibility to experts who take gender into account in their work and are actively involved in the promotion of young women), and finally availability to meet the needs of journalists, the intended primary users of the database. All the details on the criteria can be found in a specific section of our website.
How is the project promoted?
After the launch, the 100esperte project was immediately promoted through training courses and within journalism schools, dedicated events, and presentations at industry festivals across Italy: the Science Festival in Genoa and Cagliari, CicapFest in Padua, the Festival of the Economy of Trento, and the Internazionale a Ferrara event. In addition, many in-person and online courses for journalists took place throughout the country as part of the compulsory ongoing professional training. Women experts profiled in the database held presentations and lectures in Italian high schools and universities, from Pavia to Rome, Turin, Ancona, Milan. Abroad, 100esperte participated in the Swedish University of Gothenburg’s Summer School. For years, the project has been present at the Corriere della Sera’s “Tempo delle Donne” event, an international initiative organized by the most important Italian newspaper. The participation of 100esperte STEM experts is now a consolidated practice in projects to promote scientific culture among girls of lower and upper secondary schools, including Stem in the City, promoted by the Municipality of Milan, and during the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, on February 11.
The project also created a handbook to hone the women experts’ media communication skills. And later, it launched a small editorial series (published by Egea) dedicating a book to each expertise area of the database. At the moment, four books tell the professional and private life stories of some of the protagonists of the 100esperte community. The books have been presented at festivals, book fairs, and cultural events.
Two female scientists from the 100esperte database were turned into comics and featured in a fun story for the March 8, 2020, issue of Disney’s Topolino series to offer children a positive and gender-balanced example. In addition, other female scientists were portrayed by photographer Gerald Bruneau for various cultural institutions in Europe, and featured in an exhibition organized by the Bracco Foundation, which landed in multiple European cultural institutions, embassies, and cultural institutes in the United States, South America, and Mexico.
And the promotion continues. The idea of providing the media with a selection of “women experts of the week” through short interviews or videos is in the pipeline.
How has the media reacted to the project?
The media attention toward the project was great during the first year and then periodically renewed with interviews or requests for participation in radio/TV programs. Beyond the disappointing report from the 2020 Global Media Monitoring Project, which placed Italian female commentators at 12%, the presence of women experts in the media is clearly growing. Some have become regular presences on national TV channels. Today, female historians, astrophysicists, philosophers, international politics experts are also in great demand to cover the role of commentators and columnists on current events and cultural broadcasts.
ENWE – European Network for Women Excellence is an advocacy group committed to creating a network of European databases that offer an extensive selection of prestigious female profiles for interviews, conferences, and panels. Find out more about our network of partners here.