Italian Company Fires Women “So They Can Stay At Home”

An Italian engineering firm is dealing with a downturn in sales in a way that is creative, albeit totally inappropriate.  Faced with the need to downsize, the family-owned company, which manufactures electric fans and blowers for air conditioning and heating equipment, decided to fire 13 of its female employees, leaving a staff of 12 men and 5 women.  The only people who were fired were women between the ages of 30 and 40.  The company, with disturbing honesty, explained its decision thusly:

“We are firing the women so they can stay at home and look after the children. In any case, what they bring in is a second income.”

According to the Guardian, an Italian union called a strike in response to the sexist firings.  But only one male employee attended.

The decision – and the fact that the company’s male employees seemed not to find it outrageous – are both reflective of the status of Italian women, a subject which has been debated recently in light of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s alleged penchant for underage girls.

“In this country, at the government and company level, there is always the same old thinking – that it is preferable that women stay at home,” explained Maria Sciancati of the engineering union.  These norms are reflected in Italy’s low rate of female employment.

This action seems absurdly blatant though, even for Italy.  And it brings up the ugly truth which people in the U.S. prefer to express less bluntly: women are devalued as workers.  As Anna North writes for Jezebel, “Though economic reality has made dual incomes a necessity for many, plenty of Americans still hold this view.”  So perhaps this Italian controversy can also provide us with the opportunity to think about how all women, not just Italian women, can be seen as equal to their male peers in every workplace.

Photo from Andrea Guerra’s Flickr photostream.


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R Anna M.
Renata B.4 years ago

I don't have children and my husband does many of the jobs in the house (the once called "typical female jobs"), although I work more than he does. For ex when we moved - on top of a full-time job I refurbished the entire house mostly single-handed. I even plastered and tiled. Just not to mention painting or varnishing walls, floorboards, ceilings. Well, many other things too and I discussed the main jobs (like re-roofing or redoing the bathroom) with (mysoginist) trade-men. I look after our finances and have now my self-employed professional job.
Children are made by two people and it's a choice anyway. Considering we are too many in this world, it's probably wiser not to have them. I have never felt the great need to reproduce myself so that my genes can be carried on. I try to do my best in my life and that's it.
And I TOTALLY disagree that a genetical/sexual difference ca decide my job and my life. If a woman likes to cook, clean the house and clean the s...t of her descendants (because she decided she wanted them) then good for her. But NO-ONE on earth has the right to tell ME that I should wish the same just because I am a woman. It's my right to decide what I want to do in life.
lf an employer is professional and cares about professionalism, then it should retain the best employees, regardless of their sex, colour of skin, religious or sexual choices.

R Anna M.
Renata B.4 years ago

Although England is far from paradise, I can only rejoice to have left Italy. Appalling. I should have left after my first degree, not so late (because yes, school are - and certainly were - much better than the English ones, so I am happy to haver studied there). That is my only regret.
I suppose the story of th earticle is another sign of Berlusconi's reign. I don't think Italy has ever gone beyond Fascism at heart. Big, enormous changes happened in the 60s and 70s, but deep inside the "disease" is still there and it has come out in the millions who voted for Berlusconi, the Fascism and all that mentality. In the end: "Women stay at home and grow children" is exactly what Mussolini said. Nothing has changed in nearly 100 years.

Lindy E.
Belinda E.5 years ago

The assumption is that the company did not verify whether the women they fired were indeed bringing in a second paycheck to the family. If they did (and perhaps this was why five women were retained, yeah right) then there is some justification for their decision: better to take away a family's second paycheck than the primary (larger) or only one.

And anyone who believes that, please contact me...I have a bridge to sell you.

I agree that this is symptomatic of a general attitude that women are second-class citizens.

Which is ironic, since a conscientious stay-at-home mom works harder, and for longer hours, than any desk worker (I've done both, so I know), and needs more intelligence, more wisdom, more creativity, and a lot more initiative than is needed on 90% of all wage-earning jobs. Not to mention that she's entrusted with the physical, emotional, and intellectual care of society's most precious possession - the next generation.

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B.5 years ago

I'm surprised! Italy is in Europe!!

mary k.
mary k.5 years ago

being a stay at home mom is a hell of a lot more than baking cookies, and it's hardly a waste of intelligence. We are raising our families and shaping our children into young adults, not a waste of intelligence at all. a job outside the home is an additional job.

Maarja L.
Maarja L.5 years ago

They really should have checked whether any of these women where actually the sole breadwinners of their household. But then again, everyone knows that all the women of childbearing age actually are married mothers, right? *sarcasm*

Heather G.
Heather G.5 years ago

I can't believe the women-blaming comments here. Why should a woman waste her intelligence and talent at home baking cookies?? Why is what a man earns more important than what a woman earns, even if what she makes is part of a DUAL (notice NOT second) income??

Empress, are you trying to convince us or yourself that you made the right choice in being a stay-at-home mom? If you were truly comfortable with it you would accept it and consider yourself lucky, NOT try to push it onto everyone else as the "right" choice. Don't you know that what is right for one is NOT right for everyone??

And Rose wants to blame women for unemployment, for obesity, for global warming and dependence on oil. What if that same father-at-work mother-at-home family suddenly needs to collect food stamps or medical assistance? You will probably blame her for being LAZY and staying at home when she could be, should be, working.