Emma Marcegaglia has taken over as head of the influential Italian employers’ group Confindustria, the first woman in that post. In her maiden speech, she told members of the business lobby that the global economic slowdown had highlighted economic weaknesses in Italy, which needed “difficult and unpopular” reforms, and she added: “We all face major challenges. There is a new and unique situation and we have the opportunity to change our country.”
In the audience was Italy’s recently elected prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who said: “I greatly appreciate your new president’s speech which could be, or rather will have to be our government’s programme.”
In her speech Marcegaglia said the strong euro is hurting exporters, and she called on the European Union to persuade the G8 group of leading industrialised countries to speak out more on exchange rates.
Marcegaglia’s election has been welcomed by politicians as an important step in a country with a low level of female bosses. Her family runs one of Italy’s biggest steel producers.