Claudia Parzani

Suburbs, plural feminine

I am neither an architect nor an engineer. I’m not qualified to formulate a regeneration of the suburbs or the future of the city. But I do many other things. I try hard to do many.

Claudia Parzani

“I am neither an architect nor an engineer. I’m not qualified to formulate a regeneration of the suburbs or the future of the city. But I do many other things. I try hard to do many. There is always a fil-rouge in what I do. I think I’m a bit of a dreamer and I believe that today dreaming is key to conceiving the future of the city. My city today symbolises society. An invisible, imaginary city that is perhaps also slightly unknown. However it is also a complex city, architecturally speaking, although easy at the same time in terms of barriers and passages.”.

Claudia Parzani has been a partner at Linklaters since 2007, in the Capital Markets department. Since November 2016 she has been their managing partner Western Europe. In 2017, she was named as one of the Top 10 Global Champions of Women in Business by the Financial Timesand HERoes. According to the British business and economic newspaper’s Innovative Lawyers series, she was one of the 10 most innovative lawyers in 2013.

“A green hill boundlessly covered with grass adjoins the city. It is hot and it’s getting hotter. The sun is shining and everyone is enjoying the fine weather. You see a historic city, one of our many, with a typical construction: a large and well-kept city centre; the walls are sturdy, high and protective, punctuated by gates. Three gates. Big and imposing but closed and guarded by three monsters. These walls enclose a ‘centre’ – a word in the male singular in Italian – and outside them are the ‘suburbs’ – female plural in Italian. These are less well kept than the city centre, more spread out, not so elegant and staid, less rational. They are different. These are our suburbs. They are the edges of society. Our city centre is the centre of power, politics and our businesses. All the people who work in those businesses are in the suburbs.”

Most of the city centre is inhabited by males or things defined in the Italian masculine and most of the suburbs by females or things defined in the Italian feminine.

“The monsters guarding the gates are stereotypes, namely something that replicates the same thing, that forces our minds, making us always think the same things as if it were normal and intuitive. The real point of the stereotype is that it is not a free thought but an ailing prophesy that unfortunately comes true. The first stereotype is the mother who gives up her job and devotes herself to everyone, primarily the children. Otherwise society judges her. The second stereotype is that of the world of school, opportunities and jobs. They work on girls’ esteem. They tell the girls that they aren’t very good at something, that they are less able to do something and that they mustn’t study STEM, the science subjects. Women must settle for their given roles. If Italian girls don’t study maths and are not great at this subject, it’s because they grow up with this idea. This is the end result of our city, of our society. Little girls in China are not like that. They don’t have a different brain and a different heart but simply they are not told that they aren’t good at maths. The same goes for videogames, created by males for males. Our city’s third and last gate might be King Kong: the woman is well groomed; you can’t be the boss as we need someone who isn’t vulnerable. I don’t want to go into this topic but in terms of the need for vulnerable leaders – let them ask, let them process and let them tell us. We are fortunate in one sense. The gates to the city are quite old as are the monsters guarding them. They are weary, heavy and fear global warming - which will kill them.”

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