A Calabrian woman manager: an interview with Daniela De Blasio

We have met Daniela De Blasio, the National Equality Adviser of the Province of Reggio Calabria. With a prestigious career as a manager behind her, she has also been the Headmaster of Conservatory Francesco Cilea since 2014.

As a woman and a manager, could you give some advice to Calabrian women who dream of starting out on their ideal careers?

I do not feel like I have reached my ultimate goals yet, in fact I still consider my professional life as work in progress. Our city might look like an arid rough terrain, full as it is of obstacles and difficulties, but it also is fertile ground, as many of its corners are yet to be explored. I have always liked getting good things out of malfunctioning and imperfections, in public administration as well as private business. It is thanks to our seemingly bleak context that we can turn out innovation.

Could you provide an example?

The first thing that comes into my mind is a jazz concert I organized by the Greek Walls on Lungomare Falcomatà, the seaside promenade. It was an occasion to promote an archaeological site that is representative of our city, as well as to show how many talents are being bred at the Conservatory. It would have been nothing special in Rome, but the fact that it took place here made all the difference.

There are so many aspects of the reality around us that should be promoted and enhanced! I would like to create a space for musicians, where they can hold matinees to express themselves and let their qualities be appreciated by their fellow citizens. It would be a great chance to attract people’s interest in music. After all, many of our teachers at the conservatory are frequent collaborators of well-known artists.

To sum it up, your message to Calabrian women is that they should keep exploring and aways move forward?

It takes a natural inclination to be a manager. I deem it important to never stop looking forward and finding the strength in me to get up when I am down. The right attitude is also important: I like learning from others and having people around me who have something to teach me. I feel to be invested with a social responsibility now: to do something for the people and community around me.

Being a manager can be really demanding!

It certainly isn’t easy, especially for women. Whatever the level you have reached, there will always be situations when you will smell the prejudices that come with gender stereotypes around you.

You have been recently asked to be in the Provincial Committee for the management of goods confiscated to organized crime. You also have been appointed in-house president of the Region, Portanova Spa. They are two important challenges.

I like challenges:only by facing them can we hope to change things around us. This is how I set about my own tasks. If I accept to run a company, my ultimate goal is to bring something good into the cause, bring about a few changes. In the case of Portanova Spa., I would like to enhance its cultural dimension. I also am a saver, because whatever is saved can be reemployed for the community. Which is what I have been trying to do at the Conservatory. There were many people who could not understand why a manager had been appointed conservatory headmaster. They did not know it was a law requirement, because management skills and a financial background are needed to rise to the challenge. I have tried to bring some innovation into it. When I was serving as a Special Commissioner for Azienda Calabria Lavoro, the regional Department of labour, I tried to draw inspiration from the principles of “smart saving”. Thanks to them, I was able to raise 30 scholarships for minors at risk.

What are your projects for the conservatory?

Presenting its resources to the public eye is of utmost importance to me. We have seen too many talents emigrate because they couldn’t see any opportunity for success here. Yet, it is a highly-qualified school. When I took up my office there, I introduced the scholarships I was telling you about. Many young and gifted people cannot afford to buy a musical instrument or pay for their education. Many of them do not even come close to the school, as they know beforehand that tuition is too high for them. So what I try to do is help them let their talents show by providing them with more opportunities. This is the course of action I have chosen, a combination of lawfulness and rational use of public funds. It also involves taking on risks and responsibilities, as my office is voluntary, and I am liable to answer to the law about any mistakes I might possibly make.

What is the secret to taking concrete action in this city?

I like looking at things from a network perspective when I am working. For what concerns the conservatory projects, I work in unison with the City Council. For example, their collaboration was crucial through the organization of the concert by the Greek walls. We are presently working with the Council for Culture and Lawfulness of the Province of Reggio Calabria to set up an important initiative: the music event “Ottobre in Musica 2015”, a cycle of six concerts which will be held by the conservatory students at the city council building.

The network perspective is vital, and so is respect for the institutions. Politics are not about pursuing our own interests.

From National Equality Adviser to Conservatory Headmaster to member of the Committee for the management of confiscated goods. Versatility is your strong suit!

I am happy to carry out many tasks, as they are means to action. A recent initiative in collaboration with Civitas has just come into my mind. The students from the F. Cilea Conservatory sang the national anthem with a group of deaf-mute kids. It was a significant moment, which made us realize how strong music is as a cohesive factor. Another highly symbolic experience is the cooperative Sole Insieme: 20 poor women are setting up a dressmaker’s shop thanks to help from the Committee for the management of confiscated goods. We are organizing a soccer game to promote the initiative, in collaboration with the hair stylists of Compagnia della Bellezza. Miss Italia 2015 will be the patroness of the event. She will be wearing a dress from the dressmaker’s workshop, and all the money the event will raise will go to anti-violence associations.

I am also working on a project with the district penitentiary of Reggio Calabria, for the reproduction of mosaics from the Roman Villa of Casignana with tiles found on the shoreline. I would like them to be put on display on permanent exhibitions at the Museums of Locri and Reggio Calabria. It might be an incentive for tourists to go and visit the Roman Villa and the archaeological site where it is located. We might even arrange a free transfer service from Reggio to the Villa.

I have also been asked to calaborate for the organization of a film festival. All I can say is: I won’t let up!

Daniela De Blasio is a volcano of ideas and initiatives. Her original interview was even longer, we simply had to adapt it to the web format. During our meeting, she also talked about her European experience of a Leonardo and a Comenius project, as well as her activity as a volunteer for the benefit of children at risk.

“I try to be versatile. The only sad thing about it are the times when you don’t succeed in helping them!” After portraying Daniela as a manager, we found this phrase was apt to give readers a notion of her humanity.