LIMELIGHT INTERVIEW WITH MARGHERITA PASQUINI
What I Bring to the Table
Margherita Pasquini sits down with us to discuss her career journey, how she came to be involved in climate change activism, and the gendered struggles that come with motherhood when you are a working woman.
“In Italian, there’s a saying,” Margherita Pasquini notes, as she discusses her own personal journey connecting her career in higher international education with climate change activism, “‘The newly converted are the most active fighters.’” As someone who did not originally connect study abroad with climate change, Pasquini openly considers herself one of these newly converted.
“I had some denial about this [issue],” she admits and -- upon attending a session led by CANIE -- says that “I felt so behind… I felt the urge of doing something… getting more committed.” Since having this realization, Pasquini has maintained her position in higher international education while becoming more actively involved in CANIE’s mission to increase climate change education and get people involved.
“What I bring to the table is my enthusiasm,” she says, “I know what it feels like to be completely unaware of the topic, and I want to make other people feel how I did.” In having a conversation with Pasquini, this enthusiasm is infectious. She is candid, honest, and unafraid to connect with people, which makes her an asset to our fight against climate change. She says her goal is to get more people involved in CANIE, perhaps more big names. Pasquini does not seem phased by the grandiose nature of this fight and continues to focus on inspiring people and forming human connections in order to expand awareness of CANIE’s name and mission.
Pasquini brings this enthusiasm to all aspects of her life. She has held a position as the Study Abroad Coordinator at her alma mater, La Universita Cattolica, where she has worked for the past 13 years and also works as the Regional Event Manager for Europe for the FPP. She continues to inspire students and launches European undergraduate recruitment events for high schoolers. Anyone, adult or child, can benefit from listening to Pasquini speak and getting to share the energy she exudes; although, to put her focus into inspiring high school students to live their life to the fullest seems like time well-spent on her part.
“I was helping people decide on their destinations and programs even before I got hired,” she says, smiling, “Traveling is a part of life. It’s part of how we experience this world.” In her own experience, Pasquini has expressed finding a sense of herself and family through
traveling, especially when she went to Mexico. “That is the place where my heart is, outside of my country.”
Hearing the certainty and passion in her voice is enough to convince any student who is doubting studying abroad to take the leap and experience it to the fullest. “I understood when I was [working in international education] that it was my thing.” She recognizes the importance of bringing this experience to students and has begun thinking that “many people in higher education want to go back to traveling as we used to do before. Traveling for business has always had a pleasurable component that, I believe, can’t be denied, but we [professionals] need to be more responsible and less selfish, even if it hurts because the people doing this job LOVE traveling. [We need to] think that if there’s a limited amount of C02 to be used for traveling on this planet, then it should be used by students who will benefit the most from international experiences.”
Pasquini is a devoted mother of two and candidly expresses how difficult it has been for parents to work at home during COVID for the past two years. “I don’t know if I do it right, honestly,” she says, “sometimes I struggle a lot.” Upon further discussion, Pasquini notes that when COVID hit, many of household responsibilities were placed on women, especially mothers. She states that over 90% of the people who lost their jobs during the pandemic were women, and much of that is to do with the sexist ideologies that makeup professional environments and continue to affect female employees today.
“It’s like a vicious cycle,” she observes, “When you hire a woman, there’s an assumption that at some point, she will have to take time off. So you give her less responsibilities. This ends up in her having a smaller salary. If there is something I want for my kids, it is gender equality.”
This gender barrier in the workplace has existed long before COVID and, as Pasquini notes, can deeply impact her own perception of motherhood. “I will never quit my job for my kids… for my own mental health and affirmations,” she says, “I feel there is such a different standard for moms versus dads… Whatever you do is never enough. Being a very committed professional with two kids, I sometimes feel like I struggle with accepting that.”
Pasquini has felt this pressure to prove herself as a working woman throughout her entire career. “I wanted to show that I didn’t even need maternity leave,” she says, “I worked from the delivery room.” Hopefully, we can reach a point where women who choose to become mothers do not feel this tremendous weight set on them. If women and men were held accountable in the same way for parenthood and career paths, perhaps this sense of guilt that torments so many of us would subside. Pasquini comments on this sense of guilt by saying that “We give birth to a child and a sense of guilt at the same time.”
At the risk of jeopardizing my journalistic integrity, I would like to share a part of myself that Pasquini made me feel comfortable enough to share with her. I was raised by a strong, working mother who brought me into her office when I was only four days old. Although I am sure that she faced the same struggles that Pasquini and so many women before her have faced, I saw nothing but an accomplished role model who did not ever leave me questioning whether my gender would be a factor in my life. I never doubted that I would achieve whatever I needed to achieve, and that was because of women like my mom and Pasquini, who push past the barriers that society sets down in front of them to pave the way for a better future for the next generation.
Upon hearing my brief story about my experience growing up with a working mother, Pasquini was moved to tears. She, like so many, has the weight of society bearing down on her and telling her what is and is not emulative of a good mother or a good employee. To sit down and speak so candidly with someone as strong and accomplished as Margherita Pasquini is nothing short of exhilarating. “I put mom on my CV now,” she mentions, smiling. Her enthusiasm, honesty, personability, and fierce work ethic are only some of the things that Pasquini brings to the table, both personally and professionally.
- Interview by Global Leadership League member and volunteer, Sabrina Vitale
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