Gathering Italian and Italian-American women to tell their stories, the Italian Consulate of New York set up an in-person event on Monday 13th of December. Hosted by the Consul General Fabrizio Di Michele and moderated by journalist/correspondent Maria Luisa Rossi Hawkins, guests Natalia Bergamaschi, Jodi Pulice and Adriana Trigiani were all invited to informally share their personal and professional journeys and interact with the public.
Following Rossi Hawkins’ brief introduction, Natalia Bergamaschi, Google’s strategic partnerships’ developer in the News and Publishing sector, was the first guest to share her story.
As an Italian immigrant in the US, Bergamaschi had many obstacles to overcome before finding success and stability. Bergamaschi tells us that a few years ago, when she still lived in Italy, she had given up her career to stay at home with her kids and started feeling that no company in Italy wanted to hire someone with a large four-year gap in their resume.
Fortunately, Bergamaschi’s talent was eventually recognized and she was recruited by Google in Italy. It came as no surprise therefore that, upon receiving a job offer in New York City, Bergamaschi’s husband refused the opportunity, not wanting to harm her newfound career.
However, against all odds, Bergamaschi liked the idea of a fresh start and convinced her husband to accept the new job, determined to start over and find employment again in the United States.
Once she moved to New York, Bergamaschi kept working for Italy’s Google headquarters from abroad but, after being advised that her position was not sustainable, Bergamaschi found a different job at the American Google in just two weeks. Due to the language barrier and simply not knowing anyone, she described feeling isolated, lonely and not speaking to anyone for hours on end upon starting her new position. Eventually however, Bergamaschi realized that this new role was much better than her last. The risk had paid off.
Italian American Jodi Pulice, founder and CEO of JRT Realty Group, was raised in a different country yet shares similar values with Bergamaschi. Though Pulice’s Italian heritage traces back to the 1800’s, she maintains that it is this very heritage that led her to success. Much like her grandparents, Pulice carries with her determination, passion and a strong love for her family. “It was always about opportunity,” Pulice explained in speaking of her relatives’ move to the US. “The only way you can leave your home is if you bring your traditions and heritage with you.” Today, Pulice is very proud of her success, but clarified that this wasn’t an overnight achievement.
Growing up, Pulice explained that there were only two goals: getting a college education, and being successful in whatever you chose to do. When Pulice settled on commercial real estate however, her parents didn’t know what that was; she had to work for it alone. Because entry-level real estate is commission-based, Pulice had to juggle two additional jobs to support herself: she worked in a video store and learned how to make eyeglass lenses for an eyeglasses shop. Despite all the hardships, Pulice persisted. “When you have a strong heritage, background and strong women behind you, you fear nothing,” said Pulice. That same spirit kept her going and enabled her pursuit of a career in sales.
It didn’t take Pulice long to notice an imbalance in her real estate workplace. “When I first went in with my deals, I noticed that the real estate world was all just white men,” said Pulice. After being asked to keep her ideas to herself and to stay at the back of the tables during meetings, Pulice decided to found her own commercial real estate company. As the proud CEO of JRT Realty Group, the real estate company in America with the highest number of women leaders, Pulice’s goal is to welcome anyone willing to learn with open arms regardless of their race, gender or background. “My job is to give opportunity to people all over the world,” said Pulice.
Italian American best-selling author Adriana Trigiani was the last speaker to share her experience. While Trigiani was raised in Appalachia, much like Pulice, it was her Italian roots (specifically from Bergamo) that were always prevalent in her upbringing. In full agreement with the preceding speakers, Trigiani reaffirmed that, “risk is the jet fuel to creativity.” And particularly as a writer, “you have to be fearless and tell the truth.” When Trigiani first began her career working in glamorous Hollywood, the gender disparity was hard to miss. However, Trigiani thinks of Italians as “history’s original diversity crew,” prioritizing work ethic and craftsmanship above all else.
Dreaming of making it on Broadway, Trigiani moved to New York in the 80’s. She started by doing stage readings, punching movie tickets and even working as an office temp on Wall Street until finally making it into television. To Trigiani’s dismay however, she found that American Television was not interested in Italian stories unless the mob was involved; a completely different narrative from her own experience. Ignoring popular demand, Trigiani went ahead with what felt right for her and wrote multiple successful books based on nostalgic Italian family stories. “I try to marry what I see in the world with what was and just make a delicious meatball out of it,” said Trigiani.
Asked to comment on her identity as an Italian American woman, Trigiani replied “the longing is Italian, the dream fulfilled is American.”