15 February 2023

Giuliana Canè, Leader and founder of the Washington D.C. Chapter ALL, shares her story

What is the first memory that comes to mind when thinking about your years at Luiss? What kind of student were you? Compared to the many universities you attended, what added value do you think Luiss gave you?

The first memory that comes to mind is the greenery and beauty of the sites. I think it is very important to spend a large part of your day in beautiful places. When I was a student, the building for the blind and visually impaired on Via Parenzo was inaugurated. It was a big surprise to see so much light in a restored historical building. I learned to appreciate Luiss once I left Rome, and was living abroad. I only then realized the importance of the practical operational tools offered by its courses. I will always remember when my Private Law Professor asked us: “Pull out a contract that you have with you”. To our amazement, the professor pulled out his stamped metro ticket and said: “Guys, you all have a contract at hand.”


You have held various roles in your international career. As a lawyer, you often found yourself managing investments for the World Bank and the Italian government. What is your most fulfilling experience and why? To what extent did you find barriers in your career, especially being a woman? Tell us about your experience in leadership.

The client relationship is definitely the most fulfilling part of all my experiences. At the World Bank, I was often on duty traveling in francophone countries in Africa. I found myself representing the institution with the local government without having enough time available to collect answers and data from Washington. The same happened at the Italian G8. In recent years, I reflected a lot on the issue of barriers. I never felt like a ‘female’, but I felt like ‘myself’. I never limited myself, not when I was on duty travel nor when I was alone in difficult places. Luckily, I never suffered major gender inequalities but experienced microaggressions that are equally harmful. It is important to be vocal and raise awareness. Episodes of microaggression that are recurrent and not clearly acknowledged can wear you down inside. It penalizes women to want to replicate a male leadership model. In my own small way, I try to find an alternative model.


What does being appointed Chapter Leader of ALL Washington D.C. mean to you?

It is an honor; it feels like coming back home and trying to give back to the community the learnings of my experiences and the global mindset that Luiss gave me in the first place. Among all the other Universities, Luiss is the one that I was most pleased to reconnect with. I will never stop thanking it for the way it shaped me!


The inauguration of the Washington D.C. Chapter ALL took place on 28 October. Tell us about your feelings and proposals for the Chapter.

The launch of our new Chapter gave us tremendous energy! The inauguration event was framed in a weekend full of events, which gave great visibility to the launch of the Chapter. Professor Paola Severino and Gianni Riotta were our guests. I was amazed to see them at the launch of our Chapter. I am happy and proud of how Washington is becoming an important reference point for Luiss abroad. The takeaway from this event was the feeling of professionalism that I think will echo a long way and in multiple directions. My goal is to make the Alumni network a point of reference for many other initiatives.


In times of great uncertainty, crisis and unpredictable scenarios, such as the one we are currently experiencing, how do you lead change management of Trans-Atlantic Business? How has your work changed? What situation are we facing, and how do prepare for it?

I’ve always looked at global rather than transatlantic issues. My interpretation of the question is: “How is work going to change and how are we preparing for it?”. In my opinion, in times of crisis and great uncertainty, the most important thing is to go back to basics such as core skills. I can see in my work that the basics are the analytical spirit, depth of analysis, openness, up-to-date, and languages. It is important to take advantage of networks like our Alumni ones. It helps you stay competitive and continuously challenge yourself.


What are the growing sectors that our graduates can turn to? Why is it important to participate in Alumni Association initiatives and be part of the Luiss network?

It is very difficult to keep up to date on everything. The Alumni Chapter initiatives allow you to get to know hot topics in fields other than your own, through high-level professional colleagues. These are mini-training courses between colleagues often with a glass of Pinot Noir in your hand! However, I recommend that you follow the topics that most interest you without going into the trend of the moment, just because it is a trend. I have always said that the wheel will turn if you follow your passion. Getting interested in a topic just because it is trendy does not pay off in the long run. You have to keep up to date with what’s going on, that’s for sure!


How do you envision the Washington DC Chapter in the future?

When I accepted your invitation, I asked myself two questions. One was: “How long is the assignment?” and the second was: “What would I like to achieve?” I have a dream. At the World Bank, for example, years ago the French staff had one lunch a month where they exchanged information and discussed contractual positions and project opportunities. It was really a forum of exchange on a very informal level, determined by nationality. My vision is to recreate a ‘Sunday lunch’ for Italians in America, an occasion for members of the Chapter to exchange information and opportunities.


Interview by Rita Gismondi, member of the Executive Board of the LUISS Alumni Association.