As the famous proverb goes: behind every great man is a great woman. However, in the modern world, a woman no longer even needs to be a man’s shadow to have an important job or run a large company. In this day and age, more and more women hold senior positions and take part in business on an equal footing with men. They are successful managers and representatives of various companies and international institutions in their own right. Women deserve all the more praise since on top of all that they still attend to their motherly and wifely duties, raising children and running homes.
Plentiful are examples of women succeeding in the most responsible of jobs, managing big projects and even running entire countries. Monaco is more than just a paradise inviting you to enjoy a sunset cruise aboard a yacht. The Principality is also a business hub holding meetings, events and conferences of utmost importance and women are in the centre of it.
The National Council
In early February 2023 Monaco held its National Council elections. 89.6 % of the vote went to the “Monegasque National Union” led by Brigitte Boccone-Pagès. Her party currently holds all 24 seats in Parliament. On 16 February, 2023, Mrs Boccone-Pagès was unanimously elected President of the National Council becoming the first woman in the history of Monaco to hold this position.
It took some 60 years after the election of the first female member for the first woman to preside over the National Council. In 1963, 50-year old Roxane Noat-Notari was elected to the Monaco Parliament for the very first time. She also happened to be daughter of Louis Notari, social activist and writer, nicknamed father of Monegasque literature.
The right to vote and stand for municipal elections was granted to Monegasque women in 1945. It was not until 1962, however, that they gained the right to be elected to the National Council. At the time, the National Council, which Roxane Noat-Notari joined after the 1963 election, consisted of 18 deputies. She was subsequently re-elected for three more terms (in 1968, 1973 and 1978), remaining a deputy for a total of two decades.
As a member of the National Council, Roxane Noat-Notari was particularly sensitive to social issues and women’s rights. From the very start, she advocated for the state to pay more attention to education and culture, boosting the system of family support by the government.
Roxane was also very involved in humanitarian and charity work. Founding president of AMADE (World Association of Children’s Friends), established in 1966, she held a number of other important positions in the humanitarian sphere: Vice-President of AMAPEI (Monegasque Association for the Aid and Protection of Disabled Children), member of the Monaco Red Cross Board of Directors and Foyer Sainte-Dévote school’s Board of Directors, President of the Administrative Council of the Monaco Guides and Scouts Association, member of the UNESCO National Commission, head of the ‘Cœurs vaillants-Âmes vaillantes’, and member of the Monegasque Language Commission.
Nowadays the Monaco National Council counts eleven women MPs, almost 50 % of the total. The youngest member of the National Council is Mathilde Le Clerc, 32 years of age. On February 5, 2023, she came eighth out of twenty-four elected MPs in terms of votes cast. Mathilde Le Clerc was elected chairman of the Education, Youth and Sports Commission on February 17, 2023.
In February 2022, Isabelle Berro-Amadeï succeeded Laurent Anselmi as the State Councillor-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. A graduate in law and jurisprudence, Isabelle has built a distinguished career in foreign and international relations. Before taking up diplomacy, Mrs. Berro-Amadeï was a prominent jurist, working as a judge and later chairing a section at the European Court of Human Rights. She was then ambassador for the Principality to Germany, Austria and Poland, and worked for international organisations in Vienna. Mrs. Berro-Amadeï also chairs Monaco’s Committee To Promote and Safeguard Women’s Rights whose mission is to combat violence and discrimination and to co-ordinate and evaluate national gender equality policies. A strong advocate of human rights, Isabelle has, among other things, stood before the UN Human Rights Council.
Céline Caron-Dagioni has been Minister of Public Works, the Environment and Urban Development since September 2021. Having received her degree, Céline set out to gain some experience abroad. She has worked in France and in the UK. Eventually, however, her call to serve her own country was stronger than anything else. Céline thus joined the Monaco government after a successful career in finance, healthcare and in the car industry.
Isabelle Bonnal was appointed Commissioner General for the Department of Education, Youth and Sport in 2021. This new top position was a tribute to her distinguished career in national education. Isabelle Bonnal has worked with children and young people for 45 years. In 1978, after getting her cum laude university degree and a CAPES (secondary school teacher diploma) in modern literature, she started her teaching career in Monaco public and private schools. In August 2011, Isabelle was appointed Director of National Education, Youth and Sport. Improving teaching quality, using digital technologies in education, helping graduates choose a career, caring for pupils with special needs, organising educational, cultural and sporting events — these are just some of Mrs. Bonnal’s responsibilities. She firmly believes that the Principality’s future lies in its young people’s hands.
Kristel Malgherini joined the Palace administration team of the Prince of Monaco in spring 2023. She has taken up the position of adviser to the Staff of H.S.H. the Sovereign Prince headed by Laurent Anselmi. She succeeded Isabelle Costa who now occupies another important post of High Commissioner for European Affairs.
Kristel Malgherini holds a law degree from the University of Nice. Her first steps in her career have already taken her through responsible institutions such as the National Council, and the Directorate of Health and Social Affairs, where she worked as an administrator. In 2014, she held several positions at the Department of Social and Health Affairs of the Ministry of State. There she worked as head of department, then policy officer, and after that as a technical advisor. And then in 2021 Kristel Malgherini was appointed its Secretary General.
In her new responsible position in the administration of the Prince of Monaco, she will be focusing on social and health issues as well as affairs concerning the European Union and judicial matters.
The Monegasque Police Force currently counts some 88 women. Even in this seemingly heavily male oriented organisation women are quite successful at taking challenging roles and holding positions of responsibility.
Isabelle Castelli is the Head of the Marine and Airport Police Division. Having graduated from the police academy in 1992, she has always been interested in socially important work. Therefore early in her career and for a number of years she was working for the juvenile squad. Before joining the Marine and Airport Police, Isabelle also had experience in the administrative and training department. Now having taken on an operational division, Isabelle Castelli has become the first woman to head an entire unit of the Principality’s police force.
Audrey Corentin is yet another female police officer with important responsibilities. She is Head of the Administration and Training Division in charge of recruiting police and administrative staff, training and setting budgets. Audrey holds a specialized Master’s degree in policing, security and human rights. A law school graduate, she was originally considering a career in the police force. However, she started off with an administrative job. After 8 years as External Relations Secretary for the Department of External Relations and Cooperation, Audrey Corentin finally joined the Monaco Police in 2014. At the time, she was in charge of Finance and Logistics. In her new position, Audrey is responsible, among other things, for preparation of the budget and implementation and awarding of public contracts.
The number of women in the Monegasque police force, as for the other public institutions, has been growing steadily. According to statistics, in 1986 women working for the Principality’s police accounted for less than 2% of the force. By 2021, this number has importantly grown to 15%.
Princess Grace Hospital
In 2018, Benoîte de Sevelinges, 36 years of age, was appointed Head of the Princess Grace Hospital Centre as its Director. She succeeded Patrick Bini who had held the position for ten years. Benoîte had to face a difficult time during the Covid-19 pandemic when the hospital was under more pressure than ever and she had to make challenging and sometimes unpopular decisions.
Benoîte first joined Princess Grace Hospital back in 2009. For a long time, she was Patrick Bini’s deputy director. A graduate of the Political Studies Institute (IEP) in Bordeaux, she holds a Master’s degree in strategy and commercial management. Ms. Sevelinges also studied at the “Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Santé Publique” (EHESP) in Rennes.
Benoîte de Sevelinges is an energetic manager with an eye for the future. Efficient medical care and comfortable hospital stays are her absolute priorities. Following her predecessor, she faithfully pursues the cause for the upgrade of Monaco’s only public hospital. Guided by her own vision, she also largely focuses on some other vital aspects, such as patient care digitalisation.
The Prince Rainier III Academy of Music
In 2020, a woman was elected Director of the Rainier III Academy of Music and Theatre for the first time ever. Jade Sapolin took over from Christian Tournier who was running the Principality’s oldest music school since 2011. Last year, under her leadership, the Music Academy celebrated its centenary.
Mrs Sapolin took up her new position under quite challenging circumstances. Due to technical problems, the start of the academic year had to be postponed. The Academy had to undergo a complete restructuring. Other venues had to be found for the classes to be held in comfort. All this, amidst the Covid-19 health crisis… To her credit, Jade Sapolin handled the situation beautifully. She found the best solutions and helped the pupils survive these difficult times without affecting their music lessons. Her extensive administrative experience as Deputy director of the Prisma Art and Music School in Boulogne-Billancourt and Director of the Conservatoire de la Bois-Colombé turned out very helpful.
Jade Sapolin is a professional cellist, winner of a number of music contests. She comes from an artistic family: her grandfather was a composer and her mother, a dancer. Jade first discovered music at the age of 5 and later pursued her studies in Paris.
Interestingly, the founder of the future Monaco academy of music, Louis Abbiate, was also a cellist. He toured Europe with concerts and was invited by the famous conductor Arturo Toscanini to work in the Teatro alla Scala orchestra in Milan. In 1922, Louis Abbiate presided over Monaco’s first music school, later to become the Prince Rainier III Academy of Music in 1956.
Monaco Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology
Elena Rossoni-Notter is Director of the Monaco Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology. Passionate about archeology ever since she was a child, she devoted her life to this unique science. A graduate in archeology and classical literature, Elena also studied Greek and Latin to further her understanding of her field of knowledge. She received a PhD relative to Archaeology and Paleolithic Studies in Perpignan, as well as other Masters Degrees on the Middle Ages, antiquity and prehistory working in Aix-en-Provence and Nice. Having gained precious experience and awards during her business trips abroad, Elena Rossoni-Notter brought her knowledge back to Monaco working at the Museum of Prehistoric Anthropology, founded back in 1902 by Prince Albert I.
As the museum’s director, Dr. Rossoni-Notter’s mission is making it more open to the public. Regular master classes and events are therefore specially held for the young museum visitors and local schools. As part of a number of projects in Monaco and worldwide, major scientific and international archaeological work and excavations are being carried out under her supervision. Striving to understand international history, Elena Rossoni-Notter is also member of many cultural associations in Monaco and international committees (Academy of Sciences, IIPP, IPH…).
The Monte-Carlo Opera
Cecilia Bartoli has been head of the Monte-Carlo Opera since January 1, 2023. She is the first ever female director in the theater’s history. A keen professional, Cecilia has been combining some important positions throughout her artistic career. Since 2012, she has thus been presiding over the Salzburg Whitsun Festival.
This famous Italian has a long love story with the Principality. At the age of just 22, she debuted in the “The Barber of Seville” on the Salle Garnier stage back in the late 1980s. Since then, Cecilia has performed at the Monte-Carlo Theater many a time and continues to do so despite her important position and number of commitments.
In 2016, assisted by Jean-Louis Grinda, the Monte-Carlo Opera’s director at that time, Cecilia Bartoli created a band of princely musicians. Since then, it has given dozens of performances across Europe. This orchestra, composed of international musicians playing period instruments, offers a very special repertoire indeed, reviving the traditions of the great 17th and 18th century royal and imperial courts.
The space of one article is surely not sufficient to cover all the outstanding women holding senior positions in the Principality. In our next few editions, we will continue introducing you to the brightest female Monaco residents.