Meet the candidates for the PWA’s Board for the 2020-2021 season

Online elections will take place between May 21st and 27th


Gerlie Saura, President candidate joined the Professional Women’s Association of Rome (PWA) in May 2012. The incumbent PWA Vice-President, Gerlie has made it her mission to support women in their professional development and devotes her free time to organise activities that create opportunities for women to learn, network, and grow in their professional and personal lives. She strongly supports strategic partnerships that promote women’s economic empowerment, lifelong learning, and equal access to employment opportunities. She knows the importance of building resilience to global challenges especially in the wake of a pandemic situation like COVID-19.

Professionally she’s the Head of Executive Education at the Rome Business School, leading corporate education with a model that blends business school with business results. Gerlie is passionate about impactful initiatives that drive growth for both people and organisations while staying on top of business challenges and innovative trends. She’s a senior professional with 15 years of international experience, a relationship-focused leader recognised for being adept at navigating stakeholder complexities in a matrix environment.

Having had lived abroad she has developed a cultural intelligence, active curiosity for technology and innovation management. She held various positions in the Board as Director of Sponsorship in 2012–14, Director of Membership in 2018, and Director of Public Relations in 2019. She believes in the power of grit, women helping women, and the PWA collective leadership.

Florencia Barbieri has already served as Membership Director during the season 2018-2019 and as Sponsorship Director for the season 2019-2020 and is willing to run for Vice-president for the new season.

Florencia has over 20 years of finance experience working for British American Tobacco in Europe, Central Asia and Latin America that has allowed her to develop sound experience in financial leadership and business partnering, in strategic projects leadership and team leadership.

Since 2020 she has started her services as Fractional CFO for Startups and NGOs and as Business Coach and Mentor for Women aiming to improve their career paths.

She loves travelling. In 2006 took a sabbatical and spent 4 months roaming Asia, which she loved. In 2009 she did a part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela which enriched her life. She finds fascinating meeting new people and cultures.

Florencia was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina where she obtained an MBA from IDEA, and previously a Business Administration degree from UADE (Universidad Argentina de la Empresa). She has spent the last 17 years working and living in Europe.

Cecilia Bersani is an Italian biologist, raised in a very large and traditional family. She always sought to challenge her own mindset, in order to build her personality as multicultural and international as possible.

A natural interest in Genetics drove her to specialise in the field of Biology. While still a student, Cecilia worked for international tour operators as a tour leader and for CISV (Children’s International Summer Villages, UNESCO) as an organiser of international camps and interchanges.
She then started her professional career in the Information Technology industry. Her professional skills have developed thanks to the experiences in the main IT multinational players, such as IBM, CA, EDS. Covering different roles within many corporate functions (from Technical Development, to Education, Marketing & Sales) taught her to always rely on both content and functionality, while never falling short in terms of leadership.
Currently she works as Business Development Manager for a highly-specialised IT Security company.
She believes in a strong and shared leadership and, most of all, in the power of women teaming up with women.
That is the reason why she joined PWA 4 years ago. She has been a board member for the last 3 years, first as Sponsorship Director, then as Social Director. In this role, she got in touch with every PWA member, getting to know first-hand the deep meaning of PWA’s mission and how precious and rare are the bonds within it. Some of you may also remember some of the sparkling events she organised!
Her intent is to bring this blend of drive and rich background to the Leadership Team as PWA’s next Vice President.
As the next PWA Vice President, she will bring in her energy, enthusiasm and experience.

Maja Ivanovic, Treasurer Candidate joined the Professional Women’s Association of Rome (PWA) in September 2019. Maja is a passionate PVA member; she has always promoted the need to increase women’s representation in professional life. She deeply believes that women in leadership positions are a benefit to companies as, together with their male counterparts, they contribute to the benefits of the companies they work for. During her professional life, she has always advocated for diversity in businesses and has often mentored young female colleagues.

Professionally, Maja is an Electrical Engineer.  Currently she works as Service Manager and manages maintenance of 160 Digital Services at Poste Italiane. She worked as a professor at the University and then worked on projects worldwide, in 30 countries in Europe, Americas. Africa and the Middle East. She was Project Manager at the European Union’s IPA projects for the Taxation Office. She was the author of financial management software for the University of Belgrade. Maja appreciates teamwork and has extreme ability to adapt in new environments, new cultures and new business concepts, with the ability to learn quickly.

Enthusiastic by nature, Cristiana Rescigno has a genuine passion about people development, advocating and role modelling a way of living which leverage everyone’s unique experience and background. 

Cristiana joined PWA back in September and immediately showed interest to actively contribute to the PWA roadmap deployment and evolution. For Cristiana the candidacy to the next election is a natural call of duty!

Strong believer of active listening, Cristiana has spent the past years working in multi-cultural, multi-country environments broadening her interests and forging a diverse experience that strengthen her passion to promote women supporting women, building network and creating mutual opportunities.

Born in Rome and equipped with resilient passion for what she does and the people around her, Cristiana is an engineer by background, a broad-based professional and highly motivated leader with strong interpersonal skills and 15+ years solid experience within the Multinational FMCG and Health Care Supply Chain & Operations.

Cristiana is recognised for being solution-oriented, open-minded and being able to motivate when sharing a vision as well as introducing transformational changes in complex matrix organisations. Cristiana spends her spare free time sailing, practicing yoga and enjoying time with her beloved family and friends.

Her motto is “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

Mirela Cojocaru is a Senior Professional with over 15 years of business development experience, matured working with both public and private sectors in the Defence and Law Enforcement. After her studies university studies in Romania, she won a scholarship for a Master’s in International Business Engineering and moved to Rome. Her personal and professional choices allowed her to travel extensively, enjoying new cultures and adventuring off the beaten paths of the places she visits.

She joined Professional Women’s Association of Rome in 2017, after attending one of PWA’s conferences that provided valuable insights for her profession. She enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere and the supportive attitude she witnessed in the association, so she decided to become a more active member and was elected PWA’s Newsletter Editor for 2019-2020. “It’s impressive how much you can learn about yourself while working or interacting with so many different people” she says about her first experience as a Board Member.

As this experience is coming to an end, she would like to candidate herself for the role of Membership Director, to continue being closer to the members and friends of PWA. This would be a great opportunity to continue sharing her enthusiasm about the association while contributing to promote the  importance of women empowerment and of networking. There is no doubt that, if elected, PWA will continue to represent for her a source of development, of friendships and even of involuntary but very efficient mentoring, as she already witnessed.

Catherine Costaggiu, Social Director candidate; she joined the Professional Women’s Association of Rome in September 2019. She strongly believes in giving back, the power of network, the need of linking women’s minds across cultures, women’s empowerment and the urgent need to break the glass ceiling. She is strongly committed to serve PWA’s mission and members and is confident to have both the professional and personal skills to do so successfully. 

Professionally, Catherine is an international arbitration lawyer with over 5 years post-qualification experience in a first-rate New York-based law firm, trained to work under pressure and provide efficient solutions to complex issues. Prior to joining the private sector, she interned at the European Court of Human Rights and at the International Development Law Organization, where she had the chance to be exposed to different projects related to women’s empowerment. Catherine has lived and studied in countries with different cultural backgrounds. She is a Ph.d. candidate in International law & Economics at Bocconi University (Milan, 2020), a University of Turin graduate (J.D. with honors, class of 2009), a Columbia Law School graduate (New York, class of 2015), a Fulbright scholar (2014-2015), a McGill University alumnus (Montreal, 2008), and a former Universidad de Buenos Aires visiting research scholar (Argentina, 2018/2019). She is half Italian, half Bulgarian, a native speaker of Italian and Bulgarian, speaks fluently English, Spanish and French and has a basic knowledge of Russian. 

Wanting to share her experience as a trailing spouse, Milena Guarino Padula became a Portable Career Advisor for expats spouses and partners that find themselves moving frequently while attempting to build a professional life.

As a spouse of an Italian Diplomat she had the opportunity to organise several events in the countries they were posted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Furthermore she was able to improve her education in several Institutions such as University of Siena, University of Reading and McGill University. 

She lived and worked in Moscow, London, Rome, Bahrain and Montreal changing country every four years.
Those experiences gave her a multicultural background that has allowed her to understand different cultures and work with people from different nationalities. Moving so often has also improved her organisational skills and her adaptability to new environments. She has organised several social and fundraising events and she has been active in the  Public Relation field.

Back in Rome she founded the Education and Career Group, hosting networking events to provide members with training opportunities and connection chances.

She is also Board Member of ACDMAE (Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spouses Association) and the Italian Delegate for EUFASA (European Union Foreign Affairs Spouses Associations).

She joined PWA because she found  an association very sensitive to gender balance topics, always  trying to put the woman’s  role and her qualities in the right spotlight. The more she gets involved with PWA, the more she would like to give her contribution to its growth and development, for this reason she  decided to present  her candidacy as PWA Social Director.

Claudia Piccarreta is 57, half Belgian and half Italian, and single mother of a boy aged 15.

Since 2003, she works as Legal Director at Travelport, a leading technology and data provider for the global tourism industry. Before settling back in Rome in 2001, she worked almost 10 years for private law firms and for the telecom industry, living in Benelux, Geneva and London, and traveling extensively for business in more than 30 countries. She loves walking, cats and cooking.  Her favorite dish is the Pasta al Forno con gli Ziti from Puglia, which she learned from her grand-mother. Her best holiday has been a trip in Kirgyzistan with my son, 2 years ago.

She loves in PWA its unique variety of people and backgrounds, which makes any PWA event an opportunity to get truly enriched as well as entertained.

She is applying to the position of PWA Social Director because she likes creative challenges and she would love to organise events that could bring to all opportunities to learn new things and enlarge our horizons, while getting enriched personally and thus professionally! Among the events that she would like to organise: a guided dinner in the darkness, to experience blindness and discover the incredible potential of our other senses,  and a talk about the most innovative Italian start up and social projects.

Gaia Nina Marano has a Law Degree and Master Degree in Tax Law from the University LUISS of Rome. She is a lawyer of the bar association of Rome since 2014.

She had diverse working experiences in international environments and she worked for EBA Clearing in Paris from June till October 2019.

She is currently working for a boutique Law Firm in Rome with a special focus in Labor & Employment Law. She has, by nature, an entrepreneurial spirit, and that is why she completed the MBA part-time program at Luiss Business School.

Gaia is an Italian native speaker. She is fluent in English, and she is constantly trying to improve her French.

Having lived in different countries around the world, she knows the importance of networking. She joined PWA because she believes in the power of team working and because for her diversity is a major plus. As Pr Director she wants to improve the inclusiveness of the association.

Raffaella di Primio was born in Rome, where she graduated with a degree in Law and qualified as a lawyer.

Her legal background and education encouraged her to run for the role of PWA Secretary last year; a role that she covered for the 2019/20 social year, after being elected in May 2019.  As part of last year’s PWA Board of Directors she appreciated the valuable experience of working with a great team of women and could sense the real spirit of PWA: support, networking and collective leadership. This year experience motivated her to candidate herself as next year Sponsorship Director, in a time where this role will be extremely challenging but yet essential for PWA. She wishes to contribute and serve PWA at the best of her professional and human capability, with the support of a great team of women & friends of PWA.

The attributes she will bring to the new role are team spirit, curiosity and positivity.

Marzia Paciantoni, PR Director candidate joined the Professional Women’s Association of Rome (PWA) in April 2019. She’s currently part of the Communication Team and since she joined the team, Marzia has supported the organisation in having a fluid work flow to welcome the new candidates and devotes her free time to support the communication strategy overall. Marzia strongly believes PWA must support the networking among professional women and in this new challenging role, she would like to increase the opportunity of consolidating the positioning of the association.

Professionally she’s IoT Senior Account Manager and, before, Head of Global Communication at Acotel Group SpA, an ICT multinational in which she works since long time, having changed roles among various business lines. Marzia has a long experience in the multimedia business, from entertainment console and video games to interactive TV, from VAS to the launch of a MVNO in JV with Intesa Sanpaolo, up to today where she deals with the IoT sector with Vodafone as main partner.

She believes a post Covid scenario will have to respond promptly to the needs of women and that PWA will respond to this and to all the challenges yet to come because Marzia strongly believes in the power of a women network, and above all in the women affiliation within PWA which stands for women supporting women. 

Luisa López is a dynamic, self-organized and qualified Project Manager. She is also a creative, curious and multifaceted woman. She lived in five different countries building long-lasting contact networks, being adaptive and flexible to engage with people with different backgrounds and interests. Therefore she is always glad to get involved in new business ideas and projects. 

In the past years, she worked abroad gaining significant experience in high-level project management and communication’s projects. Her working experience has been enriched over the years as she has worked in the private sector and the public administration (in Italy and abroad). She has a “community building” background and passion for books, digital marketing, food and travel. 

Her educational profile includes a degree in Management Engineering and a MBA degree (“among other academic diplomas, since I really like to study”). In her personal and professional life, she has always advocated for human rights, innovation and women’s entrepreneurship. Thus, she was very committed while working for some UN agencies. She is now eager to build strong network community synergies inside PWA.

In the presence of more candidates per role, each candidate was presented based on the date of submission of their candidacy to the election committee. Only one person per role can be voted.
The elections will take place only online, between 20th and 26th of May and all PWA members will receive the necessary instructions accordingly.
The election committee, run by Anna Ghergo, Valeria Parisi and Lisa Rosen, is available to answer all your questions at

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