Women in Northern and Southern Italian labour markets The extent of gender disparity In the past thirty years, in Italy, as well as in many other countries, women’s participation to the labour market has substantially increased. This improvement prospected potential increasing opportunities for women and was supposed to bring greater gender equality. However, despite some relevant progresses, the gender gap in the labour market is far from being filled, especially with regard to the South of Italy where the gap-closing pace is very slow. The analysis of labour force participation rates and employment-to-population ratios in the 1978-2006 period shows that gender disparities in Italy are greater than in many other countries (though less perceived) and concentrated by territory, also because of a widespread social acceptance. This article shows that rising female participation and employment do not necessarily mean that labour markets are positively developing for all women: in fact, the actual main change taking place in the Italian labour market during the past thirty years, is the enhancing of working-life course and expectations which considerably contrast when confronting women in the North of Italy and women in the South of Italy.