A woman nominated as new President of the Hellenic
Greek parliamentarians approved overwhelmingly last week
the nomination of top judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou as
new President of the Hellenic Republic.
With conservative New Democracy, leftist SYRIZA and
center-left Movement for Change backing the president of
the Council of State, the 63-year-old got 261 votes in
the 300-strong assembly.
She would succeed incumbent Prokopis Pavlopoulos, whose
term ends on March 13.
Although the office of president is ceremonial, Greek
PM’s Mitsotakis’ choice gives a clear signal that things
are changing in Greece regarding gender equality. The
selection for the country’s highest office “honors both
justice and the modern Greek woman,” Sakellaropoulou
said in her remarks accepting the nomination.
“I accept the proposal and, if elected, will devote all
my efforts to serving this high duty, as set out by the
constitution,” the longtime judge stated.
A survey conducted by Greece‘s Research Center for
Gender Equality (KETHI) in April of 2019 found that 72
percent of Greeks believe that the country needs more
women in politics, and their reluctance to participate
is harmful to democracy itself.
However, another survey by the European Institute of
Gender Equality (EIGE) released in October 2019 shows
that, with 51.2 out of 100 points, Greece ranks
absolutely last in the EU on the Gender Equality Index.
Gender inequalities are most pronounced in the domain
termed “power” (24.3 points).
Greece went on to improve its Index rankings between
2005 and 2017, but still had a much lower mark than the
average EU score throughout the entire period.
The percentage of women holding executive positions in
Greece is increasing but it is still well below the
European Union average. According to a March, 2019
Eurostat survey, women account for only 32 percent of
all managerial positions in Greece, while the EU average
is 36 percent.
Women account for less than one tenth of board members
at only nine percent, whereas at the EU level, just over
one quarter, or 27 percent, of board members are women.
Against this background the choice of Sakellaropoulou as
Greece’s President is a significant move signaling that
gender equality is vital for the future of the nation.
The judge, born in Thessaloniki in 1956, has moved
rapidly up the hierarchy of the Greek legal system. She
was elected unanimously as the head of the Council of
State in October of 2018.
Sakellaropoulou has also served as President of the
Hellenic Society for Environmental Law since 2015, and
has actively worked on large cases involving the
environment, including the diversion of the Acheloos
River in Thessaly and the preservation of the historic
refugee buildings on Alexandras Avenue in Athens.
Her nomination, and almost certain appointment as the
new President of the Hellenic Republic, provides an
impetus for Greek women to challenge the near-total male
domination in other spheres of society and economy.
The heroines of the Greek War of Independence, such as
Laskarina Bouboulina, Manto Mavrogenous, Rallou Karatza
and the women of Epirus, as well as the unsung heroines
of the Greek-Italian War, clearly showed the tremendous
contribution women have made for the defense of
Sakellaropoulou now has a good opportunity to become the
champion of contemporary women in their quest to attain
equal status in modern Greek society.