ATHENS – The television screens across Greece showcased the faces of the country’s political party leaders as the election results unfolded on May 21. However, one striking observation was evident—they were all men.
Despite continuous assurances from successive governments to enhance the representation of women in their Cabinets and as ministers, only a few appointments have materialized. The passing of Fofi Gennimata, the former PASOK-KINAL leader, in October 2021 at the age of 57 further accentuated the lack of female major party chiefs.
In a feature published in Barron’s, the news agency Agence France-Presse shed light on this phenomenon, underscoring the persistent male dominance in Greek politics and the ongoing struggle for women to secure higher positions.
Women in Greece gained the right to vote in 1952, yet they remain significantly underrepresented in politics. Currently, only 20% of the 300 Members of Parliament are women, placing Greece among the European Union countries with the lowest rates of female representation. Furthermore, there is a notable absence of women in high-profile political leadership roles.
Before the appointment of an interim government ahead of the June 25 second round of elections, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ administration had a mere 10 women in a Cabinet of 58, with only two serving as ministers.
In 2015, Vasiliki Thanou, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, briefly became Greece’s first female prime minister, leading a caretaker government between elections. However, her subsequent appointment as head of then-Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ legal office raised concerns about her neutrality.
Thanou commented on the situation, stating, “The number of women involved in politics is unsatisfactory. Perhaps Greek society has not yet fully recognized that women have the same potential as men to assume political responsibilities.”
Despite the notable achievements of his sister Dora Bakoyianni, the first female Mayor of Athens and a former foreign minister, Mitsotakis did not prioritize gender inclusivity in his leadership.
Following New Democracy’s victory over SYRIZA in July 2019, Mitsotakis’ government implemented a mandatory quota, requiring a minimum of 40% female candidates on electoral lists. Additionally, veteran judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou was appointed as the country’s President, a position that holds prestige but limited power. Nonetheless, Mitsotakis has made limited progress in prioritizing women in political appointments.
Dora Palli-Petralia, a New Democracy candidate, acknowledged the presence of women on election ballots but lamented their low success rate in securing positions.
Eva Kaili, from the PASOK-KINAL center-left party, formerly held a powerful position as Vice-President of the European Parliament. However, media coverage often focused on her physical appearance, such as her “beauty” and “beautiful blue eyes,” as noted by AFP.
During a recent conversation with young female YouTuber Nefeli Meg, Mitsotakis promised to appoint “many more” women in government if re-elected, without providing an explanation for the lack of female representation during his first term.
Stella Kasdagli, co-founder of the non-profit organization Women on Top, highlighted the patriarchal nature of Greek society, emphasizing that family responsibilities, particularly child-rearing and caring for elderly parents, often hinder women’s progress.
Greater gender equality in Greek politics is urgently needed, as women continue to face systemic barriers and societal expectations that limit their participation and advancement.