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Left to right: Party of European Socialists Women Vice President Zefi Dimadama, General Secretary of Demographic and Family Policy and Gender Equality Kalypso Goula, and Judge Madeline Singas. Photo: TNH/ Yanna Katsageorgi
NEW YORK – The Consulate General of Greece in New York celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 in a packed room with mostly women of all ages, who responded to the invitation of the new Consul General in New York, Konstantinos Konstantinou, to celebrate five prominent women from the Greek-American community who have distinguished themselves in male-dominated fields, such as New York State Supreme Court Justice Madeline Singas, Leadership 100 Executive Director Paulette Poulos, internationally acclaimed chef and entrepreneur Maria Loi, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Radiology at Columbia University Dr. Elisa Konofagou, and Dr. Maria Vassalou, Goldman Sachs executive.
The consul general welcomed the officials and said that “if the UN report is true, that the true equality of the two sexes will come in 300 years, we have a long way to go. But the existence of brilliant women like the ones we have with us today, gives us courage to continue.”
Then, he introduced the official guest, General Secretary of Demographic and Family Policy and Gender Equality Kalypso Goula who, as she stated, came with a group to represent Greece at the United Nations for the Conference on the Status of Women, in very bad circumstances, due to the tragedy in Tempi. She referred to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ Action Plan for Gender Equality 2021-2025 and emphasized the necessity of women’s participation in decision-making, for issues of peace, war, and crisis management.
In a video message from President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou thanked the honored women of Greek origin for their contributions “in their professional field and their achievements, which honor not only them, but also all of Greece and the Greek-American community and are a brilliant example for young girls.”
The presentation then began with the five remarkable women panelists, moderated by the television presenter Yanna Darilis, giving a short introduction about the struggles of women in history, presenting the biographies of the honorees, and asking them questions about their journey, the difficulties they encountered as women in predominantly male professional fields, how they combined family and career, and what advice they would give to the attendees through their valuable experience.
The stories of the eminent women that followed, full of humor, love and endless effort and perseverance, impressed all those present. They all shared the following in common: Courage, dedication, passion and the sense of their uniqueness as women, for which they fought and they continue to fight, setting an example to the younger generations, but also to all Greek women who are trying to find their way.
Some beautiful points included Ms. Madeline Singas’ advice: “When you find doors open, go there straight away, to give your dream a chance.”
She was followed by Ms. Paulette Poulos, who referred to the words of Archbishop Iakovos, when he first met her and asked her to work as an accountant in the church: “I don’t want you to count money,” he told her. “I want you to help me count souls. I don’t want priests. I want women with brains, devotion, and love for the Church.” Businesswoman Maria Loi, who learned to cook from the age of 5 in a village in Aitoloakarnania, so that the rest of her family could eat in the fields, said: “If you cut my veins, olive oil will come out. Nothing else will come out.”
Dr. Elisa Konofagou gave the example of her great-grandmother who traveled five hours by donkey to go to Volos from Keramidi, and become a seamstress, telling us that there is always an inspiration behind every woman who succeeds.
And Dr. Maria Vassalou, a native of Constantinople, referred to her parents’ advice to be independent and to focus on the knowledge and potential that she has as a human being, because everything else is lost. Today, she manages over $200 million at Goldman Sachs.
Consul General Konstantinou closed the evening with warm thanks to the attendees. Present at the event were Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations Ambassador Evangelos Sekeris, ND Member of Parliament for Ioannina Maria Stefanou Kefala, Party of European Socialists Women Vice President Zefi Dimadama, Permanent Mission of Greece to the UN Second Counsellor, for the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) Tasos Kezas, and many others. The consul general also thanked the contributors to the organization of the event, Consul Dimitris Papageorgiou, the head of the Office of Public Diplomacy Mary Vaxevanidou, Yanna Darilis, Thomas Kintis and others.
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