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Even As Progressives Take Lead In Greece, Women Remain Out Of Power

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (fourth from the left) leads the first cabinet meeting of his government Jan. 28 in Athens. He's been criticized for selecting no women for senior positions.

Anastasia Giamali is a young, well-educated and ambitious woman. She's a regional politician for Syriza, the leftist party now running Greece, and a high-profile journalist with the party-affiliated newspaper.

She also agrees with Amparo Rubiales, the Spanish feminist who criticized Syriza for appointing only men to the new cabinet. She says no one in Greece commented on the single-gender leadership, a reflection of how the nation clings to its traditional, patriarchal roots.

"It's still a male-dominated society," Giamali says. "It's hard for a woman to be involved in high-end politics, because a woman must be a mother, must be working, must take care of the whole family more than a man would in Greece.

Greece ranks near the bottom in the European Union in the number of women participating in politics, and never has had a female prime minister. Men still dominate parliament.

A group of young women at an Athenian cafe say they joined Syriza because, compared to the other parties, it has more women in its ranks and more elected women in parliament. Still, says Lina Theodorou, a 25-year-old lawyer, most party leaders are men.

"Men are accepted with all of their flaws, but women are not," she says. "Women are often categorized as being too shy or too loud or whatever for some big post. It's a problem in Greece, and it's a problem in our party."

The idea that Greek men are born leaders is even taught in school, says Natasa Spanoudi, a 25-year-old teacher.

"In history books about the Greek revolution, for instance, we're taught that the men with the big mustaches and giant muscles are the ones that saved us," she says. "Not the women, who fought too and just as bravely."

Another teacher, Evi Papathanassiou, notes that even though most teachers in Greece are women, even their unions are led by men.

Louka Katseli, an economics professor, is one of the rare women who have been selected for a top Greek post; she served in two government cabinets. She'd like to see more women given that opportunity.

"Women have a different way of dealing with people and issues — we listen, we are not so power hungry," she says. "These qualities, especially when you have a crisis, are quite helpful."

Katseli says women have made inroads in the nation's politics through the years — especially in the 300-member parliament.

"We have 69 women in parliament right now — which is not as high as I would like it to be. It's certainly not 50-50, but it's the best record that we have for many, many years," she says.

And though the senior cabinet has no women, there are six women in key deputy positions, the former labor and economic minister says, including in the finance and labor ministries.

And last week, human rights attorney and Syriza lawmaker Zoe Konstantopoulou was elected as speaker of the parliament. It's a milestone — she's only the second woman in Greek history to hold that powerful and influential post.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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