Greece is finally joining the future with a female head of state. Katerina Sakellaropoulou, who currently heads Greece’s top administrative court, was voted into office by Parliament today for a five-year term as president that begins in March. Here are four things to know about Sakellaropoulou:
- She’s smart and French-educated. She attended the Paris-Sorbonne II for two years of law studies.
- She’s progressive, known for liberal positions on civil rights, refugee rights, gay marriage, and environmental protections. Her expertise is environmental and constitutional law.
- She is, in some ways, a token nominee: Only five of the 51 cabinet members (and two of 22 ministers) of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s new government are women, for which he was widely criticized last year.
- “President” in Greece is not the same as “President” in America. Greek presidents serve as head of state with “limited political power, as most power lies with the government,” according to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, which repeatedly refers to the president as “he.” The Prime Minster heads the government and appoints the president, who is then elected by parliament.
This is symbolic progress for Greece, which is surrounded by countries that struggle with women’s rights (see: Bulgaria, Albania), and has long hosted conservative gender roles and an entrenched patriarchy. Just 18% of Greek Parliament members are women. For comparison, 11 EU countries have over 30% female representation. Just under a quarter of U.S. Congress is female.