Athens has defied male-dominated politics in Greece by electing 15 female councilors out of a total of 26 in the recent municipal elections. Time will tell if modern Athens by “Embracing of the Feminine Power of Athena’s Wisdom” will unlock its full potential in the future.
By Despina Limniotaki and Steve Bakalis
A city-state, or polis, was the community structure of ancient Greece. The etymology of polis as a noun is feminine as Ancient Greek, like many other languages, has nouns of different genders : masculine, feminine, or neuter.
Greek Poleis has been in an election mode in recent times, with the recent local government elections following the national government elections. The latter defied well and truly the etymology (with a very few exceptions) as the governance of most poleis is dominated by males.
For the record, the local government elections were preceded by the annual conference of the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece which took place on November 21-23, 2022 in Volos , and the program of presentations held a surprise: the largest number of participants were men (57 names in total) and just two women, not self-governing, completed the list of official conference speakers.
This is one of the most typical examples of what we call today manels (men + panels), round tables that are dominated largely or exclusively by males, with women noticeably absent from an equal dialogue which in fact, in this particular case, concerned the way forward for local communities.
The masculine conference message was consistent with the results of the recent local government elections with the exception of the Municipality of Athens.
According to Kathimerini which presented the results of the elections in relation to the sexes, highlighting the alarming difference in the heads of combinations, which concerns the election of only 22 female mayors, in the total of 332 municipalities in the country and no female regional governor.
Male-dominated politics shuttered in Athens
The stark exception was the Municipality of Athens where 15 councilors of the 26 elected councilors were female. The gendered dimension in a polis is important, and is a matter of planning and making policies for all genders, not dominated by a male or female groupthink mentality, so that people’s daily experience is sustainable and inclusive.
The Athens result provides some hope, because, despite the necessity for inclusion, pluralism in the formulation of opinions and the effort to avoid gender discrimination, Greece ranked in the last position of the Equality Index in the EU and in 110th place in the world, ignoring the practices that are unfolding in the world.
According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, in the countries that currently finish high in parity of participation in their countries’ national parliaments, the increase of women at all levels of political action has been steady since 1997.
Countries on the African continent saw a 40% increase in female participation, Latin America at 30% while Australia increased its rates from 15.5% in 1997 to 39% in 2022.
We see that the effort worldwide is ongoing, systematic and targeted. It is targeted because it does not concern the image of a country – that is, the appearance – but its essence: the development that occurs as a result of inclusion, is felt at all levels of a society’s functioning.
Greece has the tools to implement gender equality
In the same spirit, in Greece, we have all the tools for the implementation of equality in practice and we are in fact one of the countries that are ranked high for these policy tools.
It remains to actively use them in every small or big opportunity and to feel uncomfortable when we face situations that hide “half” of the picture: that of an open society that only stands to gain from joint participation.
Our inability to realize that the call for inclusion is not “feminist whining” but the practical application of practices that show that “equal” participation and co-creation have a positive developmental impact on the GDP of a country that practices them, according to official OECD and IMF studies .
The Greek National Action Plans 2021 – 2025 for Equality in regional and local self-government must move beyond theory because if these remain words in print, they constitute a distortion that works against social and economic progress.
Athens has defied the norm and has shown the way forward having embraced the hidden strength, wisdom, and untapped potential lying deep within you, guided by the timeless insights of Athena, the ancient Greek Goddess of wisdom, strategy, and courage.
Time will tell if modern Athens by “Embracing of the Feminine Power of Athena’s Wisdom” will unlock its full potential in the future.
Despoina Limniotaki is a Social Psychologist and a newly elected councilor for the Municipality of Athens
Dr Steve Bakalis is an expert on international business economics and management, he has held adjunct appointments with the Australian National University and the University of Adelaide, and appointments in universities of the Asia Pacific and the Gulf regions.