In honor of Women’s History Month, the WTA of Utah interviewed Evangelia Mimikou. Evangelia is the liaison between the World Trade Association of Utah and groups, organizations, and entrepreneurs in Greece. She is also a practicing Supreme Court lawyer near Athens.

Currently, in Greece, more than 50% of those earning university degrees are female. In January 2020, Greece elected its first female president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou. Many organizations are actively advocating for women’s rights and gender equality throughout Greece. (Thelwell, 2020)

Despite these recent strides forward, there are still challenges to overcome. Men make up about 70% of the workforce in Greece and about 80% of the Parliament. Greece is the lowest ranking country in the E.U. on the Gender Equality Index, which measures factors like labor force participation rate, secondary education rate, and share of seats in Parliament. (Thelwell, 2020)

Furthermore, the impacts of the pandemic left many women without jobs. The time is now to empower women and advocate for gender equality.

Evagelia portrays her perspective on women in business in Greece:

Which challenges do women in international business face in Greece?

The three main challenges women face are funding, networking, and career advancement. Women entrepreneurs are difficult to find. This is because they lack access to financial tools and expertise.

Progression has been made in recent decades. Unfortunately, the pandemic changed everything. Many working women went back to the house, and many young women are scared they won’t find a job.

Which opportunities do women have in international business in Greece?

First, it takes awareness. Then, effort. Research from Harvard says that women score higher than men in problem-solving, communication, and teamwork. We have the skills but we must believe in ourselves and take the necessary steps.

Younger generations have been taking steps in the right direction. I am seeing now that younger couples share the family responsibilities and that gives me hope.

How can we set the next generation up for success?

In Greece, family is the most important thing in our lives. Parents have the opportunity to set examples for their children.

For example, my mother earned her degree at the age of 55 at one of the finest art universities in Athens. She became a painter and sculptor and many of her works are still on exhibit today. She accomplished so many things after she raised 4 children on her own.

Which decisions have you made that have enabled you to get to where you are today?

When I was 15, I was already working and planning on how I could gain financial independence. Since I was a high-performing student, I planned to study law. While I was in university, I was studying and working at the same time. I had an income and was able to provide for myself. It’s very important to be independent.

What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?

Women can and need to stand on their own feet. You must be strong and independent, especially financially independent.

Which factors impact the lack of Greek women in the foreign market?

Greek women are some of the most educated worldwide; however, after university is the problem, they get a job but then family life takes over. Typically, women stop working after they have children, or they stop developing their networks and chasing their careers.

Cultural stereotypes still play a part. People prefer to go to male lawyers rather than female lawyers. People think men shouldn't have female bosses. These ideas prohibit our progression.

What other organizations or conferences can women in Greece join to get involved in international business?

A non-profit organization, WEgate, advocates for the professional empowerment of women and for equality in the workplace. WEgate helps women establish their own businesses, find a job, and network with professionals.

Further, WEgate provides training, consulting, and project management services to businesses looking to prioritize the equal representation of women at work. WEgate is funded by the European Union. You can find more details at wegate.eu.

Do you have any final advice for women reading this article?

I advise young women to be financially independent. Believe in yourself, your abilities, and your talents. Never let other people make you feel less than. The future is in front of us and we can make big steps to equalize women in business.

I believe that we [women] can make a difference in work. We must never give up no matter what happens in our life. We have the strength within us, it just takes perseverance and self-confidence.

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It was an honor and a privilege to interview Evagelia Memekou. Although we shared the same grievances for women in business, we also have both seen inspirational advancement in our respective countries. We believe in the future for women. Cross-generational and cross-cultural conversations like this pave the path towards progress, and I was honored to take part in one.

My intentions for this interview are to inspire you to take the next steps. As if we are in a relay, I am passing the baton to you to continue paving the path forward. I encourage you to invite a colleague, mentor, etc. to lunch or for a Zoom networking conversation. Share this on your LinkedIn and tag someone you’d like to get to know.

It’s not only women I call upon to make the difference. Everyone has the opportunity to shape the future of women in business, whether you identify as a he, she, or they. It’s in these personal connections that we can spark a movement on the front of women in business.

References:

Thelwell, K. (2020, November 1). Women's rights in Greece - the borgen project - global poverty. The Borgen Project. Retrieved January 30, 2022, from https://borgenproject.org/womens-rights-in-greece/

Copyright © 2022 World Trade Association of Utah
Copyright © 2022 World Trade Association of Utah
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