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Katerina Sakellaropoulou, head of the Council of State poses at her office in Athens on Jan. 22, 2020. Greece's lawmakers elected their country's first female president Wednesday, with an overwhelming majority voting to give high court judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou the largely ceremonial post.
Orestis Panagiotou/Pool/AP
Girls & Women

Greece Elected an Environmentalist as Its First Woman President


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Greece just elected its first woman president. 

Top judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou, 64, won with an overwhelming majority and received 261 votes from members of parliament out of 300 seats on Wednesday, according to CNN.  

Sakellaropoulou, who became the first woman president of the Council of State, Greece’s top administrative court in 2018, chairs an environmental law society and is known to advocate for refugee rights.

Sakellaropoulou’s ability to unite opposing parties is being seen as a turning point for the country, which has suffered political and economic turmoil since 2010. 

"Let's not hide from the truth, Greek society is still marked by discrimination against women," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said when he submitted his vote for Sakellaropoulou in early January. "This now changes, starting from the top."

The ruling conservative New Democracy party elected Sakellaropoulou, but she received support from the main opposition party Syriza, and the center-left Movement for Change, as well. 

Sakellaropoulou will succeed Prokopis Pavlopoulos when his five-year term expires in March.

Some view Sakellaropoulou’s win as a response to growing criticism about the lack of women in Mitsotakis’s current cabinet. 

Compared to other European countries, Greece is far behind when it comes to the number of women in senior political positions, according to CNN. The country also scores below the European average in gender equality, and ranked at the bottom of the 2017 gender equality index issued by the European Institute for Gender Equality.

As Greece struggles to close its wage gap and reduce high domestic violence rates, the country is putting hope in Sakellaropoulou to effect change. 

Read More: New York Stock Exchange Gets Its First Female President After 226 Years

Research shows when women are elected to office, they are more likely to support policies that enhance the quality of life for women, their families, and ethnic and racial minorities. 

"The time has come for Greece to open up to the future," Mitsotakis said.