EEDEGE President Sofia Kounenaki Efraimoglou’s interview with journalist Katerina Poulopoulou for iefimerida on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
In her interview, Ms Kounenaki Efraimoglou, among other things, spoke of the challenges that women face globally in their careers, but also of the position they held in 2021.
“My vision is none other than to see women really gain the position they deserve. Contemporary women are asked to play many roles, and we owe it to them to stand by them, with complete policies, making their daily lives better,” noted Ms Kounenaki Efraimoglou.
Interview with iefimerida (in English)
One of the most powerful women in business and culture working through the Foundation of the Hellenic World, Ms. Sofia Kounenaki Efraimoglou needs no introduction.
President of the National Chamber Network of Women Entrepreneurs (EEDEGE), first vice president of EBEA (the Athens Chamber of Commerce & Industry – ACCI) and vice president of the Foundation of the Hellenic World, Sofia Kounenaki Efraimoglou, has the gift of spending her time between her family, work and her other commitments.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day that we celebrate today, Sofia Kounenaki Efraimoglou, speaks of women and their position in Greece. At the same time, Sofia Kounenaki Efraimoglou reveals the programme XR Cosmos that is being rolled out at the Foundation of the Hellenic World, which introduces a New Productive Innovation and Growth Model through the use of Extended Reality.
Speaking to iefimerida, Sofia Kounenaki Efraimoglou advises women who want to realise their dreams or their business idea. She discusses the gender pay gap, the new programmes at the Foundation of the Hellenic World, and her vision.
Sofia Kounenaki Efraimoglou in iefimerida
As a woman, what difficult or easy situations have you encountered in your professional life?
I did not have the red carpet rolled out for me in my professional career, nor was everything rosy and easy. If I had to weigh things, undoubtedly the balance weighs towards the difficulties rather than the easy situations. There were many times that I faced obstacles of a general nature. However, I must say that from the early stages of my career I have not experienced big inequalities or injustices, to the extent that they could stop me. And that’s because I always carved my own business course. In essence, I didn’t let myself experience these, not that they didn’t exist; they were everywhere.
I advise women who want to realise their dreams or their business idea to act in a similar fashion. To follow their own course and not be dependent on anyone. Women are much stronger, more capable, and more talented than we would like to believe or that stereotyping would have us believe.
Do women in 2022 have the position they deserve?
Obviously not. The gains of the last years are noteworthy and the progress that has been made important, but we are still very far away from a satisfactory level, and therefore not in any way near a point where we can say that women have the position they deserve. To be accurate, the situation today is worse than before the pandemic, as according to the World Economic Forum, the pandemic widened the gender gap in the labour market. In particular, in the area of equal opportunities and in the economic participation of women, it is estimated that only 58% of the gap has closed, and it will take 267 years for the gap to close completely. This slow progress is due to an array of factors, such as women’s low participation in professions that require digital skills, to the gender pay gap and to the absence of women from senior leadership positions and in general from positions of responsibility.
My main aim is to make progress continuously towards not just showcasing Greek culture, but also towards doing away with inequalities and boosting female entrepreneurship.
Tell us about the new programmes of XR Cosmos and about the donation.
I am particularly proud of the Foundation of the Hellenic World’s new activities. First, we are implementing the XR Cosmos Programme and introducing a New Productive Model of Innovation and Growth with the use of Extended Reality. The XR Cosmos Programme is a set of initiatives and interventions, creating the framework in which stakeholders join forces, individually or collectively, from the institutional, research, business, and investment ecosystem. It is implemented by the Center for Research, Development and Excellence of the Foundation and is framed by an integrated range of initiatives, such as cooperation with international forums and Organisations, connecting with international Research Bodies and Foundations in the US and Europe with roundtable discussions.
As part of the XR Cosmos programme, we are organising the 1st Innovation Competition in Virtual and Extended Reality technologies, to highlight and reward original ideas based on new technologies, while promoting innovation and Greek start-up entrepreneurship both in the domestic and international markets.
The Competition will be held in two phases and for the winners there are, among other things, targeted support initiatives, such as the provision of equipment, the possibility of participating in international exhibitions, inclusion in the Start-up Support Incubator and the opportunity to find venture capital through contact with potential investors. The final is part of the parallel actions of the 1st International XR Cosmos Conference, which is scheduled for September 2022, where researchers, creators, entrepreneurs, investors, and institutional players from the global community will shape the new field of ideas development, networking, and business growth.
Another initiative that I am very happy about is our collaboration with one of the largest higher education institutions in France, the Université Côte d'Azur, to promote a university degree in Modern Greek Language, Literature and Culture. The Foundation of the Hellenic World funds the University Degree in Modern Greek Language, Literature and Culture "DU HELLENIKA". The program is a two-year course of study and is addressed to students of all disciplines: translation/interpreting professionals, but also to all those who wish to expand their subject knowledge and acquire new skills, in a world-renowned academic institution, famed for its research and its interdisciplinary approach.
Speaking to iefimerida, Ms Sofia Kounenaki Efraimoglou advises women who want to realise their professional ideas or dreams.
What is your vision?
My main goal is to continuously make large leaps of progress towards showcasing Greek culture and towards obliterating inequality, while at the same time boosting female entrepreneurship. The Foundation of the Hellenic World and in particular the Cultural Centre “Hellenic Cosmos” have established themselves, for many years now, as a living research cell of innovation and creativity. My vision is to continue this course towards boosting culture, history and education through innovative initiatives and programmes using new technologies we are growing and developing constantly to provide - unique to Greece - experiences in history, technology, and culture, while equally important I believe is to showcase women's entrepreneurship as one of the main growth pillars for our country. My vision is to see women gain the true position they deserve.