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March 8, Ecoc is woman

March 8, Ecoc is woman Photo by Pixabay

European capital of culture is woman. Always. And not only because capital is a feminine noun, but also because the mother of this competition is Melina Mercouri.

She was a great Greek actress and European parliamentarian who founded this competition in 1985. Many things have changed since then. But the European capital of culture remains a woman. In fact, it is mainly women who play a fundamental role in the management of this competition in each cities.
Looking at the pages of the European Capitals of Culture’s websites, from 2019 to 2025, we find a very interesting fact. The people working in the management that run the cultural programmes of the cities are mainly women. The last designated capitals, such as those of 2024 and 2025, have obviously not yet completed their team. So the figure is not definitive, but the trend is that, perhaps always. The most important roles are entrusted to women. And perhaps, for this reason, the cultural programmes of the European Capitals of Culture are often characterized by maximum creativity and intellectual experimentation.

About 300 out of 400 people who worked or still work in the European capitals of culture from 2019 to 2025 are women, i.e. around 80 per cent.

Many, if not all of them, are led by women.

At Matera Basilicata 2019 Foundation, for example,  Mrs. Rossella Tarantino is the General Director. Born in Matera, economist, she is specialized in the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies, with a focus on education, culture and social innovation. From 2015, she is the Development and Relations Manager of Matera 2019 Foundation. She develops and runs the pillar projects (Open Design School and I-DEA) and conducts all the activities and projects concerning Citizens involvement. In the Institution that managed the capital year, 42 out of 78 people were women, and 2 out of 3 managers were women.

Another woman, Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva, is driving Plovdiv 2019. She is an art historian, critic and curator. One of the most recognizable faces of the contemporary art scene in Bulgaria. Over ten years she has been working as a galerist in Sofia and has emerged as active critic and author of independent projects. She has extensive experience in organization of exhibitions, festivals, events in public space. In Plovdiv, 53 out of 63 members of the team were women, including the artistic director, and 10 were men, including the CEO.

A women team with Patricia Philbin, Chief Executive Officer, Marilyn Gaughan Reddan, Head of Programme and Kate Howard, Cultural Producer, leads Galway 2020.

In Rijeka 2020 we find Irena Kregar Šegota. She is a cultural manager specialising in international cooperation and fundraising, who has been working on the ECoC project since its very beginning. After being the executive coordinator and in charge of international relations for Rijeka ECOC 2020 bid and the Acting CEO of Rijeka 2020in 2016, she presently holds the position of the Director for Partnership and Communications at Rijeka 2020. In Rijeka 38 out of 54 people are women.

Also in Kaunas we can find a great protagonism of women, with Virginija Vitkiene, Ceo, e Ana Kocegarova, Head of programme. Here, 34 out of 47 people are women.
In Esch the general manager is Nancy Braun, while in Timisoara, the Executive director is Simona Neumann and in Eleusis, Despina Geroulanou, Chair, and Maria Panayides, Ceo.
In Eleusis 21 out of 30 people, between boards and teams, are women, while at Veszprem-Balaton 2023, where we find Markovits Alíz, CEO, 42 out of 63 people are women.
In the capitals of 2024 and 2025, the numbers of people working are still small, of course. However in New Gorica 2025 the head of the candidacy is a woman, Neda Rusjan Bric.

Also the chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, is a woman, Mrs. Sabine Verheyen. Indeed, it should be emphasized that since 2007 this role is held by a woman: 2007 – 2009, Katerina Batzeli, 2009 – 2014, Doris Pack, 2014 – 2017, Silvia Costa; 2017 – 2019, Petra Kammerevert.

And after, Mariateresa Cascino is Chief in editor of EcocNews.

In short, culture is a woman. But surely much still needs to be done to achieve gender equality.
Meanwhile, happy March 8th to all women, from EcocNews. With celebration and above all action.

*We may have forgotten some, but we will have time.

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