Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Tower for Women in Thessaloniki

Lefkos Pirgos -- The White Tower of Thessaloniki.

Networking is still something a foreign concept in Greece. Not in an informal capacity, of course: there's not an empty bar stool to be found during the summer. But business and professional networking is still something of a novelty, especially for female entrepreneurs.

So I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon the Thessaloniki Organization for Women's Employment and Resources (TOWER), an expatriate NGO of foreign women seeking to connect with one another. Run by women from the US, Bulgaria, Greece and other countries, the organization acts as a platform for networking women across a variety of industries, including tourism, business and even holistic medicine. "Our primary aim is to make women feel more welcome in Thessaloniki so they're not alone," says Lambrini Nassis, a lawyer from New York who is TOWER's current chair.   

Lambrini Nassis, Tower Chair.
Begun in 2002 after a conference on female immigrant labor rights, the organization is now something of a go-to for all issues. A small, but telling example: we're sitting at cafe one night discussing the local economy. A female friend tells us that a 73-year-old lady got kicked out of a coffee shop the other day because they didn't want to serve "old people who order juice and take up space for hours". TOWER rallied: one woman asked the name of the shop to begin a boycott; another contemplated filing suit against them for discrimination. What I like about these people that they get things done: a ray of can-doism amid a climate of apathy.

Is the efficiency due to the fact that the organization is run by expatriate women, I ask Nassis? (The American in me is analyzing; the Greek tells me to not to worry about it and have a coffee). "We're made up of very motivated people, and I think that helps us execute things in timely way." A diplomatic answer, but a telling one nonetheless. I've spent the better part of the summer hearing excuses, complaints and reasons for why Greece is faltering. TOWER is one of the first organizations that I've come across to present solutions.

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