Helsinki Women Business Leaders Summit: The Brainy, The Bold And The Beautiful

President Tarja Halonen emphasised the importance of female entrepreneurship as a key to economic welfare in her opening speech at the Helsinki Women Business Leaders Summit at the House of Estates on Thursday. The seminar gathers together 50 women enterprisers or business leaders from the United States and 50 from the Baltic States, Finland and North-Western Russia.

President Halonen, known for her interest in gender equality matters, pointed out that a woman does not bump into a glass ceiling in her own enterprise. President Halonen also gave credit for the Scandinavian welfare state model for enabling women's participation in professional life. According to the President this is one of Finland's assets in global competition, despite the fact that there still remain several challenges in combining work and family life.

The networking launched by the U.S. Ambassador Bonnie McElveen-Hunter continues in November with a meeting held in the United States. McElveen-Hunter told that she had got the idea as a "blinding glimpse of the obvious" upon her arrival in Finland. She soon observed that Finnish women are in high positions within administration but not that often leading businesses, whereas the situation is quite the opposite in the United States. The business background of the Ambassador was certainly useful in organising the network meeting with a tight schedule of only some months. In her opening words McElveen-Hunter addressed a special thank you for President Halonen for her encouraging attitude and support in implementing the seminar.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland has participated in organising the Summit in the framework of the Ministry's cooperation in the neighbouring areas. Finland has started this spring a spesific project supporting women entrepreneurship in Lithuania. Markku Kauppinen, Head of Unit for Cooperation in
Neighbouring Areas, said the summit is closely linked to the Ministry's policy in the neighbouring areas, as one of its functions is to encourage entrepreneurship especially in the rural areas.

Women's networking has partly been enhanced by prior matching of women with similar business backgrounds. This has been proved successful. Apart from panel discussion and lectures the participants' programme includes a reception by President Halonen at the Presidential Palace. Opening address by President of the Republic Tarja Halonen at the HWBLS