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In this episode, the Ambassador of Finland to the United States, Kirsti Kauppi discusses what it’s like to be a woman working in foreign relations, what it means to be visible, and the differences between the United States and Finland in gender equality efforts and government institutions.
Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi boasts an impressive resume. She has held several important positions including Head of the Political Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Head of Division for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Africa and the Middle East. She currently serves as the Ambassador of Finland to the United States.
Kauppi said she never planned to become an ambassador, but that it was always important to her that she find a job that she was passionate about. “If I didn’t feel I was interested in the job, I always tried to remain true myself,” said Kauppi, “Even if there were options for promotion, if I didn’t feel like I was interested in the job, I would rather remain in my present job. It is important to be passionate about what you do.”
Kauppi spent time in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Africa and the Middle East, a mostly male dominated department.She said that even though she was a woman, when you get to a certain level in your career you’re taken seriously; this was more of a problem earlier in her career. As a young woman new to the foreign affairs industry, she said, “you had to insist on being heard and insist on being taken seriously.”
When it comes to gender equality between the U.S. and Finland, Kauppi says the two countries have different systems of government and different structures within their societies. She said that things like affordable public services and government institutions allow women to participate more in the workforce, leading to higher representation across sectors.
She believes that to get more women leaders in the future “it is important that women are visible.” Kauppi said that women need to be visible in a position of authority on panels, TV programs, and other public forums. Kauppi wants more women leaders, but also to have the most qualified people in leadership roles, “we need leaders, we need women leaders, but we also need women at all levels, and men at all levels.”
Kauppi has some advice for women looking to take on leadership positions: “It is important to do what you are passionate about, do it well and do it with an open mind. Be active in supporting others, be active in networking, remain true to yourself. Even if you don’t have self-confidence, believe in yourself.”