June 10, 2015 | 20th Anniversary Conference
Women Leaders Tackling 21st Century Challenges
Celebrating Women Leaders Across Generations

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Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde of Finland with WFPG President Patricia Ellis, Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbottom, and WFPG Board Chair Ann Stock and current and former WFPG staff members and interns.

Washington, DC—The Women’s Foreign Policy Group’s 20th Anniversary Celebration concluded with an evening reception hosted by the Embassy of Finland. The program recognized women leaders across generations and highlighted the next generation of leaders. The speakers included Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde of Finland, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom, and WFPG President and Co-Founder Patricia Ellis. The young leaders who spoke included Political Counselor of Finland Riina-Riikka Heikka, Foreign Service Officer and Former WFPG Employee Emily Ball, and World Bank ICT Innovation and Education Specialist at the World Bank and WFPG intern alumna Saori Imaizumi.

Ambassador Koukku-Ronde spoke about her four-year relationship with the Women’s Foreign Policy Group and praised WFPG for its dedication to empowering women over the last 20 years. She also pointed out Finland’s phenomenal track record of promoting gender equality, citing the fact that Finland was the first country in the world to extend universal suffrage and the right to stand for elections to all women and men. She touted Finland’s excellent record of equal representation in politics, reporting that 83 of 200 parliamentarians and more than half of Finnish diplomats are women.

Deputy Secretary Higginbottom addressed guests and spoke about the progress that has been made on gender equality in the State Department and politics in general. She mentioned that the foreign service has come a long way from the 1970s, when female foreign service officers had to resign if they married. Since Madeleine Albright’s appointment in 1997, three out of five secretaries of state have been women. Many other high-level State Department positions are currently held by women, including the ambassador to the United Nations, the national security advisor and her two deputies, and four of the six under secretaries of state. She also stressed the importance of building networks and mentoring, acknowledging that she does not think she would be where she is in her career without the support of past mentors. Although the recruitment of women at the State Department has vastly improved, Deputy Secretary Higginbottom noted that women continue to be underrepresented at senior levels, especially as ambassadors. She said that is why organizations that work to make women’s voices heard in foreign affairs like WFPG are vital. She urged those in the audience with well-established careers to mentor the young women who have just entered or will be entering the world of foreign affairs.

Ellis spoke about the importance WFPG has placed on mentoring throughout its 20 years through its internships, career panels, and mentoring fairs. She credited Madeleine Albright with helping to start WFPG’s mentoring program, citing that when Secretary Albright was a professor at Georgetown, she would bring her students over to meet with WFPG members. Ellis also advised young leaders to go with the flow, pursue their passions, and “be prepared for serendipity.”

Young leaders spoke about role models, mentors, and what they have learned so far in pursuing careers in foreign affairs. Heikka focused on three lessons she has learned: personal commitment; the capability to energize; and learning the “value of holistic expertise and respect.” She urged young leaders to be open to new challenges, to respect and remember to balance their family life, and to “grow into being who you truly are.” Emily Ball spoke about her journey to becoming a foreign service officer and the role mentoring played. When she was younger, she attended a WFPG mentoring fair where she met a woman serving as a foreign service officer. This mentor had an enormous impact on Ball’s career and she encouraged everyone to help mentor the next generation of women leaders. Imaizumi spoke about her time as an intern at WFPG and how Ellis’ mentoring helped her become a more confident networker, employee, and speaker.


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Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde of Finland, host of the reception, welcomes WFPG members and guests

  WFPG President Patricia Ellis greets reception guests and introduces Future Leader speakers

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Patricia Ellis and Ann Stock recognize Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde as a Lifelong Honored Member of the WFPG

  Ann Stock introduces Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom

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Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbottom

  WFPG Board Members with Deputy Secretary
Heather Higginbottom


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From Left: WFPG Former Intern Saori Imaizumi,
WFPG Former Employee Emily Ball, and Finnish Political Counselor
Riina-Riika Heikka.


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Ambassadors Réka Szemerkényi of Hungary,
Cecilia Nahón of Argentina, Elena Poptodorova of Bulgaria,
and Ritva Koukku-Ronde of Finland, with
Patricia Ellis and Heather Higginbottom

  Patricia Ellis, Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde of Finland, and Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbottom

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Heather Higginbottom, Patricia Ellis, and
Ambassador Caroline Jane Millar, DCM of Australia

  WFPG Board Member Nancy Ziuzin Schlegel of Lockheed Martin and Susan Davis, Board Chair of Vital Voices

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Jasna Paro, Ambassador Josip Joško Paro of Croatia,
Kathryn Gest, and Ambassador Ljubica Acevska

  Heather Higginbottom with WFPG Board Member
Theresa Loar

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Ambassador Koukku-Ronde, Ambassador Szemerkényi,
WFPG Board Member and Anniversary Committee Chair
Dawn Calabia, and Kristin Lord of IREX

  WFPG interns and intern alumnae with Angela Woods
of the Department of State

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Chargé d’Affaires Wafa Bugaighis of Libya and Missy Ryan of The Washington Post

  WFPG Board Members Kate Irvin of Coca-Cola and
Gebe Martinez GM Networking with
Ambassador Poptodorova

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WFPG Internship Alumna Saori Imaizumi of the World Bank and Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde of Finland

  WFPG Board Member Marcia Wiss, Patricia Ellis,
and Maureen White

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Patricia Ellis with former WFPG staff member Emily Ball
and her husband, Patrick Ball

  Bay Fang, of the New America Foundation and
Ambassador Josip Joško Paro of Croatia