Christina Weyl/The Hoya The Honorable Charlotte Beers, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs for the Department of State, speaks in Gaston Hall Friday.

A group of 50 businesswomen hailing from several Baltic states gathered for the Washington Program of the Helsinki Women’s Business Leaders Summit hosted by Georgetown University last Thursday and Friday. The plenary session on Friday morning in Gaston Hall, which approximately 30 students attended, was the only summit event open to all students.

“The underlying premise of this conference is that business is an important social actor contributing to the overall well-being of a society,” Catherine Tinsley, a McDonough School of Business professor, said in a press release. “Through promoting and enabling women’s economic opportunities, we develop sustainable democracies and lasting peace.”

The Summit, also attended by 50 leading American businesswomen, was organized by the U.S. State Department and Georgetown in collaboration with the Meridian International Center. The event was initiated through the efforts of the U.S. ambassador to Finland. The purpose of the conference is better understood by taking into consideration that the October 2001 World Economic Forum declared Finland the “world’s most competitive economy.” Finland hosted the first phase of the summit, which was held in late September.

“The Helsinki Summit is key in establishing connections between the U.S. and Baltic-region businesses,” U.S. Ambassador to Finland Bonnie McElveen-Hunter said in a press release. “Through `person-to-person diplomacy,’ we hope to strengthen economies, increase opportunities for creating new jobs and nurture long-term cross-border prosperity.”The State Department’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Charlotte Beers, gave the keynote address at the plenary session Friday, relating her work in the State Department and her past experience in advertising and marketing to the challenges facing the private sector and women in particular.

“[Success depends on] `the two Cs’ of business – communication and collaboration,” she said. “When communicating, what’s important is not what you say, it’s what they hear.”

Beers played a number of short video clips pertaining to different styles of communication. One clip featured an excerpt from an MTV special in which a British teenager asked U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell how it felt “representing the great Satan of contemporary politics.” Powell replied, “I reject the characterization. Far from being the great Satan, we are the great protector” of democracy and human rights, listing brave deeds, including liberating Europe in two world wars. His cool response exemplified a dignified yet accessible manner of communications appropriate for the younger audience that MTV caters to, Beers said.

Another clip showed the marketing efforts of the U.S. to communicate its view of terrorism to citizens of foreign countries. Beers explained that the State Department is forced to face the reality of foreign perceptions, even though “nothing is more paralyzing than knowing the problems in front of you.” Powerful but simple news clips from Sept. 11 proved extremely effective in this regard, she said.

Beers then spoke about collaboration, explaining that in every organization or business, communication among allies and competitors is essential for the creation of effective policies and strategies.

“Businesses aren’t thinking far enough – they’re not involving competitors,” she said.

The common perception that the U.S. is anti-Islam, for instance, has been addressed by the State Department through a series of advertisements with the combined efforts of the government, non-government organizations and interest groups. The collaborative effort allowed the advertisements to identify faith and family as the two common core values between the U.S. and many Islamic nations.

Georgetown MSB professors Catherine Tinsley, Lamar Reinsch, Elaine Romanelli and Ilkka Ronkainen and art history professor Cynthia Schneider functioned as moderators and panelists for discussions on Thursday and Friday. Topics included corporate ethics, coping with economic obstacles and international growth strategies.

The summit group also met with President George W. Bush on Thursday for over half an hour to discuss the need for continued growth in the economic relationship between the United States and the Baltic Sea region.

The Helsinki Women’s Business Leaders Summit marked the largest ever public-private sector outreach program between the countries of the Baltic Sea region and the United States, according to a Nov. 7 U.S. State Department press release.

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