FCC presents Finnish businesswomen as leadership model

Updated 20 April 2016

FCC presents Finnish businesswomen as leadership model

RIYADH: Finnish businesswomen’s leadership can be a model for their Saudi counterparts. This was the message given when some top executives from Finland Chamber of Commerce (FCC) held a meeting in Riyadh earlier this week.
Finland has been promoting businesswomen as leaders on company boards through self-regulation. This was stressed during the interaction held between the businesswomen of the two countries at the meeting organized by the Embassy of Finland on Monday. They exchanged ideas on businesswomen’s development program.
Leena Linnainmaa, deputy chief executive at the FCC as well as in-charge of the award-winning businesswomen leaders program of the Finnish chamber, made a presentation on promoting women as business leaders.
"The idea is to see more women as business leaders on company boards through self-regulation without quotas," Linnainmaa told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
She added that more women are needed on the boards of companies as they need the best people as leaders and not just the best businessmen as wider talent pool benefits the companies.
Linnainmaa, who also chairs the European Corporate Governance Network www.ecgcn.org, said that FCC's businesswomen leadership program won last year the best corporate social responsibility (CSR) project at the World Chambers Federation competition in Italy.
About the objectives and structure of the program, she said: “This mentoring program consists of meetings between a mentor and a mentee, as well as seminars, networking events, and meeting with headhunters. We also evaluate the results of our program through surveys among participants and the results are excellent.”
She pointed that promoting women as business leaders benefits all around the world. Statistics show that women have not yet reached their full potential in the corporate leadership positions. Changing the status quo requires new attitudes among women, employers and the whole society."
Following the interactive program with Saudi businesswomen leaders here, Linnainmaa said she was very positive. “They are hardworking and ready to take up CSR activities at different levels as they are already serving well in various capacities.”
On joint cooperation in this field, Linnainmaa said: "As we held talks with the authorities here, we are expecting Saudi women to see in Finland how we mentor the women business leaders."
She informed that a decade ago, even in Finland, the ratio of businesswomen leaders was low and women were mostly working in lower paid sectors. Now the situation is altogether different, especially as the FCC launched the mentoring program on Women's Day in 2012.
Anne Horttanainen, FCC director, said women executives in Finland are seeking more business responsibility. Likewise, Saudi society too has to give space to women, thus promoting women business leaders to take up challenges and opportunities at various levels.
Horttanainen, who is responsible for the mentoring program for women executives, said there are many ways to promote women business leaders, including making a strategic and targeted decision to promote women leadership in the listed companies for suitable works, recognizing the talent potential among the employees and ensuring that women are considered in the talent management process, diversifying women skills, providing mentoring for women in their career path and bridging the confidence gap by creating space for women with due respect, safety and security.
She noted that continuous dialog with these programs help to register women’s sustainable development in many ways.
On the FCC's mentors program, Horttanainen added: “The mentors are very experienced top level business leaders, often directors and CEOs in listed companies, who help us promote women business leaders on regular basis with women taking up top positions.”


Finnish-style play-based learning to provide alternative to Gulf's hothouse education scene

Updated 26 min 10 sec ago

Finnish-style play-based learning to provide alternative to Gulf's hothouse education scene

  • The Finnish approach to education is grounded in the idea of providing schools with autonomy and support and giving teachers freedom
  • Finland has a national pre-primary curriculum that is focused on holistic, play-based learning and skills development

DUBAI: Finland’s school operators are capitalizing on the country’s reputation for educational excellence by establishing a foothold in the Middle East.
The Finnish approach to education is grounded in the idea of providing schools with autonomy and support and giving teachers freedom to choose how they go about their work.
It represents a stark contrast to more rigid US and British curriculum schools in the region where many expatriates send their children.
“We don’t really want to compare the Finnish education with other systems," said Jouni Kangasniemi, program director of Education Finland, in an interview with Arab News. "But it has one of the best education systems in the world and we are ready to share our ‘secrets’ openly. Finnish expertise is one of the late-comers in the market … and it is well worth exploring what kind of alternatives we have to offer. Education systems in most countries rely heavily on standardized testing and inspections. In Finland, we do not believe – nor need standardized heavy testing or school inspectors to supervise the quality of instruction.” he added.
Among the Finnish educational system’s key features is a national pre-primary curriculum that is focused on holistic, play-based learning and skills development.
“Our teachers are professionals of learning sciences and focus on helping every child flourish. The education methods are improved continuously. There is a lot of innovation happening in all our schools every day. Students learn and are happy to go to school at the same time,” said Kangasniemi.
Students start first grade education at seven-years-old compared with six for the American system and even younger for the British system where children have entered school by the time they are five.
“It is a very odd situation in an international comparison – as in many countries learning outcomes are good, but students are very stressed and tired of long school days,” Kangasniemi said.
The initial successes of Finnish schools and education providers which have established a foothold in the region do not mask the challenges they face.
Omnia Education Partnerships CEO Mervi Jansson recalls an entrepreneurial course it conducted for 130 Saudi high school students, most of whom had aspirations of careers with national oil company Aramco.
“They used to think entrepreneurship was only for those who failed university,” Jansson said. “We took the Finnish competencies and built this into a course suitable for Saudi Arabia, we localized it. We taught the Saudi teachers, we supported them and they taught the course in their own schools.”
“I think Saudi Arabia needs to look at their education strategy in terms of lifelong learning, in terms of how to provide upskilling and reskilling for a large variety of population but also to see what kind of program they should offer to the youth that is more interesting.”
Jansson was nonetheless heartened by the positive feedback from Saudi education officials and hoped the course would be “expanded into 100 Saudi schools,” plus a potential partnership in the UAE.
Meanwhile Finnish Global Education Solutions is starting the first early childhood education center in the MENA region, CEO Antti Kaskinen told Arab News.
“We cannot yet officially divulge which country it is because we want the Finnish and host country’s ministers of education to meet first, and make the partnership official,” Kaskinen said.
“We are also looking into schools and teachers’ education in Saudi Arabia. We are holding ongoing negotiations [at an early stage] and met in December concerning this. It looks quite good … by the end of this year we will have something,” Kaskinen added.
Helsinki International Schools and its Saudi partner EduGuide for Education and Training, meanwhile, signed two new agreements to open three Finnish-based schools in the Kingdom – one in Riyadh this year, and one each in Jeddah and Dammam by the end of 2021.
Other Finnish education companies are looking forward to open in the region despite tough competition, and which Education Finland’s Kangasniemi said the Nordic government is actively involved in.
“An important part of our work is to maintain a constructive dialogue between the decision makers and ministries of education both in the Gulf and in Finland, aside from providing training on cultural and business aspects in the Gulf markets,” he said.