WHOTarja Halonen, first female President of Finland (2000 to 2012), in conversation with Halla Tómasdóttir, runner-up in Iceland’s Presidential Elections in 2016

WHATA WISC Conversation: Leadership Values in a Changing World, sponsored in part by the Finlandia Foundation

WHERENew Mexico History Museum Auditorium

WHENMonday, September 18, 2017, doors open at 5:40pm, event begins promptly at 6pm.

Finland is known to be one of the most socially progressive countries in the world with the highest scores for meeting basic human needs, and building foundations of well-being and opportunity. Finland’s education system has been praised as one of the best in the world. Iceland ranks first when it comes to closing the gender gap and was the first country in the world to democratically elect a woman president in 1980. In fact, all the Nordic countries rank in the top 10. What allows a nation to make such strides toward a high quality of life?

As Finns celebrate one hundred years of independence, WISC, the Women’s International Study Center, is honored to welcome Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland from 2000 to 2012, the first woman to hold that office, and Halla Tómasdóttir, Icelandic presidential candidate in 2016. They will appear in a conversation moderated by Willa Seldon, partner in The Bridgespan Group. The event will be held on Monday, September 18, 2017 at 6pm at the New Mexico History Museum auditorium.

This event is sponsored in part by the Finlandia Foundation.

The WISC Conversation, Leadership Values in a Changing World, will focus on how to lead from values and principles with the goals of obtaining sustainability, and improving equality and gender balance. The speakers will reflect on their personal experiences and lessons from Nordic leadership, on whether women bring different values to leadership, and the relevance of those values in today’s political climate.



Tarja Halonen served two terms as President of Finland from 2000-2012. During her presidency, she was co-chair of the United Nations Millennium Summit, co-chair of the Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, co-chair of the UN High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability and Chair of the Council of Women Leaders.

Prior to her election, she served as Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Minister of Justice, and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Over her political career, which began in 1974, President Halonen has paid close attention to issues of human rights, democracy and civil society. Issues concerning social justice and promotion of gender equality have been central themes.

President Halonen has also been actively engaged with non-governmental organizations and trade unions. After her exit from office, the TH Global Sustainability Foundation was established in 2012 to promote the work of President Halonen in the field of Sustainable Development.

She continues to work closely with the UN and several NGOs. Among other duties she is currently Co-Chair of the Health and Human Rights working group established by the WHO and the UN OHCHR, alternate Co-Chair of the Every Woman Every Child Movement’s Steering Group, member of the Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Global UN Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and UN Drylands Ambassador.

Halla Tómasdóttir is an experienced human resources and organizational development professional. She knows how to achieve extraordinary results through people and great cultures. She is also a true entrepreneur – a co-founder of Audur Capital (a financial services and private equity company in Iceland) and a key founder of Reykjavik University.

Halla has worked in the USA, UK and the Nordics and has valuable experience fromworking hands-on, being an executive as well as from board positions. Her resumé includes having worked for companies like M&M/Mars and Pepsi Cola, being managing director and executive board member of the Iceland Chamber of Commerce, and a board member of numerous private companies. She has sector experience from consumer products, healthcare, education, media & mobile communication and financial services.

Halla holds an international MBA from Thunderbird. She received the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award for outstanding women entrepreneurs in Europe given by Cartier in cooperation with McKinsey and Insead, and was a speaker at the TED Women conference in 2010. In March 2011 Newsweek named Halla one of 150 Women Who Shake the World.

Willa Seldon is a partner in The Bridgespan Group (San Francisco) a nonprofit advisory group and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists focused on breakthrough impact. Willa advises nonprofits, social enterprises and philanthropists, collaborating with leaders to refine their strategies and improve their operating models. Willa has led engagements with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Family Independence Initiative, the Rockefeller Foundation, and StriveTogether and advised collaborative efforts, such as the White House Council for Community Solutions.

Experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit worlds has given Willa unique managerial and leadership skills. Her for-profit experience includes seven years at Milepost, a venture capital firm she co-founded and seven years as the executive director of AirTouch Communications, a multi-billion dollar wireless communications company. In the nonprofit world, Willa served as the chief executive officer of the Glide Foundation, a large multi-service organization. Prior to Glide, Willa served as the executive director of the Tides Center, an organization engaged in providing infrastructure services to nonprofit groups.

Willa is a member of the Board of Directors of College Futures Foundation, former vice chair of the Board of Trustees of Bryn Mawr College, and former chair of KQED. She also was awarded the Most Influential Women in Business award by the San Francisco Business Times. Willa has an MBA from Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, a JD from Yale Law School, and an AB in Economics from Bryn Mawr College.


Women’s International Study Center honors women’s accomplishments, supports study and research through fellowships, and facilitates inter-generational, multi-cultural and cross-disciplinary dialogue via symposia and other events.

We are dedicated to inspiring and enabling women around the world to achieve their full potential.