This post is the third entry in a blog series detailing the itineraries of both current and former Heads of State who participated in a Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project arranged by Meridian International Center. The entry below summarizes the IVLP itinerary of Norwegian Prime Minster Erna Solberg.
Visitor: Prime Minister (as of October 2013) Erna Solberg
Country of Origin: Norway
Program Year: 1996
Travel Itinerary: Washington, DC; Minneapolis, MN; Los Angeles, CA; Kansas City, MO; Austin, TX; and New York, NY
Halfway through Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s fourth year in office, we are taking a look at her IVLP itinerary, which Meridian designed and implemented in 1996. This blog entry will provide insights into her program and her professional background at the time of her participation in the exchange.
When Ms. Solberg was selected for the IVLP, she had been serving as a Member of Parliament (known as the “Storting” in Norway) representing the Conservative Party since 1989. She also played a key role in the Financial Committee and acted as the leader of her party’s Women’s Association.
In August, 1996, Ms. Solberg joined two of her fellow MPs for a four-week program titled, “Women in Private Enterprise,” which focused on “highlighting the opportunities, process and progress of American women in pursuit of leadership positions in U.S. business and private enterprise.”
“Norwegian women don’t have the ’American Dream’ as a model…We have a very secure socialist system, so why would women take chances? We have to learn how to inspire women.”
The itinerary began in Washington, DC where the participants were welcomed by officials from the United States Information Agency (now the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs) and the programming team from Meridian. Meetings in Washington were scheduled with the Foundation for Women Business Owners, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the White House’s Division of Women’s Initiatives and Outreach. The group was also able to enjoy a performance of the Capitol Steps comedy troupe before beginning the second leg of their program in Minneapolis.
While in Minneapolis, Ms. Solberg and her colleagues looked at the experiences of women in starting their own businesses, and policies that encourage women entrepreneurs. The local program contact arranged appointments with Minnesota State Senator Martha Robertson, Women’s Venture, and the Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable. In the group’s next stop, Los Angeles, they met with a range of women-owned businesses and organizations, including Act 1 Personnel, BDO Seidman, and Women Incorporated. They also enjoyed an evening of home hospitality before traveling to Kansas City.
During this Mid-Western stop, participants engaged with the local offices of the Small Business Administration, the Department of Labor, and the American Business Women’s Association. They took part in a “Creating Effective Advertising” workshop at the University of Missouri-Kansas City before moving on to Austin, where they took advantage of some downtime to reflect on their program, and then met with representatives from the Entrepreneur’s Association and the Office of the Secretary of State. The group finished their program in New York in meetings with the American Women’s Economic Development Corporation and Catalyst, a group dedicated to supporting progress for women through workplace inclusion.
“Americans have this mental attitude that makes business work, that makes this country work.”
After the ‘Women in Private Enterprise” IVLP concluded, Ms. Solberg returned home to be appointed in succession: Minister of Local Government and Regional Development (2001-2005); Leader of the Conservative Party (2004-Present); and Norway’s second female Prime Minister.
*Quotes were taken directly from the State Department Closing Report written up by Dianne Vigilienzone, U.S. Escort Officer.
If you are interested in reading more about the Heads of State that have travelled on Meridian administered IVLPs throughout the years, check out the following blogs.