Think Internationally and the World Opens Up
Since her early teenage years, Katrine Paaby Joensen has dreamed of an international career, and that is exactly what she has. Fortunately, her family share her passion for international adventure and will soon be following her to California, where they will live for 4 years.
“Globalization has come to stay, and Denmark is a very small part of a great big world, which a job in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark gives access to. As a family, it provides great experiences over a long period, and although there are many unknowns, it brings us closer together as a family unit.” For Katrine Joensen, it was a dream to get a job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, which has recently sent her to the world’s largest gathering of technology experts: Silicon Valley. Working as the general consul, she will support Danish companies in search of knowledge, networks, innovation and export markets.
The last place Katrine was stationed was South Africa, where many women are not able to see their children every day purely because of the time it takes to travel to and from townships. “The many years I have spent abroad have made it clear to me that we Danish women have unrivalled opportunities. As a leader, I work a lot, but I’m still able to make it home and eat with my children, take maternity leave and have good holidays. That is not a given for women everywhere in the world.” Katrine and her family have made friends all over the world. This means that they, amongst other things, spent a holiday in France with friends from New Zealand. They have also spent three weeks travelling in Namibia with Katrine’s best friend from primary school and her family.
“We have some experiences with our friends that we probably would not have had if we lived next door to each other. I’m driven by a curiosity about how the world is connected. I want to experience it myself and I thrive on constantly challenging my view of reality.” It was not certain that Katrine could combine her career dreams with a family life, but her husband is flexible and game for adventure. In South Africa, he made good contact with wine producers and opened a wine shop in Denmark. And he will soon be running his consultancy business from the USA.
Today, Katrine Joensen thinks that it is something of a stroke of luck that she was employed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. When she has recruited young applicants, she has been very impressed by their CVs. They are ambitious and have been focused on an international career early on, and they have prepared themselves for it. “Regardless of which educational path you choose, it is important to visualize the kind of life that you want. Maybe it’s interesting to study French, but imagine the job. Do you want to be a translator, teacher, or …? Get inspiration by talking to someone who has tried what it is that you are striving for.” Katrine was sure of her own path. It has opened the world up for her, and today equal opportunities for men and women are very much on her mind. In particular, Katrine is aware of ingrained and unconscious patterns of behaviour and reminds herself to take note of the small differences.
“If an older family member has problems with their mobile phone, the boys are automati-cally asked for help. But why? My daughter has studied programming and is no less skilled in technical things.”
In relation to being both a diplomat and a boss, Katrine is often surrounded by men, and at more informal network events with spouses, she often ends up in a dilemma. The men discuss work and the woman clear the tables and wash up. Where should she be?
“I don’t dream about us all being the same, because we’re certainly not. But if we all want to have possibilities, I think that we should be careful not to pigeonhole people because of their gender.”