Introduction from Alana:
I first became acquainted with Rania Anderson about three years ago when, as President of Kauffman FastTrac, I hosted an event for a group of Latin American women entrepreneurs through a program sponsored by the US Department of State called WEAmericas. Rania asked if she could sit in on the session. Instantly, I was drawn to her – she was engaged, present, poised and delightful! Not to mention multi-lingual, well-versed and amazingly knowledgeable about the opportunities and challenges faced by female entrepreneurs in developing nations. She’s been an inspiration and, I’m honored to say, a friend ever since. Now, we are both members of International Women’s Forum and were even part of a Lean In Circle for a time. Mostly, I love just visiting with her – I learn something new and wonderful every time I’m in her presence.
As such, I asked Rania to share a little international networking wisdom with the CLC Community. Among so many other roles in which she serves, Rania is Founder and President of The Way Women Work, the online “How-to-Succeed” Guide for women in growth economies. The organization helps bridge the gap between women’s education (graduating from university) and successful participation in the workforce. It exists to accelerate the career and business success of these women.
Now, Rania is publishing a book, Undeterred: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies, to give women the knowledge and tools they need to succeed at work. She is launching Undeterred through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. If you believe in the power of the economic impact of women around the world, please consider supporting the effort by donating one or more books to deserving young women from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Russia and South America.
With pleasure, I give you Rania Anderson…
Guest Post by Rania Habiby Anderson, Founder and President, The Way Women Work
As the first woman to join the sales department at her multinational company, Mexican Xiomy Ricardo immediately saw her challenge. It was common for the men in her industry to have business meetings during which they could drink tequila from 2-6pm, every day.
In many regions, a woman having lunch or a cup of coffee or tea—let alone drinks or dinner—with men would not be viewed favorably. But Xiomy knew she needed to build relationships with clients even if she found it unacceptable to participate in the afternoon drinking meetings.
At first she participated in the meetings, but they made her uncomfortable and she found that not much actual business was being conducted. Undeterred, she changed her approach and decided to quit going to these meetings. “Instead I only scheduled sales breakfast meetings.”
That tactic proved effective. It allowed Xiomy to meet and get to know her clients in a way that worked for her. “You have to work hard, network, show yourself, and sell yourself,” she said.
Although networking can feel uncomfortable or awkward for any of us, for many women working in the developing world, networking often also entails navigating through a complex set of cultural norms.
In Middle Eastern countries, businessmen often meet at night in hotels or in someone’s home, places where it might not be appropriate for women to be seen. In countries like Russia and China, networking often occurs over drinks late at night, making it difficult for women with children and other responsibilities to participate. For women to build strong business networks in these cultures takes a great deal of resolve and creativity.
Over the past four years, I have had the opportunity to hear and learn about the success habits of more than 250 business women in emerging economies. As I did research for my forthcoming book, Undeterred: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies, I learned how these business women, like Xiomy, find creative ways to effectively network.
In countries where female-male interactions must be carefully navigated, undeterred women:
- Make appointments to meet people in their offices or at their own offices.
- Participate in networking events or conferences where there will be many people.
- Ask female peers to join them at gatherings so that they are not the only woman in attendance.
- Provide feedback to their companies that holding evening gatherings in places where it is not appropriate for women to join in negatively affects their ability to build relationships and excel at work. They recommend that more gatherings be planned for work hours and held in the workplace.
- Connect with people online through LinkedIn, online groups created by and for members of their industry, by sending articles and ideas to people, and by asking people in their social networks questions via email.
These action steps can be useful in all cultures – even in westernized countries where cultural divides are less severe and much more lenient.