The realities of International business travel for this crazy woman

I’ve made the same mistake now, about three times. I over packed. I over packed, and paid $1000 for it on United Airlines. I think the old adage is that the less you have, the more you hoard? But I’ll say for international travel, the less you know, the more you hoard.

Reflecting on the two weeks I spent in the city of Yeketerinburg, Russia last month, I think I could have gotten away with a lot less stuff; about four pairs of shoes (not the 10 pairs I brought). I could have brought two dresses a couple of shirts and skirts—instead of the nearly thrice that I brought. I didn’t need any reading material for the flight or long hotel nights. There are in-flight movies and sleep and night were spent mostly processing the day’s events and sleeping. I certainly didn’t need the two sets of toiletries and make-up (one for the carry-on in case my luggage didn’t arrive). Oh and the mountain of power bars too—I brought a whole bunch home uneaten.

The mistake is not so much misinformation or ignorance as it is fear. I run an international women’s empowerment program in remote areas of the world and the irony is that in my own silly ways, I’m still working on my own empowerment. I fear that I won’t have what I need, that I will be naked and makeup-less, filthy and hungry in the middle of nowhere and be expected to present a PowerPoint on my corporation to donors. I would like to tell you exactly what I imagine, but it may not be precisely accurate to say I have an idea in my head. I can’t really imagine it at all. Is there food? Is the weather hot? Cold? Will I need to wash everyday or every other day? Who exactly will I be meeting and what will they expect from me? I’m not just touring here, where I can throw on my flip flops and wander down to the hotel lobby and around town. I’m in power meetings with influential people, able to make or break my efforts in the area. I can’t just walk in wearing week-old smelly clothes.
So like any good woman obsessing on her future needs, I sorted through all the possible darkest scenarios and packed for the worst. Ironically, the worst is actually standing in a psycho crazy international airport without a stitch of the local language in my head and trying to negotiate my way out of a $400 over weight fee and then hauling all that heavy crap through the airport when I arrive in the states. That’s the worst! And I’ve forgotten that three times—Jerusalem; Yerevan, Armenia and now Yeketerinburg, Russia.

So, I’m writing this blog and committing to getting myself a reasonable suitcase- one that rolls on four wheels, that’s durable enough to get through to Banjul, Gambia (West Africa) intact and one that will not compromise my stuff. I’m NOT packing a full first aid kit and sewing kit, a stack of books, three curling irons (yes three—I was concerned that one would blow out—er…or that two would blow out), enough power-bars to feed myself for two weeks, a closet full of clothes and more shoes than the women in my classes own. And no more of these heels! Heck, I packed a formal floor-length dress for this last one. In my defense, the agenda called for a formal reception the last night of the program and like a 12-year-old packing for camp, from a list, I packed my formal. I brought it home unworn and paid a good $1000 for the privilege of hauling it, and a sundry of other junk, to the border of Europe/Asia and back. It cost me $400 at the US airport, $200 in Moscow and then another $400 on my way back.

When the agenda calls for a formal, I’m going to bring a set of pearls and put it with whatever I’ve got. If they want to see me in a formal, they will need to come to Salt Lake City, UT where I can access my closet for free. And for that matter, if I am starving, naked, filthy and pitiful and someone asks for a PPT on my corporation, it will be all the more dramatic!

Written by Tamee Roberts, Executive Director at Women Empowerment Global Outreach

International Women Entrepreneurs find a voice through Google

Women entrepreneurs are causing quite the scene, and it’s not just here in America. Their ideas and businesses have so much potential, in fact, that Google recently launched the Women Entrepreneurs on the Web (WEOW) initiative. The program is currently targeted at International women entrepreneurs, helping them to grow the online presence of their business. As part of the program, the women learn how to network, collaborate effectively, connect with customers, promote their organization, and track and optimize their efforts. Forbes coined this as a new form of SEO…search entrepreneur optimization.

The pilot program for these international women entrepreneurs was launched in February in India. According to their press release, Google created this because they “realized that [women] were true entrepreneurs who were not afraid to try new things, yet many were unaware of various products that can be used to leverage the full potential of the Internet… The large number of women entrepreneurs in India made it a natural decision for us to pilot this initiative.”

WEOW is giving women in developing and rural communities the opportunity to scale their businesses through online networking and marketing. By giving them the tools to create a website and launch social media pages, these women have the chance to truly make an impact. It’s even more accessible because it is free; the only charge occurs if the woman chooses to buy the domain name (a process which Google would help facilitate).

It will be interesting to see what happens with the initiative after the pilot program has been around for a while. Would this model work here in the United States?


10,000 Women: an international women initiative

Besides sharing information about women in business, I am passionate about international everything. I grew up moving around the globe with my family, and was never able to get rid of the travel bug. In college, I became interested in social innovation and entrepreneurship and found ways to be involved with every club that knew anything about it. So naturally, when I came across Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative I was intrigued.

The international women initiative began four years ago and has one year left. $100 million was put into action to help educate 10,000 women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging markets. The focus was on nurturing small and medium enterprises and Goldman was to provide trainings in business management to help drive greater shared economic growth. They said this would lead to stronger healthcare, education, and greater prosperity in the communities where they operate. Sounds good to me. So I researched more and started reading stories.

Andeisha is from Afghanistan and works in childcare. She is the executive director of the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO). This business operates orphanages in Afghanistan and Pakistan where they house over 300 orphans. Andeisha enrolled in the 10,000 women initiative to help her improve her management and leadership skills. After four years she said she has learned how to develop a strategic plan for the development of her organization. She learned finance and marketing skills to help grow her business and feels more confident as a leader. She also learned the importance of networking. She has hired on seven administrative staff and six support staff in each orphanage.

After reading the stories, I was hooked. But why would Goldman Sachs invest so much money into these women? I came across a blog post that explains it well. Goldman’s own research shows that female education drives macroeconomic growth. Harvard University’s Calestous Juma, a professor of international development, estimated that if African women had the same access to training and technology that men did, Arica’s economy would expand by at least 40 percent. Goldman understands that teaching women about access to finance, risk aversion, growth, and regulatory issues opens up doors that not only help them, but help the entire economy around them. The program itself does not provide credit, but they have many public-private partnerships that do.

This is cool. But on to my next question, is it working? Not so surprisingly, it is. The International Center for Research on Women did an assessment of the program in India in 2011. It showed that half of the women involved in the program in India doubled their revenues in 18-months. The study gave credit to 10,000 Women for providing women entrepreneurs with crucial knowledge and tools they need to expand their businesses.

Goldman understands the power of women in business and women entrepreneurs. Enough so, that they are now deep into their 5 year long initiative to fund 10,000 of them around the world. It’s an initiative that is innovative, inspiring, and hopeful. I just hope the belief and help for women entrepreneurs around the world doesn’t stop at the end of their five year goal.