Business problems for women are similar the world over
August 14, 2012 4:00 AM
Farah Ibrahim Albastaki, second from right, listens to the welcoming greeting at the entrepreneurship training session at Chatham University Monday. To her right is Bernadette Cruz Herrera-Dy of the Philippines.
By Ann Belser Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It turns out that businesswomen all over the world have the same problems.
"How do you hire the perfect people for what you need?" recycling company owner Lorna Aquino Volquez, from the Dominican Republic, asked.
She was part of a group of women sponsored by the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program that met Monday with the team that runs the Center for Women's Entrepreneurship at Chatham University to address their business challenges. The event was arranged by GlobalPittsburgh, a nonprofit that encourages foreign visitors to travel to Pittsburgh.
The answer, from Rebecca Harris, the center's director, was the same that every employer has heard: personal connections.
Ann Paul Kihengu of Tanzania, who owns two companies, including a supply firm, wanted to know how to build on the collective nature of women in her country and increase their exports of agricultural items.
The suggestion, from Anne Flynn Schlicht, the center's assistant director, was to call a wine exporter and see if they could tag on.
"In our country we have a lot of women who work so hard but they get so little from what they do," Ms. Kihengu said. She said the Tanzanian economy doesn't support prices that would allow the women to live off what they grow. And they haven't reached out to a global economy because they don't even think to ask how.
Bernadette Herrera-Dy, a member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, was interested in learning how to extend a sense of entrepreneurship to people with little formal education.
That one brought a momentary pause, because the people who work with Chatham to start their own businesses usually have at least bachelor's degrees, if not higher levels of education.
The Chatham team talked about fund-raising and working with people to bring up their proficiency so that while those with low levels of education may not be in the position to open a business, they at least can make themselves employable by the international businesses that are locating in the Philippines.
One of the projects with which Ms. Herrera-Dy works is a mobile computer van that helps to teach people basic computer literacy.
The nine members of the group found common ground when the lone male member, Feng yuding, a reporter for the Southern Weekly, a Chinese newspaper, asked about the problems that are unique to women starting businesses.
Ms. Schlicht said the women who attend the programs at Chatham tend to face a lack of support from home, with their families and friends urging them not to give up a safe job to try to start their own businesses.
"There is a big fear of failure," she said as the international group around the table nodded in agreement. "If they fail they feel they've let down everybody."
Additionally, in this country, she said, women often can't leave their jobs because they need regular employment to provide health insurance for their children.