Researcher, Nancy Adler conducted a monumental study in the mid 1980’s to address myths about women and international business. Her study investigated if commonly held myths about women in international business were true including: women are not interested in International business, women were not willing to travel overseas for a variety of reasons namely family responsibilities and women would not be viewed as credible in overseas business due to the local perception of women. Her study results revealed that many of these false perceptions were indeed myths often held by male managers and HR personnel, and that women were interested and willing to conduct business overseas.
Today many of these same myths still exist despite the dramatic increase of women in business and women owned businesses and women traveling overseas.
Here are some facts published by the U. S. Department of Labor (DOL) (www.dol. gov), The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) (www.nawbo.org), and the Small Business Administration (SBA) (www.sba. gov), on women in the work force:
It is no longer just a rumor that women have become major players in the U. S. workforce and in the global business environment. More and more women are traveling overseas to conduct business for their corporations or for their own business ventures.
Despite these significant advances of women in International business we still find commercial guidebooks that suggest that women should not be in International business. Most books in this genre were written by men and either do not address women’s particular issues in international business or, worse, they suggest that women should not even be sent on foreign business assignments due to role differences which these men perceive to be unconquerable obstacles. In contrast, my own research (1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998) indicates that women can and are successful in international business, despite the variety of viewpoints they encounter around the world. Specifically, my research has demonstrated that establishing credibility during the initial stages of business is one area that businesswomen find critical to their success.
Establishing Your Credibility
For men, credibility is often derived from their gender and their status in the company. For women, credibility is more often derived from their individual skills. Women report that they often have to work extra hard to establish credibility because of their gender.
Some women explain:
When I conduct business in most countries I am consciously aware that my male colleagues have more credibility than I do, just because of gender differences. In most countries women are not expected to have significant positions of authority, so I am frequently viewed in the same way. I am first assumed to be an administrator, not the decision-maker in the group, whereas my male colleague is first viewed as the manager or decision-maker. I feel I have to work doubly hard to establish my credibility before I can effectively conduct business and I’m aware that I need to do this immediately so that the business can start. (Chicago)
When I travel outside the U. S. for the corporate office, I am viewed as foreign first, and female second. However, I feel I am still met with some degree of skepticism as to what my role is and how much authority I have for the corporate office. Due to this, I take extra steps to make sure that the proper introductions are made in advance to limit concerns that men might have about my credibility. (Los Angeles)
As a woman business owner I realize that I am not the norm in many countries. Therefore I have to develop methods by which to establish my self and my company as credible for my foreign business associates. This requires preparation and advance communication about my firm, our success and our viability - perhaps more than is required for men who run their own firms. (New York)
Here are some pointers for establishing credibility:
The Role of the Manager
Managers can be very effective in international business by helping to enhance their team’s credibility. The manager can introduce the staff members by title and outline their areas of expertise, act as moderator to refer questions to the appropriate team member, and highlight the staff’s achievements.
In particular, managers can help in the following ways:
Despite commonly held myths about women in International businesswomen are traveling and conducting business internationally in increased numbers and they are successful in their business dealings. Establishing credibility in advance is one of the key areas where women can do to ensure her business success.
Tracey Wilen is Author at http://www.globalwomen.biz/