In honor of International Women’s Day, author Rania Habiby Anderson talks about what we can learn from remarkable female entrepreneurs in developing countries.
In celebration of International Women’s Day this Sunday, I had a chance to interview Rania Habiby Anderson, author of a fascinating book, Undeterred: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies. Anderson spent over four years researching and interviewing more than 250 successful female career women and entrepreneurs in developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. Her objective? To understand the key traits that caused these women to be successful while so many of their peers failed to meet their dreams. I asked Anderson what U.S.-based entrepreneurs can learn from these remarkable women.
What was the most surprising finding of the book?
Four years ago when I started my research, I had no idea whether I would find commonality among women in growth economies. Each country, each region, each continent, each culture is unique. I did not know if there would be similarities. But I found that the challenges women face around the world are very similar–it’s the degree and severity of the challenge that varies. The obstacles these women face are seemingly insurmountable, yet what is commonplace among all of them is this: They are undeterred, they persevere.
Not a surprising finding for me, but I think readers of your article would find surprising: many women in growth economies face less intense pressure in juggling their home life because of extended family support, living close to family members, and the prevalence of domestic help.
What can Western entrepreneurs learn from the experience of these women?
Two factors, resilience and tenacity, can help overcome seemingly intractable obstacles. Regardless of where someone lives, their gender, or how difficult the environment may be, an entrepreneur with the right mindset, skills, and network can overcome (or work around) almost any obstacle in their way. Any aspiring entrepreneur can look to these founders in the developing world and be inspired.
What are three specific takeaways U.S.-based entrepreneurs can learn from these women?
Even the most difficult of environments and obstacles can be overcome if you don’t give up. Entrepreneurial success is possible in any environment. In fact, after surveying hundreds of women, that is the most prevalent characteristic. Despite insurmountable odds, these women were undeterred.
There’s no quick fix or silver bullet; success doesn’t come from one thing. It takes a whole set of consistent behaviors to achieve one’s goals. Small changes lead to big results.
Women entrepreneurs are succeeding around the world and there are new and expanding opportunities to do business with them.
Sunday is International Women’s Day. What are your thoughts of this important day for women?
This is an opportunity to celebrate achievements of women while calling for greater equality. There are millions of educated women entrepreneurs and corporate women working at every level in growth economies. These women, and the millions more like them, are graduating from universities around the world and are the future workforce of the global economy. If we guide them and develop these women, we can close the global talent shortage.
Companies that fail to effectively recruit, develop and retain educated women in growth economies will be severely hampered and challenged to meet their growth objectives. Women in growth economies face the same types of challenges as their Western counterparts–it’s the severity of the challenge that’s different. I wrote this book to help offer tools and encourage action to help advance and recognize women across the globe.
What is your goal for publishing this book? Who is this book written for?
Women from growth economies regularly tell me that they want career guidance that applies specifically to them. I wrote Undeterred to meet their needs and to address a huge market need that has been underserved and not addressed. To provide women in developing and emerging economies (I combine both and call them growth economies) with their very own culturally relevant career advice resource so they can accelerate their professional success. While some women have access to training or mentoring programs (and many don’t), these cost money and take time, something many women don’t have.
Today, there’s a significant gap between what women in growth economies (and truthfully, also in the West) learn at school and the skills they need to succeed at work. Undeterred is the bridge between womens’ educations and their workplace success. In addition to the examples and stories of 86 women from 29 countries, the book–and the companion workbook, I Am Undeterred–contain, there are very specific actions that women can immediately apply so they can be more successful at work.
To my knowledge, there is no other book like this. Career advice books in the marketplace are primarily written by Westerners, based on a Western model of success, and feature the examples of women succeeding in the West. There are a few books that contain a story or two about women in growth economies but they are a very small part of these books. There are also books written for women in a specific country, like India.
My ultimate goal is to get this book in the hands of over 10,000 women. Undeterred is fulfillment of a lifelong goal to do something significant to help women in the developing world who don’t have access to the same types of opportunities I did.