Unless you're a world traveler, emerging markets, such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China, are usually topics for the International section of the newspaper or evening news. Whether it's the economy in Greece affecting our financial markets or problems with Chinese sheet rock affecting the construction of a mother-in-law's apartment over the garage, there's often global impact from international business.
One researcher is targeting the state of women as employees in these countries. As business increases, either from US companies moving in or international companies growing, the role of women is changing. "In Plain Sight: Female Talent in Emerging Markets" is the new report by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Ripa Rashid. Hewlett is a Columbia University professor and founding president of the Center for Work-LIfe Policy in New York. The report will be out in June, but she wrote a summary for the May issue of the Harvard Business Review.
Women in Developing Countries -- Minds Are Developed, Jobs Are Getting There
Hewlett found that despite the fact that more than half of college graduates in these countries are women, they are being neglected when it comes to recruiting and training for jobs.
Among her findings:
- More than 80% of women in India want to hold a top job (it's 40% in the US).
- 55% of college degrees are going to women in emerging markets (it's 58% in the US).
- Women in emerging markets might be more ambitious than in developed nations because they have fewer children and childcare issues (China has a One Child policy and often extended families help with childcare).
Front-row Seat to Business in Russia
In real life, her findings hold true. Seattle-based Holli Harris had a front-row seat working in the oil and gas industry. Her role involved regular travel to Russia for business. She observed that Russian women had opportunity, but there remains a "glass ceiling."
"I think [Russians] could accept women in leadership roles as long as they were making the requisite contribution and garnered respect," she says. "But the nuance here is that the leadership was accepted in technical or academic roles – not senior management."
While Harris worked in Russia in the 1990s, she has stayed on top of the changing culture, a change that has mostly been for the better.
"As free enterprise filtered in, the opportunities for women opened up, especially as services industries took root," says Harris. "I'd say the culture is still very chauvinistic, but if a woman can prove her contribution, she will be accepted and respected."
Companies Step Up
Many companies are already taking action to improve opportunities in emerging markets for both men and women. Siemens, Intel, and Citigroup have all initiated programs to recruit educated management-track employees and create more opportunities.