Four years of research and interviews, stories collected from 250 successful, relatable women ages 20 to 65 at all stages in their career or business, in 29 countries, six success habits uncovered, and one and a half years of writing.
The following is the complete introduction from my new book, UNDETERRED: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies. It’s the first career book expressly written for educated, ambitious women in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. This is the book that women in developing and emerging markets have been asking me for.
My goal with UNDETERRED is to help unleash the careers of 100,000 women globally.
Women in emerging markets are the largest untapped pool of talent in the world. I believe that the full participation of women in the workforce will fuel the global economy and drive development and prosperity in their own communities and countries.
What are we waiting for?
“Without the full contribution of women, no economy will reach its full potential.” Lael Brainard Member of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors
THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO BE YOU! As an ambitious, educated, working-age woman in a developing or emerging economy, this is the window of opportunity for you to take your place in the rising global economy.
ORIGINS OF THIS BOOK
My place in the global economy has been slowly revealed to me. For most of my life, I wondered why I was privileged to enjoy so many opportunities when other women in developing countries were not. Early on, when I came to the United States from the Middle East to attend college and graduate school, I didn’t know the answer. I still didn’t know it when I was given the opportunity to recruit management trainees and then to develop business leaders at Bank of America. I got my first clues as I coached unemployed women during my first in-depth volunteer engagement to become gainfully employed.
The pieces continued to fall in place when I found myself increasingly drawn to help businesswomen develop, and to mentor young women. I got so much joy and satisfaction from my work that it didn’t seem like work! Then, as I focused my efforts more intently in the region of the world that I had grown up in, the answer became even clearer to me. Finally I knew that I’d had the educational and career opportunities I’d had so that I could share them with you and other women. Today, I know exactly what I was preparing for.
Writing this book and putting it into your hands has been my primary focus for the past four years. Growing up, I was constantly told by my parents to read a book. I’ve always had my head in a book and I still do. I love reading and learn something every day from what I read. Therefore it was completely natural for me to see a book as one of the ways I could best reach you and as a vehicle to achieve what I now recognize as my professional purpose: to accelerate the career success of women in emerging economies.
THIS IS YOUR TIME
Throughout history, there have been periods of time that were particularly advantageous for specific groups of people. If you are a woman of working age in a growth economy, this is your time! You are in the right place at the right time to capitalize on unprecedented opportunities for women. You have the education, talent, and desire to effect change for yourself, your family, your community, and the world—and you live in a country where it is now possible for you to do so.
You are in this unique position because developing and emerging countries are still building their economic infrastructure and business ecosystems. Markets and businesses in these countries are rapidly expanding, thus creating new jobs. There is a need to hire and develop more talented people with the specific knowledge and skills to fill all the new positions. In this book, I refer to these developing and emerging markets as growth economies. As a woman in a growth economy today you can expect greater career and business opportunities than women in your country have ever had before.
The number of opportunities for educated women in growth economies will soon equal the number of opportunities available to men. In fact, soon women with university degrees and certain types of expertise won’t necessarily have to compete with men for jobs at all. As José Ángel Gurría, Secretary- General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, asserts, “Women are the most underutilized asset in the world’s economy.”1 This is also the time for women in the growth economies to excel because their countries are waking up to the value of their skills and insights, and to the need for gender equality.
“Women are the most underutilized asset in the world’s economy.”
Four forces are working together to create this extraordinary and unprecedented time for you.
- You have an education. If you are a college graduate, you have a higher level of education than many women in your country have ever had.
- You are needed. Companies, markets, your country, and the world economy have a significant need for entrepreneurs with education, skills, talents, and motivation.
- You have new opportunities. Growth, technology, and innovation are disrupting traditional business models and people everywhere are rejecting the status quo. These disruptions are creating many opportunities for you to act on.
- You believe in yourself. The most powerful force of all is your belief in your own capabilities. Women today can participate at any level of business. We also know that we can have both careers and full home lives if we want them. We can design our careers and our lifestyles in the ways that makes us feel the most fulfilled.
As a woman from a growth economy and as a businesswoman who has seen and taken advantage of unique market opportunities, I want women in growth economies to recognize that now is the crucial time to step up and push forward into new areas of business. In researching and writing this book, I was driven at my core to equip you to excel as the new business leaders of your economies.
I WROTE UNDETERRED FOR YOU
Women in growth economies regularly tell me that they are frustrated that the vast majority of career advice available to them is written by Westerners for Westerners. They say that in order to get the help they need with their careers or businesses they have to physically meet with mentors or attend conferences and training programs. While such activities can be extremely valuable, they also require time and resources. Guided by my passions, beliefs, experience, and professional expertise, I am providing businesswomen in growth economies with a meaningful alternative: a culturally relevant “how to succeed” career book they could read and refer to whenever they needed.
I don’t know about you, but personally I’ve had enough of the talk about the difficulties and obstructions in the way of women’s progress. I want to change the focus from what is wrong for women to what is right for women, from what’s standing in women’s way to how women are standing up with new solutions for themselves, from the obstacles women face to the pathways women have found, and from why there hasn’t yet been more progress for women to examining the progress that women have made. It is far more valuable to you if I share with you how women in growth economies are already succeeding, and the best practices they have used to get there along with my own expertise so you can achieve your own success.
“I want to change the focus from the obstacles women face to the pathways women have found..”
I am a global citizen. My Christian-Arab family of modest means fled from Haifa to Lebanon in 1947, and I was born in Jordan in 1960. My father worked in the aviation industry. Because of his work, my family lived in London, the Middle East, and Asia, and we traveled the world. My early education included attendance at British and American schools, instruction in the Arabic language, and exposure to rich cultural diversity. My parents, brother, sister, and I spoke Arabic, English, and even a little French in our home.
Like most of us, a few pivotal moments in my life have influenced both my identity and the direction of my career. One moment from my teenage years set the stage for my future work. Growing up, my sister didn’t like domestic chores such as cooking, cleaning, straightening up, and so on. She would regularly joke that she wanted to marry the general manager of a luxury hotel so she could live in the hotel and not have to do any housework. Our family and friends would laugh and say that would be a good idea for her. But I always wondered why no one ever said, “Why don’t you become a hotel general manager?”
Interestingly, my sister pursued and has a successful career in university administration. She now works in Doha, Qatar, and is married to a wonderful man who is actually a whole lot better at household tasks than she is!
My own professional experience started in the financial sector with Bank of America and its predecessors. I enjoyed sixteen great years at the bank, during which I primarily developed managers and leaders. After achieving a senior role, I left the corporate world in 1997 and built an executive business coaching and consulting practice. I have been coaching business leaders, especially women, around the world ever since.
Throughout my career, I’ve been troubled by the following inequities:
- Why are some women given the opportunity to get graduate degrees, when others don’t even have the opportunity to go to grade school?
- Why are some women encouraged to pursue their professional ambitions when other women are discouraged from pursuing a career?
- Why do some women have good fortune in their careers when other women all over the world face obstacles to achieving their professional goals?
- Why is it possible for some women to lead food businesses in the same regions where other women go hungry?
- How is it possible for some women to become CEOs in the same countries where there is also female genital mutilation?
- How is it possible for some women to work at the highest level of international trade in the same countries where women are being sexually trafficked?
- How is it possible for some women to hold senior positions at utility companies when other women have no access to clean water and sanitation?
Four years ago, it became clear to me that I was supposed to use my knowledge about career advancement to teach women around the world. In 2010, I founded an online career advice platform, TheWayWomenWork.com, to specifically address the needs of women in growth economies. I was on a mission to discover and report on how women in these regions were succeeding, and to tap their expertise to help other women do the same.
I know that for women to take our rightful places at the global economic table, it will take much more than each of us managing a career and business of her own. Governments and businesses will need to make systemic and structural changes and are in the best positions to do so. However, often the best and fastest way to make a difference for ourselves is to first change our own thoughts and actions. When we change the way we view obstacles and the ways we think and act at work, we accelerate our own success.
Experience has taught me that the best way to manage challenging tasks, goals, or environments is to observe, study, and emulate those who are already successful. I prefer to focus on people who are making progress, not on people who are stuck. This does not mean I ignore problems, or that you should. I want you to know that I am not discounting the depth and severity of the challenges women face. Here in Undeterred, I have consciously chosen to focus on what women do to succeed, not on how women are hindered from succeeding.
YOU CANNOT BE WHAT YOU CANNOT SEE
When reporting on women in growth economies, the media chooses to focus primarily on women who are victims or live in poverty. What’s missing from such coverage is the dramatic number of stories about successful women in growth economies, such as the ones you’ll read about in this book. The scarcity of this type of information became even more evident when I searched in Google for how many businesswomen there are in emerging economies.
The search results returned me a question, “Did you mean: how many businessmen in emerging economies?”
Actually no, I didn’t!
Undeterred contains the stories of women a lot like you — women from neighborhoods like yours and from families like yours, who work at all levels of corporations, run businesses, and work independently as consultants and freelancers. I connected with women from Abuja to Amman, from Bangalore to Beijing, from Beirut to Buenos Aires, from Cairo to Croatia, from Johannesburg to Jakarta, from Moscow to Mumbai, from Nairobi to New Delhi, from Saint Petersburg to Sofia, and from Shanghai to Sao Paulo. I spoke with women who ranged in age from twenty-five to sixty-five years: entrepreneurs, architects, attorneys, corporate executives, journalists, scientists, doctors, small business owners, and technologists.
The interviewees, eighty-six of whom are featured in this book, opened up in unexpected ways. We laughed and sometimes cried. We almost always hugged at the end of our time together, having bonded over our shared experiences. I found that I never had enough time to hear the full richness of a woman’s journey, and that I could have spent days with each of them. Their stories were real, deep, and powerful. Each woman told her story in her own way and took me through her life and professional journey, revealing the lessons she learned along the way. These lessons went beyond traditional career advice and management, touching on deep connections among family, life, culture, work, relationships, and spirituality.
There is no doubt in my mind that if you are looking for professional success, you will find the advice provided by this diverse group of women relevant, powerful, and instructive.
I know that there is no singular formula for success, but through my research I have identified six powerful habits shared by women successfully working in growth economies. These success habits empower them to move past the obstacles they encounter, create a path where there is none, and consistently see the pathways, not the potholes.
My research revealed that businesswomen and professional women successfully working in growth economies have six habits in common.
I found that if you want to work on your own terms, if you want a career — not just a job — or if you want to start your own businesses, you can. If you want to succeed, even if you don’t know exactly where to start or what to do next, you can. If you aren’t deterred by inevitable obstacles, if you are willing to try even if you are afraid, if you are willing to continue even after you fail (and you can expect to fail several times along the way), you can thrive.
Perhaps you are skeptical about how women in all growth economies can be covered in one book when every country in the world is different, even neighboring countries. In particular, you may be curious how I could account for the differences between women in regions on opposite sides of our planet.
Of course there are cultural, political, societal, and economic differences among businesswomen from different growth economies. I found, however, in my work, research, and travels, that there are universal truths and special conditions which unify women in growth economies.
In my coaching business, I practice an approach called solutions-focused coaching. What this means is that I focus my clients on specific, practical actions to get what they want. I don’t spend my time or theirs digging too deeply into the origins of, and every reason behind why they are not succeeding. Just because you understand why a problem exists does not mean you can solve it. If you spend your time studying problems, you will only become adept at problem identification.
Often, the types of problems my clients and women in growth economies encounter cannot be “solved” by them. So my approach, and the approach of other solutions-focused coaches, is to identify and help clients take the actions that will get them around or through those obstacles.
I took that same approach as I spoke with women in growth economies. Because I believe that the most complex and entrenched problems are best solved by the repetition of simple actions, I challenged myself to find the actions that are working best for women and will also work for you.
THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU
If you have questions and self-doubt, you are not alone. If you are unsure about whether or not you can or should have a career along with everything else in your life, you are not alone.
- Do you have unrealized professional dreams inside of you?
- Are you ready for, and do you deserve, a promotion, but haven’t gotten one?
- Are the odds of professional or business success stacked against you?
- Do you feel that your obstacles are insurmountable?
- Do your family and friends encourage you to stay home, get married, and raise children instead of working?
- Does your husband think it reflects badly on him that you are working?
- Do you think only western women have access to the best opportunities?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, this book is for you. It will help you find a way to answer these questions in the context of your life. I hope you will take comfort in knowing that there are hundreds of millions of women around the world like you wondering the same things. Millions of women have found solutions and resolved these questions for themselves in different ways. I want you to know that the time is right for you to pursue any professional path you desire.
You are already successful.
You are already successful. You have been blessed with so much. With your education alone, you are well on your way. If you are working, then you are even further ahead than so many others. For you, sustained success is now a matter of consistently executing these few key success habits and staying the course until you attain your ultimate goals.
PRAISE FOR UNDETERRED:
“This book will inspire you to go out there and make a difference without allowing others to put you down or prevent you from fulfilling your dreams. I wish I had read this book many years ago.” — Monica Singer, CEO of Strate, South Africa
“Undeterred has amazing stories of inspiration and holds an action plan for your success.” — Christopher M. Schroeder, entrepreneur, investor, and author of Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East
“Finally, a book that looks at how women in Africa, Asia, Russia, Latin America and the Middle East are succeeding in the world!” — Muna AbuSulayman, philanthropist and media personality, Saudi Arabia
“Undeterred is a timely book. There are no insurmountable obstacles preventing women in Latin America from starting their own business.” — Susana Garcia-Robles, Principal Investment Officer, Multilateral Investment Fund
“This book will open your mind and heart…read it, reflect upon it, and implement its outstanding advice.” — Mauro F. Guillen, Director, The Lauder Institute and the Wharton School
“A roadmap filled with practical lessons learned from successful women in growth economies. A must-read for every woman.” — K. Shelly Porges, former Senior Advisor, Global Entrepreneurship Program, U.S. Department of State
See what other people are saying about UNDETERRED.