Rania Anderson is the author of Undeterred: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies and founder of The Way Women Work, the online career advice site for women in emerging economies. As a leading authority on business women in growing economies, Rania works with, writes for, and speaks to thousands of women around the world, accelerating their career and business success.
Rania began her career at Bank of America where she attained a senior leadership role. In 1997 she started and grew an executive coaching and business consulting practice. She has worked with businesses of all sizes and across industries. Additionally, Rania is the co-founder of the 7th Women’s Angel investor network in the United States, the Women’s Capital Connection, now a group of close to 50 women investors who invest in high-growth women-led businesses She holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a business degree from Oklahoma State University.
I saw hopeful signs for the future of Georgia in the hundreds of female students, entrepreneurs and professionals that I met traveling around the country in March.
In celebration of Women’s History Month and at the invitation of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, I spent a week in Georgia, meeting with students from five universities and with six different groups of businesswomen in Tbilisi, Akhaltsikhe, Kutaisi and Gori. I encouraged them to make new opportunities for themselves and shared some of the insights from 250 women around the world in my newly released book Undeterred: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies [insert link http://thewaywomenwork.com/]. I spoke primarily to women entrepreneurs and to female students, but male students also attended every session. At Free University, I spoke to an entire classroom filled almost exclusively with young men (more on this at a later date!).
As is typical of my travels to developing and emerging economies, I heard both optimism and frustration. There was optimism from young people about their ideas for the future and the increase of women in business and government. The most vocal frustration came as women talked about difficulties they experienced in getting financing to grow their businesses and about the current economic hardships. Similar to Georgia, many emerging economies are currently facing economic hardship including currency devaluation, like that of the Georgian Lari. Crises like these don’t pass quickly. Ultimately, the only thing that stabilizes markets is growth.
One of the messages I shared with students and business women as I traveled around Georgia was that sustained growth is best generated not by government, but by business, especially the entrepreneurial sector. I spoke about how the addition of female talent and women entrepreneurs can expand the economic pie for everyone. I challenged women to think of unmet needs in the marketplace, what wasn’t available and needed and to start innovative businesses to meet these unmet needs.
So, this month I share the story of a businesswoman living and working under difficult economic conditions who identified a significant need in the marketplace. She did not wait for anyone or anything to address the need. Denise Abulafia, co-founder and CEO of Educatina http://www.educatina.com/sobre-nosotros, in Argentina, a Khan Academy equivalent in South America, identified a need and is now positively impacting the future of education in Latin America.
For five years, Denise, who has a PhD in biochemistry, taught at a university in Mexico. She was told that students were not motivated and did not want to go to school. During our interview, Denise, shared how she got the idea for creating Educatina. “Since I was a researcher and it’s in my nature to experiment. At that time all the other teachers at the university prohibited the use of computers in class. But, I decided to allow students to bring their computers to class and search online while I lectured. The students were able to ask me very difficult, very challenging questions. But I enjoyed it. When I didn’t know an answer I would say, ‘I have no idea! Let’s go look it up!’ What Denise learned through this give and take exchange with her students was that they actually were interested in learning. They just didn’t want to be taught the way students have been taught for many years – by a teacher standing in the front of the room lecturing at them. She explained, “The students were bored. They wanted to be engaged. They wanted to interact.” She concluded to enable students to learn we had to change the way we taught them. “What I know is education, and I know how to make things happen. Fixing the education model is something that is very complicated, not only in Argentina, but also in the rest of the world. We have to change things step by step.”
Today, Educatina produces a lot of original educational material (videos, interactive practices, texts) every month (currently 4.000 videos and 25,000 practices) and reaches more than 6 million users a month through www.educatina.com and the Educatina´s YouTube channel. Educatina´s business model offers free online education and its goals are to reach full sustainability from www.aulaya.com, its 24/7 on-demand online tutoring service, where thousands of students meet one-to-one with more than 400 trained and certified tutors to discuss their study questions in real-time.
Not only did Denise identify the opportunity for a new educational model, conceive and execute a new business idea, she raised her first round of investment funding when she was pregnant with her third child! “It was hard” she told me. But, like the hundreds of women around the world I have spoken with, she had the confidence, competence and courage to pursue her ideas. Like women succeeding in emerging economies, she is undeterred!
What are your ideas? Where do you see opportunities? Pursue the the ones you feel passionate about. Connect with people who share your vision and can work with you to execute your ideas. Don’t wait for times to get better. This is your time!
Join me here again each month. I’ll be sharing more stories like Denise’s, including the stories of Georgian women and I’ll provide you with actions you can take to achieve your own success.