"Women as Leaders": Richmond business professionals and VCU students forge relationships with Russian counterparts.
Richmond.COM (Richmond, VA)
Posted on October 30, 2003
By Kathleen Hall
|Nina Veselkina (from left), Lloyd Thacher (member, Bon Air Rotary Club, host coordinator), Luidmila Smirnova, Anna Bulatova, and Marat Galeyev.|
The visitors were part of The Open World Program, a unique exchange program operated by the U.S. Library of Congress. This program provides an opportunity for civic leaders, elected officials, and emerging political leaders from the Russian Federation to observe the American lifestyle and political system, and to see effective, responsive government at the federal, state, county, and municipal levels. The exchange program offers eight civic themes. The theme of this exchange, hosted by the Bon Air Rotary Club, was Women in Leadership.
According to Anastasiya Leonidovna Detkova, the group facilitator, the objective of the trip was to "experience Americans as leaders, in politics, social work, family, and economics; to analyze what we learn and take back methods of work to Russia."
Throughout the week, the Russians met with a number of women-owned businesses on location or at the Greater Richmond Small Business Development Center. The American women shared their stories about how they started and grew their businesses, providing both practical nuts-and-bolts information, such as obtaining funding or cash flow management, and inspirational stories of triumph over obstacles.
At an advertising class at the VCU School of Business, seniors exchanged ideas with the Russians about what advertising was like in Russian. Large international corporations, such as Toyota, are the primary advertisers in Russia. The ads are not, however, positioned to reflect the local market; they just include Russian subtitles. Television is not as big a factor in Russians' lives. Most of it is state-controlled and the choices are not as varied as in the United States.
The Russians' eight-day stay in Richmond included visits to local government officials, a tour of Millennium Studios and downtown Petersburg, a walking tour in Richmond, a Richmond Ballet performance, visits to several Rotary Clubs, and shopping, including an afternoon at the Stony Point Fashion Park. "They [the Russians] loved shopping every chance they could," chuckled Lloyd Thatcher, host coordinator and a member of the Bon Air Rotary Club.
The five professionals, who came from regions throughout Russia, represented a range of organizations. Detkova, the facilitator, teaches English at the Far-East State University of Management and Business. She explained that in Russia, the Open World Program is administered through the Center of Russian Leadership. Employers nominate candidates who then go through a lengthy application process. "They select employees who can make changes," Detkova said.
The other Russian delegates included Anna Gennadyevna Bulatova, a 25-year-old legal consultant at the Rostov-on-Don State University, Regional Ministry of Economics; Marat Mirsayafovich Galeyev, a 52-year-old professor at Perm State Agricultural Academy; Lyudmila Igorevna Smirnova, a 47-year-old manager of a youth club; and Nina Vladimirovna Veselkina, a 50-year-old accountant at a children's musical school.
"American women are very energetic," Detkova said. "They set goals and reach them step by step."
The Russians also found that American women choose a professional field that is "close to their personality," and are flexible. When necessary, they find alternative ways to accomplish their goals. "Women are united," Detkova added, referring to the numerous organizations to which women belong, such as the National Association of Women Business Owners.
"The program was very well scheduled," Detkova waid. "All of our interests were taken into consideration in planning events. Each delegate established useful contacts in their fields and will communicate with each other in the future. We were very impressed with America. Americans are broadminded, friendly, and educated."
The Russians agreed that women in America have more experience being leaders, although in Russia, the number of women in leadership positions is growing. "Every year, there are more women who strive to make life better, who are socially, politically, and economically active and more educated," Detkova said. In fact, she added, the governor of St. Petersburg is a woman, the first female.
Thatcher noted that the disposable income of working Russians is growing at a faster rate than inflation. "They are just emerging as buyers as their buying power increases," he said.
The Russians felt the trip was a success and, despite the short stay, they forged deep and emotional relationships with their hosts. "Lloyd did a good job providing a varied program and matching hosts and delegates," one of them said. They also expressed deep gratitude to everyone who was involved in the program.
This was Detkova's fourth time as a facilitator in the United States and she said it was the most valuable and educational trip to date.
"They are some of the warmest, outgoing upper-middle class citizens of Russia, who are more like us than we would ever realize," Thatcher said. "They were so impressed with how patriotic Americans seem to be."
Rotary has adopted the Open World program as part of its mission to provide service at the international level. Rotary is a worldwide humanitarian service organization whose members volunteer time and resources to help others in their local communities and throughout the world. Members of the Bon Air Rotary club hosted this trip and provided housing, transportation, and educational and recreational opportunities for the Russians.
Kathleen Hall is a member of the Bon Air Rotary Club and the owner of Marathon Marketing, a marketing and public relations consulting firm. She is also a freelance writer. For more information about the Open World Program, visithttp://www.rotary.org/programs/open_world/.
[Reprinted with Permission]