Guest post by Elizabeth Miller (learn more about the author at the end of the article):
While women may face barriers to entry in numerous fields, none could seem more awkward than a career in international engagement — international relations, global non-profits, global partnerships, global fundraising, etc.
How do you greet guests that come from nations where women don’t vote, drive, or appear in public? How do you have lunch with visitors that expect men and women to eat and be seated in separate rooms? How do you respect the customs, values, and beliefs of your business partners, guests, and colleagues, while remaining true to your own culture? The answers are not simple.
I have learned to give a slight or deep bow over the years as required. I have come to understand that our international partners want to learn about American culture. I have come to expect that there will be initial awkwardness and that some individuals might not want to shake my hand or look me in the eyes. I have come to expect that I will, in fact, be treated differently, but not for the reasons I initially expected.
Yes, I am a woman, but I am also a leader, thinker, colleague, and globe trotter. I have come to understand that the essence of a relationship is about shared communication — our shared understanding and experiences. As we delve deeply into ourselves and our relationships, we come to learn that we are bound by our shared humanity. In this way, there are no foreigners or strangers, there are simply people also looking for a shared professional connection.
About the Author
Elizabeth Miller is the International Communications Coordinator in the Office of the Vice Provost for International Programs at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Elizabeth’s primary areas of expertise are public relations, university and government affairs, project and grant management, educational administration and teaching, and fundraising and development. Past employers include American Councils for International Education, Rice University, the University of California at Irvine, the United States Senate, and Rock Bridge High School in Columbia. She has also worked on short-term projects for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of State, and the United States Institute of Peace. Elizabeth has received numerous grants and awards and has traveled to more than thirty countries on five continents.