Spending a few days in rural Romania  (Onesti,some 4.5 hours from Bucharest on a very fast bus!) at the final partner meeting and conference for www.ywoli.eu,  our Young Women Orientation for Labour Integration project. A bit long winded of a title but it was all about 9 countries trying to come up with solutions to tackle the challenges faced by young women in accessing employment across Europe.

Sometimes it really does take an external perspective to learn more about ourselves.  I am often asked ‘why do you get so involved and get such a kick out of European projects?’. Today,we learned of the devastation of this part of Romania when 10,000 jobs were lost in the chemical industry.  With no alternatives, local education providers see the teaching entrepreneurship as a way to change mindsets and create opportunities.  And they are right, but it will be a long road.  Teachers salaries start here at €150 per month rising to €300 per month after many years experience. When there is little or no disposable income,how do you identify a business opportunity that will fly. If you are a young woman, you face additional challenges.

Feeling somewhat despondent, part of our meeting involves a local cultural visit and today that was to Bogdana Women Orthodox Monastery, a community of 50 women living a life of prayer and artistic pursuit.  They have  salvaged their Monastery from ruins to create an amazing building and iconic art collection in a stunning location.  From harvesting the wood from the forest to creating the most intricate carvings, they have been so enterprising in keeping the Monastery alive through the most challenging communist and post communist times and dire economic circumstances.  True entrepreneurs, they are resilient, hard working and creative. And therein the learning.

Kincso Adriany, executive director of the Hungarian Business Leaders Forum sums it up really well …..

  • “First, we don’t think big.
  • Second, we don’t have a public profile, we aren’t promoting ourselves.
  • Third, women work in the business, not on the business. We tend to get lost in daily operations; we don’t take the time to be visionaries and have a strategic approach.
  • Fourth, we have great networking skills but we don’t use them for our businesses.
  • Fifth, we don’t tend to take risks.”

So my learning from this project, think big, be fearless, promote promote promote, articulate and doggedly work towards a vision, network like your life depends on it and embrace risk.