In honor of Women’s History Month, Cultural Vistas recently launched the Coalition for American Business Skills by hosting a special roundtable discussion at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce focused on how internships and structured training programs with American companies can act as a game-changer for aspiring women entrepreneurs around the world.
An engaged audience of over 40 businesspeople, NGO representatives, and foreign embassy officials gathered on Wednesday, March 28 to learn more about the work of the Coalition and hear from accomplished female leaders about the vast local and global economic benefits of U.S. internships, and how they promote entrepreneurship and empower women.
The roundtable topic reflected the Coalition’s core belief that immersion in the U.S. workplace via J-1 internships and training programs is a catalyst for growth – for both American businesses and in the careers of motivated youth around the globe.
“We know that the more women are engaged in the workforce, the stronger economies are—whether it’s our own economy or economies abroad,” said Jennifer Clinton, Ph.D., President and CEO of Cultural Vistas.
The transformative power of American internships was clearly on display during the event. Soonhwa (Suna) Jo, a South Korean student taking part in the Korea WEST exchange program, described how increasing client response rates during her internship at Ameriprise Financial has given her the confidence to pursue a career in international finance, which had previously seemed unattainable.
“The first thing I learned from coming to the U.S. is that I can get over anything,” said Jo.
Acquiring the ability to navigate ambiguity and difference is one of the many benefits of interning in the United States.
“We see in our work at Cultural Vistas, that immersing individuals in the American workplace, which is frankly the epicenter of entrepreneurship worldwide, is how they absorb this mindset and see it in action,” said Clinton. “And that’s really what we’re trying to lift up today—the importance in developing pathways for greater entrepreneurship worldwide through internship experiences.”
Panelist Miranda Barrett, nonprofit consultant and former Vice President of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, said international experience can be a gateway for advancing women’s careers. She described her personal experience as a White House intern, when she accepted a trip to Germany, as the major precursor to her successful career.
“I’d never been to Dulles, I couldn’t pronounce Lufthansa. I can’t even emphasize the level of cultural ignorance I had at that point but I said ‘yes,’” Barrett said. “Every job I had ever since then was thanks to that experience I had as an intern and saying yes to that trip.”
Representatives from the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), which co-hosted the event, highlighted the real-world business applications of the Coalition’s work.
“The core of these conversations really revolves around how are businesses, how are innovators, and how are entrepreneurs going to interact together,” said Ryan Miller, Head of Strategy and Business Development at USIBC. “Our partnership [with the Coalition] really forms a potent foundation for the types of discussions and direction in which we want to take our own organization in the coming years.”
Attendees also heard from Sumona Guha, Senior Director with USIBC and Greta Schettler, COO of WEConnect International. The discussion was moderated by Kylie Atwood, a State Department reporter with CBS News.
The launch event took place across the hall from a U.S. Chamber of Commerce plaque commemorating the past achievements of American men at American businesses.
By increasing inclusion and spreading transferable American business skills, the Coalition hopes to help write future narratives that will include the contributions of women and international businesses alike. Those who recognize the scope of this untapped potential should soon be on the lookout for new plaques adorning the Chamber’s halls.
In the coming weeks and months ahead, the Coalition for American Business Skills looks forward to continuing this conversation through a series of events and engagements. Learn more about the work of the Coalition at AmericanBusinessSkills.org.