Careers in Women's Economic Empowerment
January 31, 2014 8:16 AM   Subscribe

I have a young relative who is graduating from college in the spring. She is interested in a career in women's economic empowerment, preferably working abroad. Help me help her get off to a good start!

Background: she's lived in Paris, briefly, so she speaks some french; she is graduating from one of the top schools; her studies comprise political science, economics, social and environment science, and gender history; her internships and summer jobs all look relevant and even a little bit impressive to me.

I am a master resume helper so I am helping her with that but I know nothing about women's economic development! What advice - the more specific the better - do you have for a young woman entering this field?
posted by rada to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is she American? If so, she should absolutely be applying for the Peace Corps. I did a masters program that was about half people working in international development, and most of the Americans had done the Peace Corps. It's not a perfect program, but it will give her a sense of what it's like to do this kind of work in developing countries, and I believe it has economic development programs. Though even if she ends up in an English-teaching program, it will be helpful.

If she doesn't want to do PC for whatever reason, there are other programs she can do, though some of them have price tags. But either way, she's going to want to work on getting into the field as soon as possible.

If going abroad doesn't work out right away, her next-best bet is to find an internship or (if she's really lucky) an entry-level admin position with an NGO in DC. But this should be her last resort because 1. these jobs are tough to get and 2. if she jumps into domestic NGO work without field experience, she risks getting pigeonholed into more administrative roles - most NGOs (and later on, places like the World Bank and US AID) want people with significant field experience for program roles.
posted by lunasol at 8:44 AM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Peace Corps. Alternatively, if your relative is interested in a career in government (State Department, etc) or at an NGO focused on international women's issues, the best thing she can do right now is to get out of the country. Doesn't matter how, really; she just needs some international experience to get her to the next step in this competitive employment arena.

While I'm not personally an expert in this area, I can attest that my sister left the US to teach English in southern China for two years just after college. After some career twists and turns she's now an officer in the Foreign Service. Teaching English abroad is an easy thing for a new college graduate to do; it's something for which your relative is qualified, and it will let her gain experience in her chosen part of the world.
posted by killdevil at 9:03 AM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been involved (as a sponsor, mainly) with Women for Women International for several years. They are very well-regarded in this area and it might be worth looking around at their site to see how their organization works. I see they also offer internships.
posted by pantarei70 at 9:06 AM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

US Foreign Service, in the political or economic track.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 1:15 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

She might try applying to Master's programs - if she wants to work in international development, she would probably need a master's degree eventually, and a lot of those programs include some practical work experience components like internships and could help her make connections in international organizations. If she wants to continue with the French and get some more experience abroad, she could try a master's program in Europe, (or elsewhere). Try looking into Sciences Po or The Graduate Institute, which both have development programs. The Graduate Institute has a lot of gender studies built into the curriculum, and they are trying to mainstream it throughout their courses.

Also, agree that Peace Corps is a good way to get into development for an American. It is a big commitment, though, so she should be sure that she wants to spend two years abroad before applying. I do know people who have managed to get into development with internships or non PC work abroad, though. I think the advantage of Peace Corps is that they pay your way and support you while you are in country. Also agree that teaching English could be one way to get some substantial experience abroad, even if it is not directly related (though if she is interested in education, there is definitely a link there - and in general I think having experience teaching is a good thing to have on your resume. A lot of the more interesting positions I know of working on development programs ask for some ability to plan curriculums and conduct trainings.)
posted by thesnowyslaps at 2:19 PM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

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