Only 5% of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs.
Women still make just $0.78 to every dollar men make.
Women make up only 23% of Senior VP leaders and 17% of C-Suite executives.
Women generate only 37% of global GDP.
Statistics like these appear in the news constantly, but let’s be real: they need to change. Whether in businesses, politics, or the tech industry, the number of women in leadership roles is consistently less than men. It’s no secret that women are smart, but historical challenges and gender barriers in the workplace continue to stand in the way of #GirlBoss success.
For the 21st century modern woman, a secret weapon is now on the horizon: the international internship. With real-world applications for tackling five major workplace challenges, the biggest problems facing women in the workplace have never looked so surmountable.
Why is interning abroad a good first step toward #GirlBoss?
Going abroad is already popular among young women, many of whom enter college with a semester abroad immediately in mind. In fact, according to the Open Doors Report, almost two-thirds of all U.S. students abroad are women. However, the key to translating travel stories to resume gold is a work experience overseas. Whether completing an academic internship as part of a formal program or applying for positions independently, there are endless possibilities for young women to access these professional development opportunities abroad.
After internships abroad, women will have unique tools to chip away at gender barriers in the workplace.
Now, let’s explore how the world can help girls get ahead, especially when it comes to common career challenges and the lack of women in leadership roles:
Challenge #1: Confidence.
The main thing that holds women back from rocking interviews, negotiating salaries, and getting promotions is a lack of confidence. Interning abroad will shatter that insecurity, as women who study abroad will master a wealth of both hard and soft job skills through having new job responsibilities in the unique environment of their overseas destination. Whether being responsible for editing the entire English version of the company website or collaborating with a team to present on international strategy, female interns abroad have the opportunity take on projects that will both boost their resumes and self-esteem when working at home.
In addition to being an all-star in the office, the soft skills and sense of independence that go along with navigating a foreign culture, language, and immersing in life overseas also can be a reminder to crush self-doubt, whether personally or professionally.
Although returning home and maintaining that kickass attitude can be a challenge in itself, an internship abroad gives young women leaders a solid toolkit to stay strong and maintain their workplace confidence as they work to reach #GirlBoss status.
Challenge #2: Creating a Standout Personal Brand.
In today’s competitive job market, having a unique personal statement is increasingly important to craft a resume that jumps out at HR or creates a lasting impression in an interview. An international internship can act as that attention-grabbing focal point of any job-seeker’s personal brand.
Program participants of PINC International, which offers an eight-week internship program in Madrid, Spain for young women each summer, have had amazing results when it comes to highlighting their internship experiences. For example, Sarah S. claims,
Recruiters talked to me much longer once I mentioned ‘my recent internship was actually in Madrid this summer.’
Another intern, Gisele O., reported,
Once I came back from Madrid I was able to land two internships in just one and half weeks of being back home. I now work at both and I swear it wouldn't have been possible without the experience I gained this summer.
When returning home, a #GirlBoss-to-be should take a minute to reflect and weave that experience into her professional “elevator pitch.” Then, don’t be afraid to name drop that internship abroad at the next networking event!
Challenge #3: Saying “Sorry.”
“I just wanted to say…I was thinking…would you be interested in…I’m so sorry.” While all these phrases are frequent in daily speech, in professional environments they can come off as insecure. Interning abroad is just one way women can practice eliminating these from their professional vocabularies. With language and cultural barriers at play overseas, there’s no room for being indirect or unclear.
Instead, as interns overseas, young women will become pros at using strong statements and clear language to reach mutual understanding. In addition, expressing an opinion, giving a presentation, or holding a meeting in a foreign language (or culture!) will make doing the same in a woman’s native tongue and home country seem like a piece of cake. In industries across the board, a future #GirlBoss needs to be an efficient and effective communicator. An international internship will be a strong step toward breaking those wishy-washy habits at work and overall gender barriers in the workplace. Returning female interns will instead be able to start sharing their passions, ambitions, goals, and plans unapologetically.
Challenge #4: Developing a Global Perspective.
In the global economy, intercultural communication and critical-thinking are two of the skills that are most important to hiring managers in the job market today. After rocking an international internship, young women can bring these valuable assets to the table in full force. Experience overseas provides a unique window of understanding into not only another culture and its norms, but also comfort with another process of analyzing information and addressing ambiguities.
When it comes to solving problems, negotiating different opinions, and compromising, the ability to approach a discussion from diverse perspectives and greater capacity to understand others are powerful skills. Add these to concrete foreign language skills and women with internships abroad on their resumes have a strong advantage in the workforce (corner office, anyone?). So much for a lack of women in leadership roles!
Challenge #5: Building a Strong Network.
When it comes to the professional world, it’s often about what you know, but even more about who you know. At the start of a young woman’s career, it’s extremely important that she develop a tribe of like-minded peers and mentors to help her make important decisions that advance her career. Interning abroad is an amazing opportunity to develop new and unique professional connections and create a broad and strong network. While this will come about naturally from hard work throughout the internship, young women can also research intern abroad programs that facilitate additional networking events and mentorship programs.
Seeing other strong women leaders in advanced career roles (kicking butt!) will in turn make you think less about that little three-lettered-word “M-O-M” and more about “C-E-O.” Young women should actively stay connected with their network and mentors overseas, as well as any other alumni of their program or company. A driven #GirlBoss never knows where these connections and inspirations may lead or when they will want to venture overseas again.
Becoming a #GirlBoss is a continuous process that is the product of a wide variety of skills, experiences, influences and relationships.
The “adult world” of work can be a competitive and scary domain that demands a lot of those who want to reach their goals. Young women are already taking the first step by going overseas. But, rocking an internship abroad is a solid way to jumpstart your leadership track and get that job you’ve been dreaming of.
Queen B sang it proudly, “I’m a grown woman, I can do whatever I want.” As more girls grow up to confront some of the common problems facing women in the workplace, the only statistics about their impact will be those that underscore the successes and strength of women working both domestically and overseas.
Companies with women CEOs have experienced better financial performance, outperforming both the market and their industries by up to 28%.
Women outperformed men on the majority of leadership competencies in several studies, including “tenacity,” “practices self-development,” and “displays high integrity and honesty.”
Companies with women directors had a lower risk of insolvency than other companies.
Just one final statistic to consider...
The collective intelligence of a group significantly correlates to the proportion of females in the group.*
*(2016, July/Aug.) Building the Business. Conscious Company, 1(8), 10-11.