Friday, March 6, 2009

ANECDOTES FROM WIEF IN INDONESIA

My computer’s auto-correct feature keeps changing WIEF to WIFE. I did not catch that on my hand-out. So the headline on my hand-out was

Presented at WIFE Businesswomen Forum, March 1, 2009

A Freudian slip, to say the least…..

*********

The night before the Forum, I had dinner with Deb Leary, President of the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs. Amongst other important topics, we were discussing our hairdressers. She pays 250 pounds to have her hair cut and colored in London, whereas I just paid $165 in Arizona. The next day, when Dr. Mohamad said at the Forum, “We need to be seen as more than just women who wear scarves,” I tried to make a joke that I’m not sure came across well. I said, “Yes, we were discussing the high cost of hair care last night so we might all switch to wearing scarves on our heads.” Dr. Mohamad quickly said, “Oh, we still spend a great deal of money on our hair, too.”

******

When you think of spike heels (probably four-inches) strappy red sandals, do you think of:

1) Heidi Klum on the runway

2) What a Muslim woman wears under her long dress

3) Julia Robert’s favorite shoe in “Pretty Woman”

4) A holiday shoe—for Christmas or Valentine’s Day

I think very few people would select #2 as the right answer. Rina Fahmi Idris, Chairwoman of the Indonesian Business Women Association, wore the greatest shoes under her long dress during the Businesswomen’s Forum. Yep, they were strappy red sandals with spike heels. At lunch on the second day, I asked her if she was wearing her red shoes again. She said, “No, I just have slippers on today.” When she got up to leave, I saw her beautiful brown sandals which “only” had a two-inch heel.

*****

The liaison officer’s job was to assist us in any way we needed and other than sleeping, Citra and I were together from the moment I arrived at the Jakarta Airport on February 28 until I left on March 3. And I mean together—I told her she did NOT need to go into the Ladies Room with me!

****

I was the only speaker at the Forum from the United States, but less than two weeks earlier, our U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Indonesia. When my 86-year-old mother commented to me that she saw this on the news, and it was the same place where I would be going, I said, “Yes mom, Hillary is doing the advance work for me.”

*****

One of the stats I gave in my talk is that research from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows that 96 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States. Therefore it is vital that we look beyond our borders to do business. Further research by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that women business owners who engage in international trade grew at a rate of 57 percent while those without international business grow at less than half that rate.



In contrast, another speaker said that, “The rest of the world can no longer depend on the 250 million US consumers. We must all become consumers for the good of the world’s economy.”

******

I may have been the only speaker who did NOT mention President Barack Obama. The excitement and the new optimism about the United States were apparent and I was proud in so many ways of my new government. It was as if I was the kid in a classroom, being showered with praise instead of scorn. The mood about the U.S. has definitely changed from my previous trips overseas during the past five years. I felt like I was being embraced again, instead of being held at arm’s length.

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