Honduras People: Women in Business
Women on the Global Road
Now an established presence in the management workforce and
as traveling executives, women may find themselves on the road as
much as their male counterparts in seeking to further business opportunities.
However, specific gender concerns do need addressing when it comes
to conducting business and travel in a country, place, or culture
other than one's own. Arming oneself with information in advance will
do wonders in overcoming many a difficult situation. The best sources
from which to derive helpful hints are other female travelers. Seek
them out and inquire of them what to expect, most especially those
who have been to the destination to which you will travel. In a pinch,
their tips may turn out to be your saving grace. Similarly, upon arrival
it is in a woman's interest to observe female behavior in the country
of travel to learn what is appropriate and how best to blend in with
for Female Travelers
After an OXFAM program coordinator walked with a female coworker
through the streets of Tegucigalpa, he wrote the following: "I hear
comments form the men who lounge against the market stalls. 'Hey mamacita,
let me have a little touch.' 'Psst--What an arse.' 'Don't tempt me,
beautiful.' Regina ignores the comments ... she explains that dealing
with these comments is part of everyday experience for Central American
The personal safety issue in Honduras should be a female traveler's
constant concern. Honduran police speak only Spanish, and there are
no special tourist police to assist visitors. Poverty, gangs, and
low arrest levels result in a very high crime rate. Almost every man
in Honduras carries a gun, knife, or machete, and many women do so
as well. Criminals target tourists and wealthy businesspeople. Street
crime is a major concern with violence on the increase. If you are
victimized, do not resist. The criminals are interested in your possessions,
not your body. Sexual assault is still relatively rare.
Government statistics show that one-third of the workforce
in Honduras is female and that many women operate businesses, but
that doesn't paint a clear picture. Most of the women included in
these numbers work in factories in free trade zones producing garments
for export. To say these women occupy a secondary status in a male-dominated
culture is also misleading. For example, the National Labor Committee
discovered that female factory workers in the Choloma region were
regularly injected with contraceptives and told they were receiving
tetanus shots. In other factories, contraceptive pills were passed
out to all women regardless of their medical conditions. Those who
refused the shots or pills were suspended without pay.
Foreign businesswomen are expected to be highly professional, appropriate,
and not aggressive or confrontational. Making comments or conversations
about working conditions for Honduran women is one of the subjects
considered "confrontational" by Honduran males. Such assertive behavior
often proves counterproductive because it not only brands the female
as "aggressive" but also causes men in her group to be considered
"weak" or "unmanly." Honduran males react to the so-called "aggressive"
female by being more and more polite and courteous in her presence.
Many female business travelers find they can work better with firms
owned and managed by women. But don't make the mistake of thinking
that the Honduran businesswoman shares your philosophical outlook.
Keep reminding yourself that things work out only si Dios quiere
The best advice is to have a game plan for how to present yourself
and your ideas before you arrive in Honduras. Keep your goals clearly
in mind and, as trite as it may sound, a smile on your face.
In general, women traveling to a foreign country should adopt
conservative tone and behavior to keep any unwanted attention at bay,
at least until familiar with the specifics of female roles in the
- State your wishes clearly so that mixed signals do not become
- Wear a wedding band and carry a photograph of a husband and
children (even if you have none) to stave off harassment.
- Try and look for other women to sit near on public transport;
all-women compartments or areas are designated for this purpose.
- To repel harassment, ignore sexual advances, exposed genitalia,
whistles, and various forms of catcalls; avoid eye contact and
do not engage in any conversation.
Honduras is a poor country and many of its citizens wear secondhand
clothing imported from wealthier nations. T-shirts with slogans in
English, French, or German are everywhere, but the person wearing
the shirt may not know what the words say. In contrast, wealthy businesspeople
are very fashion-conscious and wear the latest styles from North America
In general, a conservative business suit will do well for both men
and women. Keep in mind the more humid climate and choose natural
fabrics, if possible. Nights can get cool, so bring suitable covering.
A collapsible umbrella is also suggested for frequent afternoon showers,
especially in the rainy season, mid-May to mid-September.
Traveling involves extra stress and health concerns to consider.
Change of diet, time zone, and living conditions will take up an enormous
amount of physical reserve. Women should consider taking extra vitamin,
mineral, and food supplements to ensure optimum physical health. Since
many travelers avoid meat in developing countries, supplements are
further encouraged. Other points to consider:
- Expect to experience irregular menstrual cycles or none at all
due to jet lag, stress, and new and irregular eating and sleeping
- Bring any female hygiene products that you use at home, i.e.:
tampons, pads, medication, prescriptions, etc. as they may not
be readily available at the time of your arrival or even at all.
- Birth control pills may not work properly if you experience
stomach upset or diarrhea. If you vomit within three hours of
digesting a pill, take another to ensure proper protection.
- Yeast infections become more problematic in hot, humid climates.
Stick to cotton undergarments and clothing that is loose fitting
to allow maximum airflow to your body. Nylons and tight pants
may also induce yeast infections. Come prepared with medication.
- Carry the telephone number or email of your gynecologist at
home in case you have urgent questions. Try and steer clear of
gynecological examinations in developing countries due to hygienic
Canasian Businesswomen's Network
The International Alliance (TIA)
Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT)
Women in Technology International (WITI)
Women's Institute of Management (WIMNET)
Business Strategies for Women
- Prepare in advance what to expect, not only in terms of business,
but attitude of the local culture toward women.
- Behave and dress conservatively; it is your first and basic
step toward gaining respect.
- Anticipate equality issues as they will likely surface.
- Maintain a sense of humor. A foreign country has many oddities,
your presence possibly being one of them. Relieve some of the
stress with a humorous outlook.
- Brush off sexual innuendos and comments about appearance and
carry on with the business at hand. Keep a cultural outlook on
such remarks. If a member of the other delegation becomes a problem
or nuisance, take him aside and inform him that it makes you uncomfortable,
or tell another member of his delegation to put a stop to it.
- Exhibit tolerance and understanding for the other culture. Questions
about your marital status and family may prove ubiquitous, as
it interests people how things work for you.
- If you are a team leader, prepare your delegation in advance
to treat you in a matter-of-fact, supportive fashion. A reaction
from a delegation unaccustomed to working with females in authority
may be derailed a bit if they observe your role is nothing but
- Generational attitude differences may exist toward women. Prepare
to adjust to them.
- Professional behavior, a respect for local traditions, and an
in-demand service or product will assist you as a businesswoman.
General Safety Tips
- Prearrange transportation for your arrival. In many countries,
hagglers and touts will approach you at the airport offering transportation
options. If you have none, decline and find the transportation
booth in the airport; or, if possible, befriend someone on your
flight with whom you might share a cab.
- If you are being dropped off in an unlit area, ask your driver
to wait until you are safely inside. Women should avoid traveling
alone at night.
- Find out from your hotel staff where it is safe to go alone
and what areas merit avoiding.
- If you plan on meeting with a stranger, do it in a busy place
outside of your hotel.
- If you encounter someone gesturing or honking for you to stop,
do not stop until you have found a busy public place with plenty
of lighting before determining the problem.
- If you find yourself on a crowded bus, subway, or train with
a male pressing up against you in an obviously sexual way, try
embarrassing him by shouting in English. Public shame or humiliation
will often keep further advances at bay.
- Try and look for other women to sit near on public transport.
If you feel uncomfortable in any situation, get out of it.
- Women should ask for a room on the second floor or higher and
near the center of the hallway corridor away from fire exits where
would-be assaulters can lurk and escape with more ease.
- Don't feel shy about asking to see your room before deciding
to take it.
- Do not let anyone except the front desk clerk see or overhear
the number of your room.
- Do not show your room key in public, and keep it under tight
- Avoid stairwells, an easy place for assaulters to hide, and
don't travel in elevators alone with male strangers about whom
your instincts send you a warning bell. If a stranger is wandering
the halls when you plan to enter or exit your room, wait until
he leaves. If he doesn't, report him to the front desk.
- Do not open the door for anyone who knocks whom you do not expect.
Use the peephole. Call the front desk if necessary to verify the
presence of any hotel staff wishing to enter.
- When leaving the room, put out the "do not disturb" sign, and
leave the TV on if you wish to deter possible thieves.
- Pack a flashlight should the lights suddenly go out.
- Take the business card of your hotel before going out in case
you get lost. Do not give out the name of your hotel unless absolutely
necessary, and do not share with anyone that you are alone. Use
your creativity and make up a story if you must.
- Always lock the door when you are inside the room. A portable
extra door-locking device may prove a prudent pre-trip purchase.
A rubber doorstopper is also an easy item to pack.
Global Road Warrior, Copyright 2003 World Trade Press. All
Rights Reserved. No sample or information therein may be used
without express permission from World Trade Press.