A Guide for Female Business Travel, by Karla Stephens-Tolstoy

Karla-TolstoyBased on personal experience, an Advert for a female ‘business traveller’ placed by any company should read: Please apply if you have the following criteria: Your wits about you at all times, tough skin, sense of humor, ability to deflect sexual innuendos & propositions when least expected, be comfortable in an all-male environment (except for you), stand your ground in a politically astute way and believe that all this too shall pass!

In a way I’m kidding; but not really. From my experience having worked as an executive in Asia and Central & Eastern Europe before returning to Canada where I launched Tokii.com, I can share many anecdotes for each of the above scenarios. Now, lest you think me negative or as trying to dissuade women from work involving travel, especially international travel, let me stress that I am not! I spent 12 years abroad, loads of travel and had the time of my life and yes I was married!

Karla 1

With members of my China management team (I was so young and wide eyed and very naïve) 

I was once invited to travel with a major vendor to the raunchy clubs in Thailand because that is where they wanted to go and that’s how they normally entertained their male clients! I also think that they wanted to gauge my reaction (my timidity) and I wasn’t about to meet their expectations! I’ve been propositioned by both male & female people I’ve encountered, subtle but albeit quite obvious.

I’ve dealt with men who are traditionalists and questioned my occupying a historically male position (even though progress has been wonderful in this domain for female executives). The vast majority of gals have heard a wolf’s whistle when a trucker or group of construction workers see you walk by. Now image that same scenario but much more subtle when business cards are exchanged and you get that personal once over examination from head to toe followed by a suggestion that we meet after the meeting! And of course the cab drivers were another pitfall to overcome-yuk!

Karla 3

In Romania launching our prepaid service (after china I was wiser but still naïve on how things work in CEE)

Okay, that’s enough of the insinuations that it’s a terrible business world out there for us gals. Honestly, by having my wits about me and being able to manage these adversities, as I said, I had the time of my life being an executive in the international arena. I was treated with the greatest of respect by my staff and all the board members (95% male) that I interfaced with on numerous occasions.

Please don’t think that I had all the instant answers and made the right moves. I made mistakes and learned as I went along. Outside of Quebec, in North America board members and other executives do not as a rule, kiss female management however, don’t tell an Italian or a French man that a handshake will do! I learned very quickly about the double cheek kiss It’s their country & their culture and when in Rome….

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The management team in Prague (by the time I reached Prague I was savvy to the CEE ways but still in learning mode) 

The key is to adapt to the culture and environment to where you travel. I found that in China, we females were treated as equals in most of the experiences I encountered, and if nothing else, Chinese communism made it quite safe for foreign females to live & work in that country. In Central & Eastern Europe, chauvinism was still evident (and still is as traditions are slow to change) but the men had respect for the position & title and when I explained my views, they listened and wanted to understand western know-how as a means of self-improvement even if it was being voiced by a woman.

On many occasions, I had opportunities to travel throughout Western Europe, namely; UK, France, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands. This entailed staying in hotels, meeting bankers, shareholders and investors. Invariably I found that if I dressed appropriately and acted with confidence, I was rewarded with respect & courtesy. The bottom-line is that international work opportunities and the related travel is absolutely a rewarding experience well worth pursuing.


Having evolved from an intensely-driven, macro-level, overseas CEO in the mobile phone industry to a hands-on, Canadian CEO in the mobile app industry Tokii Qp3 ; Tokii QP3:  Is a Self Help Coach App consisting of  Personality Tests, Quizzes & Profiles – Guides for Health, Happiness, Stress, Divorce, Meditation, Depression and Other Personal Development & Improvement.

Karla Tolstoy enjoys reflecting on her never-ending journey to greater well-being.

Travelling on business and prefer to spend your down-time with like-minded women rather than your male colleagues? Connect on maiden-voyage.com.


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