Some observations from team members who were involved in our pilot internship in Singapore, during which 5 Koreans spent a four-week practicum at a start-up incubator. We took five interns aged 25-39, three of whom were ladies. Our statistics department informs us this equals 60%. The staff and interns got along well and the Koreans got a chance to see how a business in a trending industry is run, as well as understand the norms and goals for their equivalent young professionals.
For CE, this internship was a good opportunity for us to understand better the role which women play in North Korean business contexts and how also to better comprehend how programs should be conducted moving forward.
The three women were very bright, well-spoken and thoughtful. On some occasions, the women really shone and led the group. In group discussions or company visits, it tended to be the women who provided insightful pointers and asked pertinent questions. Over the weeks they became more integral to decision-making, also. It became clear one of the ladies had the best sense of direction towards the end, when the team nick-named her, in English, “The Navigator!”
Of all the company visits and dinners we organized, the interns were especially impressed with a visit to a large accounting firm and they also left a good impression their English fluency and curiosity.
They also went crazy for the ice-cream selection in Singapore, with unconfirmed reports that one of the ladies was averaging a tub a day. The enjoyed the global cuisine options, but were pining for Korean food by the time they got back to Beijing.
This was a good pilot run for us in many ways. Next year we kick off our Women in Business Program, which will last for all of 2013, and this helped us assess how comfortable our partners are with sending majority-female groups abroad, among other things. We're ramping up our activities next year, with more in-country programs and trips abroad for Koreans.
Of course, there is a business-culture gap between North Korea and Singapore. It became clear that the interns were not entirely sure of what an internship usually entails and this led to a mismatch in expectations. Hopefully now that our Korean partners have seen one program and with more time and experience on our side, we'll overcome this for 2013 internships.