Monday, October 10, 2011

Another consideration for female job-seekers

TSS asked (on another thread):

Since we're talking about female-specific job application worries, this seems like a good place for my slightly thread-jacking question about overseas jobs: When one doesn't have vast experience with foreign travel,how does one find out whether the country in which one is about to apply for a job is a decent place to live as a Western woman? A couple of recent job postings are in Turkey, Singapore, and Bangledesh. Are any of these awful places to be female? If you don't have friends who have lived there, how do you find out? What say you, fellow Smokers?
Good question. One of my criteria when looking for a job has been "Would I want to raise my daughter in this place?" If the answer was no (true of many places in the US), I didn't apply. Secondary question: "Can I take my cats with me?" (This ruled out some overseas positions.) I find it useful to look at department websites -- are there a lot of women on the faculty? I recall looking at the website for a university in Egypt last year and being surprised at the really good representation of female faculty. Doing the same for many US schools, you are more likely than not to see women seriously underrepresented, so I don't know how instructive this strategy would actually be (and it may say nothing about day to day life for Western women in Egypt).

Jump in, Smokers.



Anonymous said...

The US State Department maintains a website ( where they include information about crime rates (including some specific data for crimes against women) for every country on the globe. This is at least a good place to start investigating these matters.

For instance, the State Department says about Turkey: "As in other large metropolitan areas throughout the world, common street crimes include pick pocketing, purse snatching, and mugging. ... Residential crime is an issue in major cities, with criminals targeting ground floor apartments for theft. ... The embassy and consulates have received reports of crimes against women. Female travelers are urged to exercise caution and use common sense. Female travelers should request a female attendant in the "mixed" Turkish baths, or hamams. Incidents involving the use of "date rape" drugs (Nembutal and Benzodiazepine) have been reported."

Anonymous said...

Other than contacting people in-country (either at universities or NGOs), you might try going to the travel section of your local bookstore. Most travel guides will have a section about traveling in those countries as a woman, which might help a bit. For information on living and working in those countries, look for a series called "Culture Shock" (e.g., Culture Shock China).

Anonymous said...

I've a young female who has traveled and lived extensively overseas. I would have no hesitation about living in Turkey or Singapore, and I would not live in Bangladesh (I would have to do more research about Cairo, although my sister-in-law studied abroad there in college and loved it, and I met a woman traveling once who taught at the American University there and loved it). Keep in mind that in many countries, the capital (or large cities) may be very different for women than more rural locations (likely more liberal with relation to the role of women but more susceptible to crime, like in any big city). I will say that as an expat, your life will likely be quite different than most around you, and you will be sheltered from the worst crime, if you choose (assuming that the universities are paying standard expat-type wages: i.e., American wages but in countries where the cost of living is much less, although Singapore isn't cheap to live in, from what I understand). That may or may not shelter you from the worst of the sexism/harassment, though.

Anonymous said...

I've given some talks at NUS and have a couple of Singaporean friends. I'm female and would have no problem living in Singapore; it feels at least as safe as every US city I've lived in, and considerably safer than some. (As for the salary, my NUS colleagues are definitely not struggling--it's cheaper to live there than Australia and they get paid just as much.) I'm not qualified to speak about Turkey or Bangladesh.

One thing that Singapore is not so great about is gay rights: it's technically illegal for two men to have sex with each other, and while this law is usually not enforced, it still has a chilling effect. And there's a homophobic right wing that does things like conspiring (unsuccessfully) to take over feminist organisations. Despite being such a crappy environment for gay men, Singapore seems to produce awesome gay poets. (I know I'm digressing, but it seemed worth a mention.)

Female Singaporean Philosopher said...

It might be helpful to visit the websites of women's rights groups in those countries. For Singapore specifically, the relevant group is AWARE:

As a 'western' woman in Singapore you and your daughter will be somewhat more insulated from the sexism meted out to locals, especially if you send her to an international school. There's a huge expat community and many 'westerners' don't bother venturing out of it. Also, as a foreigner, the government's attitude that local women are just a means to producing more babies to boost the economy is less likely to affect you.

i'll be happy to answer more questions about singapore if there are any.

Sandrine said...

I've been living and working in Turkey for 10 years now. I'm based in Ankara and I can report that it's definitely as safe or safer a place for a woman as London or Paris where I've also lived. I can also vouch for Istanbul and Izmir. In smaller places, you might find that more people have 'traditional' views about women and find it harder to relate with you as a foreigner. As to raising a daughter here- I've been doing that too. She goes to foreign schools, rather than Turkish ones, and she's growing up to be a well educated cosmopolitan young woman with strong feminist views.

Anonymous said...

Well, this thread is actually interesting to me given that I myself may have to be in a foreign country sometime (Oh boy, I have outed myself now). It never occurred to me to ask this -- quite stupidly, I might add. I doubt that the academic world in these countries would suffer from any more sexism than those in NA do, but who knows? And the community is a real issue. I have nothing to contribute except to say thanks for bringing this to our attention.


Anonymous said...

If the Bangladesh university in question is Asian University for Women, there have been issues (top post on that page; see also "Universities to fear"). Possibly resolved now, possibly not.