Albany Times Union
Polish women’s delegation discusses entrepreneurship
Group visits Capital Region through exchange program for professional development
TROY — Five years ago, Jolanta Niezgodska became the youngest elected councilor in the Polish city of Wroclaw.
And last week, she and five other women leaders from Poland arrived in the United States. Their destination: the Capital Region, where the delegation will be participating in conversations surrounding women in entrepreneurship.
Hosted by the International Center of the Capital Region, the participants were selected through the Congressional Office for International Leadership’s Open World exchange program.
“I’m looking forward to asking politicians how do they try to solve all those issues which are brought to their attention, and I’m also interested in how politicians in the USA find ways to help LGBT people and women and how they support their situations,” Niezgodska said through a translator.
The delegates represent political, civil and business sectors of their communities, from financial services to public relations, and all arrived in Albany with specific professional and personal development goals. For most of them, the flight last Friday into Albany International Airport marked their first visit to the United States.
On Monday afternoon, representatives from Empire State Development held a conference with the delegation to highlight important and powerful women in the Capital Region and discuss the state agency’s incentives and programs, including its Division of Science, Technology and Innovation, Global NY Grant Fund program and Regional Economic Development Council.
Much of the conversation revolved around the state’s 30 percent goal for utilizing minority and women-owned business enterprises for state contracts.
“Why 30 and not 50 percent if we are talking about inequality?” one woman asked.
Heidi Knoblauch, interim director of NYSTAR, said the policy hopes to attract and retain more women in fields predominately run by men.
“We’re moving a battleship, we’re not in a small sailboat where we can pivot on a dime.”
The discussion was just the beginning of the delegation’s tour throughout the Capital Region, which will include meetings with elected officials, a roundtable discussion with the Times Union’s Women@work program, a tour of the University at Albany’s small business development center and networking events with local business owners.
Their jam-packed week will culminate Saturday with a farewell party and cocktail reception at the Polish American Community Center.
Despite being just a day into the experience, the participants left the roundtable with a greater understanding of ways state governments can implement policies focused on boosting women’s leadership in the workforce — conversations they hope to leverage upon their return to Poland to spark change on local and national levels.
“I greatly appreciate that you guys are paying attention to the history of women. In our country we are only taking baby steps, women’s history issues are all totally based on individual work and are not connected to any government organizations or programs,” said Katarzyna Trzeciak, owner of an accounting office and municipal councilor.
The Open World Program was founded by Congress in 1999 and allows program participants to gain extensive exposure to American politics, accountable governance and citizen diplomacy while being hosted by American families. For more on Open World, visit the program’s website.