CEU Alumnae Share Advice about Careers in the Gender Field – and More
Although they have had very different career paths, alumnae Nato Kurshitashvili and Liana Aghabekyan agreed on many things including their advice to current CEU students, "Take full advantage of your time at CEU," they urged. "Your classes are important of course, but make time to attend talks, and consult with Career Services too." Kurshitashvili and Aghabekyan made their remarks during a videoconference on April 19 organized by the student-run SPP Gender Initiative in collaboration with the SPP Office of Career Services and Alumni Relations.
The virtual career event attracted students from throughout CEU who were interested to learn more about careers in the area of gender. Although both alumnae work on gender issues within large international organizations, their roles and focus are different. Both stressed in their presentations that gender is only one of the areas in which they have expertise. They urged students to gain as much experience as they can, and to seek out opportunities to acquire new skills such as fluency in a foreign language. Kurshitashvili, who is a principal gender advisor at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London, noted, "Gender cuts across different disciplines so you can get relevant experience in multiple ways."
Aghabekyan observed that gender mainstreaming is a "sexy topic" these days – not just at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) where she is a senior democratization assistant, but in all organizations. "There is a growing recognition," she said, "that gender should be everywhere, that it should be integrated in everything." Nonetheless, both spoke of the many challenges they face when trying to convince stakeholders that gender must be central. "Lots of people see it as an important issue, but one that is only peripherally attached to what they do," she said.
Kurshitashvili noted that for any effort to be successful, it is particularly important for gender experts to be familiar with local context and projects to be adapted to local realities and needs. Both alumnae stressed knowledge of specific regional contexts and/or local governance experience as an important factor when applying for jobs of any sort with international organizations.
Kurshitashvili and Aghabekyan lamented that there were not more men working on gender issues. Kurshitashvili commented, "There is a tendency to consider gender issues to be women's issues, which is not the case."
The alumnae shared some very practical advice with CEU students, urging them to conduct detailed research on prospective employers and emphasizing the need to work hard to tailor their CVs. "Some of these global organizations are getting thousands of applications for a single position," said Kurshitashvili, "so you have to make sure yours stands out."