That’s the final advice by Tanya Spencer’s for the readers of this blog as we meet in NYC where she is to be part of a meeting with one of her clients, of which she has many around the world. Tanya owned TrainingSolutions, a provider of travel security and crisis management courses, consultations, and coaching for global organizations. Thousands of people (the United Nations, governments, business people, engineers, journalists, refugees, aid workers, rural people, amongst others) have been trained by her. Most of the more than 40 countries she visited are security "hot spots.” She has written about travel security, peace education and conflict resolution, security management, international policy, and leadership skills for security professionals. When I ask “who is Tanya Spencer?” in a tweet she says:
Global Travel Risk Management consultations, trainings & coaching living in a little country called Denmark & originally from California.
What is the motivation for your success?
I tried it myself. I used to be a human rights monitor and conflict resolution trainer and my organization, a peace organization, sent me to Kosovo and Kenya without any proper training and I learned it the hard way. I had a few bad things happen to me and I thought there must be a better way to prepare people.
Is security a man’s world? And how is it to be woman in the world of security?
It is definitely a very male dominated profession, mainly because it has a lot of ex-military and ex-police involved in it, but my different background in conflict resolution and human rights monitoring gave me a different perspective on how to train people in travel risk management.
If that’s a reflection of my gender, I don’t know, but it is a reflection of my interest at the time. I took the approach that you are not going into a country full of body guards and military.
So, if you are a businessperson or an NGO worker, you are going into a place without armed protection, without executive protection services, so you have to learn it yourself, you have to take responsibility for yourself and you need to know what to do. So, having a different approach was a competitive advantage.
Have you seen any changes lately?
There has been a change, at least in the NGO world. They know that they need to know about travel risk management, not about enterprise risk management, which is a broader perspective. Some of the bigger NGOs are starting that. In the corporate world it depends on the country. Denmark is a peaceful country and the Danish think nothing will happen to them, but then they suddenly find themselves in the middle of it. In America, it is quite common on the corporate side, it is at least common to have at least some basic training in travel risk management.
When discussing about the increasing security risks in our world, Tanya mentions about the potentially real-life consequences of a ‘terminator’.
What do we need to do to avoid the terminator that would come one day according to you?
We need to be responsible about Artificial Intelligence. It is dominated by a very small group of people, some of the ethical and moral dilemmas behind it should be opened up to a wider range of people. That’s just the vehicle. You could have it with nuclear arms, or with stick knives or plastic forks. If we don’t have some way to respect each other as humans and care a little bit more for the other person, then it is quite easy to push a button. It doesn’t matter if pushing that button happens now or in a 100 years.
What does women’s empowerment mean to you?
Oh wow, women’s empowerment. I would start with, I tend to look at the world not from a male or female viewpoint, but just as human. So I would talk about human empowerment. That would talk about creating opportunities, having chances, having rights. For me that’s regardless of your gender, that’s about who you are as a human being.
Are you an empowered woman?
Yes, for the most part, why not?
How does that manifest itself?
Going back to having opportunities, chances and rights and also responsibilities. I have been an international consultant for more than 13 years, I am pretty headstrong, but I also take responsibility for my actions. I always say that you know there are a lot of opportunities. With risks there are the positive and the negative. And that’s also my life perspective. You can risk something to get a little bit more ahead, but you might fall in the process, that’s part of the process, to reach higher you might crash a few times, you have to calculate and take responsibility for that. Do I dare or do I not dare to do that? And that’s something I do all the time. Actually, I should do more of it, I should jump out of more planes, although I dislocated my shoulder when I misstepped out of a boat recently, hahaha.
What is the role of men in women’s empowerment?
You are asking complicated questions, but I go back to respecting people again. Let me propose this: The next time that there is an opportunity, whether it’s in a professional network, in political activities or at work or even on any kind of local steering committee or board, take a moment to not pick another person to connect with that reflects you, but be open to pick somebody else. You don’t actually have to choose, but at least consider this: could someone else be a good fit? And how could I help to reach his/her goals?
In my professional life, I was part of a network that tried to create opportunities for women. We learned that men are not being exclusive, they are just reflecting themselves. We just need a few people to step up and say: Who else could it be? That, in itself, could open up for a range of different people; inclusion is not only about gender.
Are there men who you admire at the moment?
Recently Muhammad Ali died, listening to reports about him, reminded me about my youth and what he meant for the changes that happened in my lifetime especially being a black female in America. He is not living at the moment, but right now he is on my mind as being a role model who fought for his beliefs and he did it so eloquently. He had many talents, had many faults, but overall fought for what he believed in.
Tanya is aware that I walk a 100 mile every year to raise awareness and money about hunger and volunteerism and is not surprised that I ask her what would drive her to walk a 100 mile.
I would probably walk a 100 miles for everyone to be a little bit less selfish and with the understanding that this little bit less selfishness would go to a collective understanding of being more human and be more decent to each other. I want world peace, but for world peace I might have to walk more than a 100 miles.