Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prize Honors 3 Women in Business

Starting a business of any kind in Russia is a daunting affair. For the female entrepreneur, facing sexism along with the usual problems, it can be doubly difficult.

Realizing this, Alexandra Chalif, a Russian-American psychotherapist and businesswoman from New York, started the Alliance of American and Russian Women three years ago as a way for American businesswomen to support their Russian counterparts.

Last week, in an effort to honor Russian women in the vanguard of economic change, the AARW announced the three Russian winners of its first annual Druzhba (Friendship) award: Duma deputy Irina Khakamada and the co-directors of Radio Nadezhda, Russia's only women's radio station, Irina Korolyova and Tatyana Zeleranskaya. Plans call for American recipients to be chosen at a later date.

In remarks after the awards were announced Friday at the International Press Club and Center, each of the recipients made it clear that women still have a long way to go in Russia.

"Unfortunately men are the actors on today's stage. And they are not always successful actors," said Khakamada, the second in command of the liberal December 12 parliamentary bloc.

The award was set up to "publicly recognize Russian and American women who have advanced the cause of businesswomen in Russia" and who have improved the quality of life for Russian women in general, said Chalif.

The AARW, which has 350 American and 1,750 Russian members, uses its own money and grants from the U.S. government to help Russian women acquire business skills and find Western markets for their products.

Like Khakamada, Radio Nadezhda's Zeleranskaya and Korolyova both said Russian society would be improved by a stronger presence of female leadership.

The radio station "is an alternative to those mass media outlets where man's way of thinking plays the major part," said Korolyova. "We need to unite our strength, so that woman in this country will get more rights -- and so that men will change."

The station is 45-percent owned by Independent Media, the Dutch company that also publishes The Moscow Times.

According to Grace Kennan Warnecke, the executive vice president of AARW, one of the group's aims is to better the situation of Russian women by giving them a bigger role in the business world.

"If they don't have economic power, they are not going to get other kinds of power," said Warnecke, whose father, George Kennan, was a U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union. "I don't believe there have been a whole lot of women honored, certainly not in the business world."