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NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia _ If Ludmila Khokhlacheva declines to speak ill of Russian men, it is not to be more ladylike. It is to be more businesslike. For Khokhlacheva and her growing circle of women entrepreneurs, business is what life is about in the new Russia.
Women's Union, a business club Khokhlacheva helped start in Nizhny Novgorod, has grown to 7,000 members in just four years. Similar groups have sprung up elsewhere, allowing women to do what Russian businessmen do on a daily_and nightly_basis: network, trade tips, woo clients.
Nationwide, women make up about 30 percent of Russian businesspeople, according to one survey. They make up 35 percent of all individual entrepreneurs, however, which some say reflects the Russian woman's ability to adapt and take risks.
This is no women's revolution. But the entrepreneurs are chiseling out an important role for themselves in Russia's economic and social transition. They are creating jobs. They are challenging assumptions about the role of women.
"It's hard for men to deal with women like us," Khokhlacheva said. "You are scary, they say. You are such dangerous women, they say. Let my wife sit at home, they say. Sit at home, you stupid …