There is no doubt about it – international assignment experience is a boon to anyone’s resume. The numbers show that only about 20% of international assignees are women, yet the percentage of interested parties is almost equal for both men and women. In many companies, going on international assignment and having extensive international experience is essential to reach senior executive positions. Low numbers of women in the assignee talent pool disrupts gender equality at leadership level.
What can HR Managers do?
• Do not assume women (or their partners) are not interested in international assignments.
• Select the very best person regardless of gender.
• Provide diversity and cultural training for female expats, their entire families, and colleagues in the host locations.
• Make sure the company policies have evolved to better address the issues of female expatriates.
• Offer in-country support networks, women’s expatriate groups, and mentor programs.
• Support the entire family throughout the assignment.
• Offer detailed destination information on the host location.
What can women do?
While businesses must remove barriers, women can also take positive steps to improve their own chances for an assignment.
• Raise your hand and let the company know that you are interested in an overseas assignment.
• Build strong and rich social networks within the office and outside of work through networking groups. Establish a strong network and develop social skills to build connections and cultural bridges.
• Seek out the truth about challenges in moving internationally in advance.
• Find a mentor or champion within the company or, if need be, outside the company.
• Focus on the attributes that make many women successful overseas, such as:
-Confidence and self-reliance
-Flexibility and problem-solving skills
-Tolerance and interpersonal skills
-Skill at handling and initiating change in a collaborative manner
Currently, new types of assignments with more flexibility are making it easier for women with family responsibilities to go on assignment. Through the combined actions of talent management teams and the practical assistance from global mobility teams, there will likewise be more opportunities for women to be offered assignments.
The company that actively seeks the participation of women into its global workforce and then sufficiently supports them in their work and life is the company that doubles its potential for growth and productivity. Women also need to be equally proactive in making sure to express their goals.