How To Support Women Abroad

Yesterday’s designation as “Equal Pay Day” got me thinking about women expats and how the relocation industry can support women on assignment.  The rise of women overseas has been slow but steady.  Why are women expats important?

Women bring many valuable attributes to business today: social intelligence, open communication, empathy, intuition and optimism.  Women are great communicators and often respond more effectively to visual, verbal, and emotional factors than men.

Here are some of the strengths women possess that can be powerful in business. They:

* Value relationships and analyze problems
* Manage teams efficiently with relationship-building and communication skills
* Insist on fairness by embracing morality, transparency, and ethics
* Acknowledge the rights and contributions of others

When I think of the successful businesswomen I know, they are full of optimism and positivity. For them the glass is always half-full rather than half-empty. Women can sense opportunity everywhere. They are focused, strategic and keep their eye on the prize.

How can we foster a pipeline of women going on assignment and how can companies best support them?

Even as multinational companies offer mentorship programs or leadership workshops to develop high-potential businesswomen, many are not encouraging female employees to pursue high-profile global roles. Many women are passed over for overseas positions due to the perceived obstacle of relocating the spouse or the expense of a family move.

Given everything that women bring to the table, there should be more women expats.  An increasing number of young professional women see the advantage of accepting assignments abroad. Many seek out companies that offer international assignments equally to women and men.

Adding a women-only program to the leadership pipeline is a first step to sending women abroad and ultimately taking on global roles. Through a conscious shift when executive positions open, one man and one woman can be chosen for assignment.  Individual conversations need to take place around what kind of support women might need to take the role.

After accepting an assignment, both women and men feel more confident when prepared. Providing host country information like housing, security, and business protocol eliminates some fear of the unknown that is common to all expat assignments. Understanding the local business style provides assignees with the awareness they need to bridge cultural gaps.

In today’s competitive global market, women often have an advantage in strengths that translate into successfully achieving goals. Women tend to be inclusive, compassionate, and collaborative. Many are expert at building strong work relationships with employees around the world. These attributes present a compelling case to increase and to support women as assignees.

Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T – Managing Director, Living Abroad