Women don't get same global opportunities as men

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Research done in 2003 among male and female assignees in Hong Kong gave a slight indication that women were more likely to outperform men on assignment in terms of professional interactions. The ...


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Women who are single with no children are the most likely to be open to an international assignment

More than half (55%) of women are eager to work internationally but are not given the same opportunity to as male colleagues, according to a report from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Women on the Move: Shaping Leaders Through Overseas Postings found that less than 30% of women willing to take on a global assignment had done so, compared with 40% of men who wanted to.

Although women who were single with no children were the most likely women to desire an international assignment (65%, and 75% for men in the same circumstances), women in other situations were still highly likely to be interested. More than half (54%) of single women with children said they would like such an opportunity (as did 70% of men). More than four in 10 (44%) women in a relationship with children said they would welcome an international posting, compared with 68% of men in that circumstance.

Claire Tracey, a BCG partner and co-author of the report, highlighted the benefits of international postings. “International assignments can provide countless opportunities for employees to grow both personally and professionally,” she said.

“From a personal perspective, they allow employees to travel and learn a new language and culture. They also give them a holistic picture of an organisation’s total operations, making them great candidates for future leadership roles.”

Matt Krentz, a BCG senior partner and co-author of the report, warned employers not to assume how willing someone is to travel based on their gender. “An employee's willingness to travel fluctuates based on both personal and professional factors,” he said. “But a person’s family status should not be assumed to be a barrier to international opportunities. When companies overlook women for these assignments it not only puts them at a disadvantage, it hurts the organisation by weakening the leadership pipeline.”

The BCG report suggested that companies extend logistical support to families, such as helping them navigate education, healthcare, and tax systems overseas. Additionally, offering more short-term international assignments could help with gender balance issues, as 63% of women said that they prefer relocations of five years or less.

Comments

Research done in 2003 among male and female assignees in Hong Kong gave a slight indication that women were more likely to outperform men on assignment in terms of professional interactions. The success rates, in terms of early return, were almost identical, but women adjusted more effectively to working in a different cultural context. Research done in Australia showed that women were more likely to accept an assignment than men - aware of the importance of international experience to career advancement and also aware of the gender imbalance at senior levels, women seemed to place a higher value on working overseas. This implies that there is an assignment glass ceiling, which strongly influences the number of women being offered international posts.


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