Employing Women Expatriates

In the era of globalisation, it is indispensable to enable firms worldwide to use and develop women’s talent and potential to the fullest potential.

Working abroad is a growing issue for those organisations, who have long recognised the need to establish (human) resources on both local and international levels. Many international organisations employ a number of both male and female expatriate employees to facilitate the transfer of such skills and experience.

As the world becomes more globalised, organisations are increasingly looking to staff overseas positions by employing more expatriates. This trend is evident in the gradual increase in females showing an interest in “improving their international career prospects and companies begin to realise that actively drawing women into their pool of candidates for overseas postings can give them a distinct competitive advantage” said Gunn in an article of Expatica on women expats.

A CIGNA research study in March 2010 reports that the reasons organisations use expatriates include: • the need to perform specific project work • ongoing management of a country’s operation • local knowledge transfer and management development

These people are, in a sense, the “commercial glue” that helps to cross-fertilise ideas and achievements across countries, establishing trust and ensuring consistency of standards. Most of these contracts/projects involve foreign locations that are closely linked to the organisation’s strategic goals, mainly due to intensifying global development agendas.

Young women in general are not considered as internationally mobile as men. However, those that are mobile get caught up in fast-paced careers that involve travelling and international relocation. Many young females find themselves living and working abroad often at the cost of meaningful relationships and a sense of belonging.

Although barriers to female international advancement continue to exist, I suppose it clearly indicates a need for a more dynamic understanding of international employee management and the role of organisational and HR leaders in ensuring that the organisation chooses a female employee who is capable of contributing both to the organisation’s current and future success while effectively managing cross-cultural relationships.

In various other studies Adler & Izraeli, writers of the book ‘Women in Management Worldwide’ write that women actually perceive being a female abroad as an advantage: • by giving them higher organisational visibility • enabling them to build strong interpersonal relationships • allowing them to adapt more successfully to life as a foreigner.

However, most international companies are decreasing the number of expatriate contracts. One main reason is the cost of labour and the increasing availability of skilled and qualified local workforces.

I believe another explanation is the “new” phenomenon of people hired abroad onto local employee contracts. These people appear on their company payroll as local employees of the country they are hired in, but are in fact foreigners without benefits. The local status these professionals receive is something they agree to in their eagerness to find a job abroad.

As it is widely recognised that working and living abroad can enhance awareness and appreciation of cultures, the career development for these people are essential as for the international business success.

It appears that many females receive less developmental opportunities than males when deciding to search for work overseas by directly engaging with local country organisations. In itself, this presents no hazard for the worker, although salary, benefit packages, support, and development opportunities vary enormously.

It is also widely recognised that employees abroad work longer hours than they would in their native countries. Cendant Mobility a relocation company surveyed around 500 expatriates and found that 58% had a decrease in contact with friends and 52% felt that their quality of life lacked contact with the family. These findings will have an impact on overall employee performance.

International organisations should, therefore, ensure that the appropriate resources and strategies are in place. Examples include:

• an adequate selection process • cross-border performance management • repatriation planning and recognition

Nevertheless, international assignments, corporate expatriate packages or expatriate contracts are generally viewed as valuable career enhancements.

(c) 2012 Human Resources Global Ltd.

Nicole Le Maire is an international Human Resources expert who offers tailor-made packages to meet organisational and individual international goals.

Email her at [email protected]


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