On average, only 20% of international assignees are female, creating clear gender imbalance in mobility. It’s widely acknowledged that international assignments are the best predictor for promotion and higher pay. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of millennial women in the workforce express a desire to take an international assignment. In addition, 63% believe it’s critical to their career development. Yet, they are not given the same opportunity as their male counterparts. Furthermore, many female assignees report that they discover, after the start of an assignment, that male peers have better base salaries, increased benefits, and more support for accompanying family members.
At the 2019 European Relocation Association (EuRA) Conference, global mobility professionals gathered to discover how trends like this are affecting relocations. I moderated a panel at the event, Challenging Gender Imbalance in Mobility, to garner insights from individuals on all sides of the challenge and share best practices.
Women often face cultural barriers both externally in certain host locations and internally within their organizations. Also, unconscious bias can favor the selection of male candidates over female candidates. Global mobility professionals play a key role in helping corporate clients maximize the bright, talented women and overcoming barriers such as these.
Here’s how the panel members recommend we begin to address the lack of females assignees:
Conduct a Business Self-Assessment & Analysis
Gemma Williams | Manager of Supplier Networks EMEA | BGRS
“Business self-assessments and analysis are vital in promoting change in gender imbalance. Consider what guidelines you have in place regarding maternity/paternal leave and flexible working hours. In addition, determine how you can make your company more appealing from a business continuity perspective. And review your policy on talent selection to ensure you consider a diverse mix of employees.
Another idea is to increase communication around the benefits (both short- and long-term) of international assignments. This ensures opportunities are visible and accessible at all levels. Companies could benefit from enhancing pre-selection practices, which builds talent profiles and helps avoid unsuccessful assignments.”
Understand that Coaching & Intercultural Training is Critical to Success
Dean Foster | President & Founder | DFA Intercultural Global Solution
“While providing intercultural training, coaching and consulting is critical to global mobility success, be sure that issues of gender imbalance, gender diversity, gender unconscious bias, etc. are always included as a part of the curriculum. All too often, even the best intercultural training program may overlook or minimize the impact of culture on gender perceptions. Check to be sure before engaging with your intercultural provider that such gender-related topics are explored in their programs.
Similar to the challenges of managing many other aspects of cultural differences, managing gender issues based on cultural differences is not about changing WHAT you need to do (your strategy). Rather, it’s HOW you are going to do it (your tactics). For example, if your strategy is to provide more opportunity to female international assignees in locations where these opportunities would not be available due to cultural factors which you cannot control, you need to come up with tactics that allow you to accomplish your strategy with local, culturally acceptable tactics. And the obvious first step in developing local, culturally acceptable tactics that advance your strategy is to understand the culture.”
Offer Cultural Training & Coaching Programs
Lucy Foster | Global Account Manager | IMPACT Group
“Ensure that your clients are offering the appropriate policies to their relocating female employees. This enables them to make a smooth and successful transition. In addition, take the time to listen to their needs and give them the support that they require. Cultural training can help them integrate both professionally and personally. Providing assistance in sourcing appropriate health care, education, and childcare solutions for family members, as well as helping them know how to and where to find essential amenities is essential to them making a successful transition.
Spouse/partner job search support is also crucial for gender imbalance issues. Accompanying spouse/partners of both genders now require the opportunity to continue their careers in the host location. Not only does this coaching support allow the employee to focus on the job since they know their partner is being aided, it also leads to higher productivity and better ROI, successful assignments, and long-term retention of top female talent.”
Analyze & Understand the Family’s Situation to Best Tailor Support
Dominique Berthoux | Founder | Home Conseil Relocation
“Be sure to analyze and understand the family’s situation before they arrive in the new country in order to offer more appropriate services. Benefits to consider offering include validating that the spouse will be able to integrate and work in the new location, assessing the education options for children, and providing integration services on arrival and over time. In addition, some things that are good to keep in mind for assignees is if temporary housing neighborhoods offer security.”
Provide Area Evaluations & Security Checklists for Temporary Accommodations
Roberta Mura | Global Accounts Executive (& Female International Transferee) | Oasis Corporate Housing
“Make sure properties offer secure entrances accessible by key or code, security personnel on the property, and well-lit parking lots and entrances. Offer to have a security personnel walk the female assignee from the parking area to the property and vice versa if she feels unsafe for any reason. Furthermore, neighborhood evaluations are helpful, too. Take into account the types of businesses that are near the housing options. In countries and locations that are challenging for solo female assignees, the use of compounds specifically for women are good options to ensure security.”
Studies prove women possess the leadership skills companies need and they have the desire to expand their careers through international assignments. As an industry, we can make the changes needed to eliminate gender imbalance in mobility. Download our Analyze Gender Diversity Workbook to determine first steps in closing the gap.