female engineer

Female Expats are Empowered But Need Each Other More

About 71 percent of millennial women are eager to be assigned to foreign posts


The number of women who have been recruited for expatriate assignments have grown by almost 800 percent for the past 37 years. Women have come a long way indeed. Only three percent of women formed a community of working expatriates in the 1980s, according to Relocate Magazine. This has since ballooned to 25 percent in the 2000s. That’s the good news.

The not-so-good revelation is that the numbers have seemed to peak and any further growth from this point onward would be incremental. But the Women’s March a week ago –if it translates to opportunities and more respect for women’s rights — could change all that. Women have made career strides, but not everywhere else as some still have to struggle with self-limiting societal values. Family is usually the priority, and some assignees would not sign on a lucrative contract if it means separating them from their spouse and children for a longer period of time.

Those who can are less flexible when it comes to working arrangements, and would rather opt for long-term projects than short-term ones.

Things might be changing, though, given that the new workforce of millennials is more willing to take risks than their older sisters. About 71 percent of twenty-to-thirtysomething women are eager to be assigned to foreign posts.

Still, women assignees might also need a bit more encouragement than their male counterparts. Aside from dealing with the cultural transition, many of them would have to learn the differences in terms of how the American corporate structure deals with female employees, compared to their own employment practices at home. For example, many female assignees in other countries still take supportive roles in their work, especially in a male-dominated workplace; any disagreement with their superior or the men in their team had to be done in private. They would have to learn how to be more outspoken about their ideas in their new U.S. office.

Global mobility specialists can make these women assignees feel more at home in their new environment and thus inspire them to be more productive. Relocate Magazine gives a few pointers:

Establish a professional network for women assignees

Forging bonds with partners, clients, and shareholders is still an  important career advancer for both men and women. However, while men tend to make great strides in this area, women still tend to hold back for various reasons. The Huffington Post names these obstacles: reluctance to attend evening functions because they have to take care of their family; too many tasks in the day hours result in overtime work; and fear of awkward situations in male-dominated events where a harmless smile or innocent remark might be interpreted as a come-on, or the gentleman colleague himself might make the first move without provocation.

Global mobility specialists can make it a lot easier for their female assignees by introducing them to other female leaders in the company who have made the grade and are willing to help. The male contingent can also be asked to accompany them in network-making events.

Introduce women assignees to a support system

It is the nature of women to bond and develop close ties with the people around them, especially if they need a strong kind of comfort in a foreign land. Acquaint your lady assignee with the various institutions that can help her get her bearings and make her feel confident. Embassies and cultural houses would be more than happy to help. Hobby groups and sports center are avenues where she can find kindred spirits. California Corporate Housing can add a touch of personal flourish to her home by helping her furnish and design her new apartment to her liking.

Encourage women assignees to continue learning

Courses related to her work, added skills in languages and computers, and even physical and fitness training will bring out her competitive spirit and give her a space to shine. It might also spur her to connect with equally talented classmates who can become her friends.