The Making of the Super, Single Female Expat

Women perform highly in international assignments because of their strong interpersonal skills


The status and treatment of women in global mobility are undergoing a critical change. Many young millennial women want to be assigned to foreign posts; their number currently reach 71 percent. But only 20 percent are actually being hired by recruiters and companies.

This seeming typical tale of the gender glass ceiling, though, recently felt a crack in the wall; unlike an earlier generation, these women are not just taking the disparity sitting down. They are doing something about it. In one survey by PWC highlighted by Living Abroad, half of the participants landed their expatriate assignment by being proactive about it. They lobbied for the job, applied aggressively to the relevant parties, and reached the influential decision-makers through email or other forms of communication.

That effort, and others like it, seem to be paying off. A report by Expat Recruiter points out that the ideal global executive is a single female from the approximate ages of 27 to 33. What makes this report remarkable is that the finding came from international business leaders. Pointing to sources from The Telegraph, the same report says that women perform highly in international assignments because of their strong interpersonal skills. A successful career abroad is based on one’s cultural sensitivity and the ability to network with and earn the trust of the locals. The innate ability to relate to and empathize with various parties, and conduct open communication with them is admittedly more of a female core skill than a male one.

Grovewall Global Leadership Solutions LLC in fact says that the traits that are usually associated with females are advantages in expatriate assignments: the smooth way to move past disagreements and build consensus; a heightened sensitivity to pick up non-verbal clues; and a nurturing spirit seeks to strengthen relationships.

The same article posts advice on how American lady expatriates can capitalize on these strengths and make a difference in the local companies where they have been assigned. Global mobility specialists who are recruiting foreign assignees for U.S.-based workplaces can follow some of its advice:

  • Let the female assignee enhance and nurture her unique interpersonal skills and learn how to maximize their use in dealing with her colleagues, clients, and partners. Expand her network to involve members from a potential support system like embassies, medical centers, cultural institutions, and relocating companies.

One of California Corporate Housing’s strengths is building a close relationship with the assignees who live in their units, and seeing to it that her home becomes a haven of the rest that she needs. The company can also help her to redesign it if she wants to use her place to host dinners and other activities.

  • At the same time, give her the tools she needs to excel in her work, especially when it comes to knowledge and resources that can develop her technical skills. Encourage her to take additional classes, if needed.
  • Encourage the assignee to spend time with her American colleagues outside of work. Bonding time on a friendly basis can accelerate her understanding of our idioms, culture, and corporate practices. These informal gatherings can also evolve into more detailed question-and-answer sessions.
  • If needed, ask her to take more classes in English-language fluency.
  • Discreetly watch over her relationship with her immediate superior. Monitoring of her performance is part of the global mobility specialist’s job. A healthy relationship with her boss can do wonders for her career, while one that is filled with friction and tension can doom it. If she is suffering difficulty in this area, do ask her what’s wrong and how you can help.
  • It wouldn’t hurt to meet her along with other female expats occasionally. After-office coffee or drinks can become a way to seek the help of others who had gone before her. These sessions can also become an informal means of mentorship.
  • Again, if possible, facilitate her close interaction with supportive male colleagues who will respect her femininity but recognize her achievements as an individual. If unskilled in this area, you — and her new lady assignee friends — can advise her on how to keep the relationship strictly professional.
  • Finally, single women away from home might seek romantic relationships. The style or approach will depend on her own country’s cultural orientation. Some women might look for single men in ethnic communities from her own country. Others might explore cross-cultural dating sites that are unique to expatriates. In any case, just watch from the sidelines and be ready to lend an ear, a friendly advice, or a strong shoulder when the time comes.