In 2005, 23% of all expat assignments were given to women.
In 2005, international women (women whose career took them abroad) were hailed as an up-and-coming phenomenon in the annual Global Relocation Trends Survey Report. According to the representative study, 23% of all international assignees were women, and the number of international women pursuing their careers abroad was supposed to rise.
In many surveys, international women were associated with personal skills which are considered conventionally “feminine”. Among these skills, the following are usually perceived as useful for cross-cultural competency: flexibility, sensitivity and empathy.
However, despite those much-vaunted skills attributed to international women in expat careers, the actual number of international women deployed by their companies has decreased. The Brookfield Global Relocations Trends Survey Report 2010 found that only 17% of international assignments abroad went to women.
Additionally, many female employees were reluctant to accept assignments in “unattractive” locations probably because they were concerned about their safety as international women. On the other hand, those women who do in fact accept expat assignments are confronted with a “man’s world” among international employees.
International Women and their Career
For the international businesswoman, making money and finding challenging tasks to keep her busy isn’t the problem. “I’m a bit of an oddity, though,” Amy (30) from London laughs. “I’m pretty young to be an expat. I’m a woman on an international assignment, and I’m married, with a partner who’s become a trailing spouse. Thank god I’m used to being the odd-man-out in my career. Or should this be the odd woman out?”
Amy is working as a currency broker for an international financial services provider. At the moment, she’s staying at the company’s branch office in Tokyo. As an international woman in finance and banking, especially in the testosterone-driven atmosphere of the City of London, she quickly learned to be assertive and to make the most out of her career opportunities.
Since she grew up as the child of an English lawyer and a Japanese school teacher, she has always dreamed of actually living in Japan for a couple of years. Familiar with the intricacies of Japanese culture and fluent in both written and spoken Japanese, she was the ideal candidate for that assignment.
Support Networks for International Women in Business
“I’m not the only woman in a comparable situation,” Amy says. “There’s a whole support network for empowering women with an international background in Japan. It’s extremely useful for finding advice, business contacts or mentors. I couldn’t do without them. So I’m not that much of an exception as I’d previously thought. But the hubby may be…”
With the help of her support network of international women, Amy feels right at home in Tokyo. Networking is an essential aspect of every expat experience. Visit our local communities and maybe, just like Amy, you will be able to build up your own network of international women.