Why are women more reluctant to relocate abroad for work?

Women following their spouses for career purposes are common, but what happens when the tables are turned? Are career mothers more likely to let personal circumstance determinse whether or not they relocate for work?

The issues faced by career-driven women are abundant after they have had children. There is no denying that the quest to achieve ‘work-life balance’ can seem mythical. Career prospects post-maternity leave often appear significantly limited. Eventually some women who overcome this limbo-like phase and resume a fruitful career are confronted by a new predicament: a career opportunity which requires relocating.

In an age of fast-paced business globalisation the necessity of individuals having to relocate is on the increase. More often career relocations involve women ‘following’ their male partners, but when women are offered the same opportunities, why are they more reluctant to accept them?

One idea is that women are generally hesitant about relocating and therefore rarely even apply or accept posts which involve a major move. Unlike their male counterparts a decision to transfer is determined by their personal situation rather than the opportunity at hand, for example, the viability of a long-distance relationship. When personal circumstance extends to children the consideration period is longer and the reluctance is far greater.

When faced with decisions about careers and professional development men tend to solely examine the practicalities concerned with the new post: is the new salary being offered better? Is the company more reputable? Does the country boast an excellent education system? In comparison women are more likely to scrutinise the emotional impact of the move i.e. the extent of psychological stress felt by the family unit.

Men seem to get an easy ride in the decision-making process by doing one simple thing: making it easier on themselves. All too often women carry the heavy burden of believing they have to choose between commitment to their career and the needs of their family, but why do the two have to be mutually exclusive?

Relocating is unavoidably daunting for everyone in the family, but no more so than for the women who are embarking on a new professional challenge. A positive mindset is crucial for starting a new role as well as assimilating into an entirely new culture both at home and at work. Having children who are extremely resistant and scared can be more stressful than the enormity of the move itself.

Kris Van Sebroeck, MoveHub’s front-end developer, relocated from Brazil to London in 2008 with her family when her daughter was nine years old. She said: “My daughter was really sad about leaving her friends and family as most children would be. At the start, she didn’t have much interest in where we were going.”

Kris stresses the need to explain to children the importance of new opportunities and the exciting experiences gained from moving abroad. “Helping your children ease into the idea of moving to another country is dependent on their age – there are no set rules. If they are old enough to fully understand the situation, the best strategy is to regularly talk about all the positive things to come from the move. Stir some excitement about their new school and all the new friends they are sure to make.”

Whilst new adventures are indeed exciting, it is also important to acknowledge the support network the children are leaving behind. Kris said: “The abundance of social networking tools means it is easier than ever to maintain contact with old friends and once you explain this to your children it will give them some reassurance.”

It is also important to remember that it’s an exciting time. A big career change is a positive step forward and a prime opportunity to celebrate with the family. It’s time to balance out the trend and create more success stories of men following women.

*Jessica Laporte writes about travel and women’s issues for MoveHub.

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