‘Women being overlooked for vital international assignments’

Companies may be overlooking women for international assignments which provide much needed experience for those seeking leadership positions, according to a report by The Boston Consulting Group.

International Travel


The report, Women on the Move: Shaping Leaders Through Overseas Postings, reveals that 55% of women surveyed said that they would be willing to move abroad for a job assignment. This did not preclude mothers either: some 44% of women with children said they were willing to move abroad.

However, the survey found less than 30% of women who were willing to move had actually done so, compared with 40% of men in similar situations.

International assignments help you grow

“International assignments can provide countless opportunities for employees to grow both personally and professionally,” said Claire Tracey, a BCG partner and a coauthor of the report. “From a personal perspective, they allow employees to travel and to learn a new language and culture. They also give them a holistic picture of an organisation’s total operations, making them great candidates for future leadership roles.”

The report says this gap can be addressed in a variety of ways, such as engaging younger employees since women in their 20s, especially single women without kids, were the most willing to travel. It says  companies could develop mobility programmes that target high performers early in their careers or after their first promotion hurdle.

Other ways of tackling the issue include offering more short-term international assignments. The report found a 30% increase in willingness to move abroad among women who have had international assignments previously. In addition, 63% of women said that they prefer relocations of five years or less.

Support for families

It also recommended that companies provide logistical support to families, such as helping them navigate education, healthcare and tax systems. Having an in-country sponsor who can assist them or creating networks for employees who are travelling abroad could help. The report says one way to do this would be to offer simultaneous postings so that a small group of employees could take advantage of an international opportunity together.

The report also recommends identifying alternative opportunities for those who can’t travel to build international experience, such as ensuring that they are members of international teams and providing internal rotations.

“An employees’ willingness to travel fluctuates based on both personal and professional factors. But a person’s family status should not be assumed to be a barrier to international opportunities within an organisation,” said Matt Krentz, a BCG senior partner and a coauthor of the report. “When companies overlook women for these assignments, it not only puts them at a disadvantage, it hurts the organisation by weakening their leadership pipeline.”

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