The purpose of expatriation: why women undertake international assignments

Shortland, Susan (2015) The purpose of expatriation: why women undertake international assignments. Human Resource Management, 55 (4). pp. 655-678. ISSN 0090-4848


Women international assignees have historically been successful but they comprise a relatively low proportion of organizationally-assigned expatriates. By appreciating the factors that encourage women to undertake internationally mobile careers, organizations can widen their talent pool. Using a triangulated, qualitative research approach set within two case study firms in the oil and gas exploration and production industry, this paper identifies contrasting views between female assignees and their organizations with respect to the purpose of expatriation and the factors women take into consideration in their decision to undertake it. This research is based upon: analysis of organizational policy; a survey of 71 women expatriates and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 26 female assignees (selected from the survey returns using stratified sampling); and interviews with 14 Human Resource professionals responsible for international mobility policy design and implementation. Career, family and financial pre-condition effects are identified. From these, a model is proposed to link stated organizational assignment purpose with women’s participation rationales and recommendations for practice to increase expatriate gender diversity are set out.

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