Gender diversity in global mobility – research

A summary of the latest research into the role of gender diversity in international assignments and relocation is now available as part of Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit. Download your free copy.

Global Mobility Toolkit: Gender diversity - research
  • The first components in Relocate Global’s new online mobility toolkit, which provides information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas, are now available to download.
Download the global mobility toolkit factsheet
The content of the Gender Diversity research summary, which forms part of the Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit, includes:
  • Women expatriates in context
  • Explanations for women’s low share of expatriate roles
  • Expatriate selection
  • Assignment types
  • Expatriate support
  • Useful contacts
  • Further reading
To keep up to date with best practice, and to gain strategic insight and operational know-how, download your free copy today.


Women expatriates in context 

Since the 1980s, when only around 3 per cent of expatriates were female, there has been a gradual upward trend in expatriate gender diversity.Women comprise around 20–25 per cent of all organisationally-assigned expatriates today. However, women’s participation appears to have peaked, well short of their being equally represented with men in the expatriate workforce.Research over the years has tried to explain why women held – and still do hold – a minority share of expatriate roles. Given the advantages of diversity for organisations and the career opportunities that expatriation brings, women’s expatriation makes sound business sense.

Assignment types 

Research has shown that women are more likely than men to give up flexible types of assignment (international commuting, business travel, short-term mobility) to address family circumstances. Women also seem to prefer the stability of long-term assignments.Although current trends show an increase in the use of short-term assignments and frequent-flyer-style international travel to meet business needs, employers should be aware that these types of international mobility may be detrimental to their strategy of increasing expatriate gender diversity.

Expatriate support

Academic literature suggests that organisational support before, during, and after expatriation is particularly critical to female expatriates’ assignment access, job satisfaction and overall success. Such support includes networks, mentors, sponsors and role models. Yet women’s access to these interventions is relatively poor compared with men’s.To support women assignees, employers could consider:Establishing networks for women 
  • Expatriates say that networks of contacts are very helpful in identifying forthcoming assignment opportunities and providing support and encouragement. Men tend to have wider networks than women, and, as such, benefit from them to a greater extent.
  • Organisational support to develop women’s networks, or facilitate women to join existing networks, can help to widen women’s access to global career opportunities
Setting up mentor and sponsor schemes
  • Mentors are valuable for assignees to gain maximum career contribution. To ensure accountability, sponsors can be appointed to support expatriates through their career paths.
  • Women expatriates report that mentors and sponsors are particularly helpful as they navigate the male expatriate world. Encouraging and supporting women to benefit from mentoring and sponsorship can help increase women’s expatriate participation 
Supporting female role models
  • Potential female assignees value the information that women expatriate role models can provide, especially when the assignment involves living in challenging, masculine locations. Current female expatriates may not see themselves as role models. HR and global mobility professionals can encourage and support female expatriates to inspire other women to take up expatriate roles
Download the global mobility toolkit factsheet

Also in the Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit

Available now:Coming soon:
  • Non Traditional Assignments and Family Expatriation
  • Raising the Profile of Assignment Diversity

For a full list of Global Mobility Toolkit components, and to download your free resources, visit our Global Mobility Toolkit Resource Centre page.

For information on sponsorship opportunities, call Fiona Murchie, managing editor, on +44 (0)1892 891334, or email A range of aligned products and resources will be available from the new Relocate Global e-commerce store, coming later this year.

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