International Men’s Day: the global mobility aspect

International Men's Day takes place this Sunday. Its focus is on improving men's and boys' health, improving gender relations and equality, and highlighting positive male role models.

Father and son preparing food
International Men's Day is an opportunity to celebrate men's achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting discrimination against men. 2017’s theme is Celebrate Men and Boys. Men’s health is worse than women’s in most parts of the world, observes the day’s organisers, Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation, an Australian harm prevention charity.Recent World Health Organization (WHO) data shows that, globally, male life expectancy at birth in 2015 was 69 years; for females, it was 74 years. Women on a worldwide basis live 5 years longer than men. We know that over 95% of workplace fatalities are men and that 99% of combat deaths are men.

Gender equality in global mobility

In the context of global mobility, there are wellbeing challenges for the increasing numbers of men who move abroad to support their partner’s career. While only 20 per cent of people on international assignments are women, recent reports suggest it is not only women who have to cope with outmoded attitudes in the modern business world, says Crown World Mobility.“We are seeing an increase in the number of women assignees with accompanying male partners and that brings with it different challenges,” says Jo Latimer, global partner support manager at Crown World Mobility, after consulting some of her executive career coaches in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Prague and the USA.“Even in countries where it was almost unthinkable in the past that men would be the ‘trailing spouse’, places like India, Brazil, Mexico and Russia, you can see things changing. While 12-13 years ago it was unlikely to see couples from India, Brazil, Mexico and Russia going on assignments led by the woman, now we do see couples/families from these cultures where either they both want to work or where the man will put his career on hold."
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Challenges for men accompanying female partners on international assignments

Outlining some of the challenges men might face, Ms Latimer continues, “It is sometimes difficult to raise the problems men face working abroad when juxtaposed with the issues women have had to cope with – such as conscious or unconscious bias, missing rungs on the promotion ladder and the infamous glass ceiling.

“But just as we talk about those issues on International Women’s Day it is only right, on International Men’s Day, to recognise there also exist problems and prejudices for men too – especially when they are away from home, immersed in a difficult culture.”

Ms Latimer says men who move abroad to support their partner’s career suffer specific problems including:
  • finding a new support network of friends
  • risking an identity crisis when they can no longer define themselves through their work
  • suffering prejudice in societies where men staying at home to look after the children are still stigmatised.

"Male accompanying spouses face prejudice"

“Men can suffer prejudice too," continues Ms Latimer. "In many cultures there is nothing unusual about a woman who chooses to take a back seat to her husband´s career – even when the woman is equally educated. But when a man decides to drop his career to follow his wife, in some societies he is stigmatised, or even teased about no longer being the man of the house.“Men often base their identities more on career than place in the community,” contends Ms Latimer. “They arrive in a new country expecting it to be easy to find opportunities to continue that career. But that isn’t always the case.“For women, there seems to be a better support network to deal with that,” she continues. “There are often activities organised by the ‘experienced’ expat women and they find it easier to reach out and to admit when they feel lonely or unhappy."

Balancing progress with appropriate support

These issues can create problems for companies, where the performance of their globally mobile and international assignees are often linked to the happiness of the whole family and how well they are able and supported to settle in their new environment.“The good news is that [increased female mobility] can have a positive impact on gender equality and can be encouraging for women who, as we know, are still often overlooked in the boardroom. But at the same time we need to recognise the support men require in return and how global mobility programmes may need to change to provide that support.”“It’s certainly a good time to think about the issues men face in business and in general,” said Latimer. “Global mobility teams are always looking at ways to support assignees and their families to ensure their time abroad is successful – and it is not only women who need that support.”Read more coverage in the Winter Issue of Relocate Magazine. For related news and features, visit our HR section. Look out for the launch of 2018's Relocate Awards, entries open in January. Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory