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Sending Women on
Global Assignments
Challenges, Myths and Solutions

By Paula Caligiuri, Ph .D ., and Wayne F. Cascio, Ph .D .

       ata from the late 1980s found that only about 5      Department of Management Studies at McGill
       percent of American expatriates were women .         University reported a 97 percent success rate for
This underrepresentation of women on global assign-         female expatriates . As Adler admits, one plausible
ments seems to be changing for the better . More            explanation for the women's high success rate is that
recently, Dr . Rosalie Tung, Professor of International     the data were self-reported . However, she reports that
Business at Simon Fraser University, found that 13 .9       many women in her sample were promoted subse-
percent of the expatriates in her study were female         quently based on their performance internationally
(Tung, 1998) . However, despite these positive changes,     (Adler, 1987) .
women are still underrepresented on global assign-              To begin a more systematic discussion on under-
ments . It is important to examine the effectiveness        standing female expatriates' success, Caligiuri & Tung
of women in expatriate assignments, because inter-          (1999) compared male and female expatriates on three
national experience is increasingly considered a            criteria of success :
requirement for promotion to the executive suite .          •   Cross-cultural adjustment
                                                            •   Supervisor-rated performance
Past Research on the Effectiveness                          •   Desire to terminate the global assignment .
of Female Expatriates                                           Their results indicate that the percentage of men
Research conducted on the outcome of women's glob-          and women who desired to terminate their global
al assignments has indicated that female expatriates        assignments did not differ. Men and women also did
are successful in their global assignments (Caligiuri &     not differ on supervisor-rated performance on the glob-
Tung, 1999 ; Adler, 1987 ; Taylor & Napier, 1996) . While   al assignment.
this research has provided valuable insights into the            The study did find, however, that women were less
experiences of female expatriates, concerns remain          well adjusted cross-culturally than men in countries
regarding the assessment of the "success" of these          with low female work force participation and low per-
assignments . For example, Nancy J . Adler of the           centages of female managers . It is important to note

  34                                                                                WoridotWork journal Second Quarter 2000
that despite the fact that women in some locations                  Each factor is discussed below and then is used to
reported less effective adjustment than their male              develop Figure 1 on pages 36-38, which offers 15 strate-
counterparts, men and women were the same on the                gies for maximizing the effectiveness of women on
two factors most important to the outcome of the global         global assignments . Some strategies may apply to male
assignment : whether they would remain on their                 expatriates as well . Figure 1 also suggests methods of
assignment (vs . terminating early) and their supervi-          implementing each strategy, together with possible
sor-rated performance .                                         implementation problems .
        Besides the fact that men and women are the same
on these important outcome measures, there are addi-            Personality Characteristics
tional reasons why firms should consider sending more           For both male and female expatriates, personality
women on global assignments :                                   traits (such as openness and flexibility) have been
•       Multi-national companies (MNCs)                                         associated with cross-cultural adjust-
need competent expatriates who pos-                                             ment . The demands on an expatriate's
sess a wide range of technical and                                              predisposed personality, however, may
interpersonal characteristics .        Ex-                                      be greater for women . Women, for
panding the talent pool to include                                              example, need to possess the stress
women provides a tactical advantage
                                                                                management skills to cope with possi-
for these companies.
                                                                                bly being the only female in a work set-
•       Affording all employees who are
                                                                                ting . The expatriate women are often
interested in a global assignment the
                                                                                working in host countries that have
opportunity to be considered for one
                                                                                lower rates of women as managers .
is consistent with the corporate value
                                                                                Thus, women not only need to under-
statements and equal employment
                                                                                stand cultural differences, but also the
opportunity (EEO) policies of many
                                                                                 gender differences that might be pres-
MNCs .
                                                                                 ent in cultures that see more tradition-
        Case law (Fernandez vs . Wynn
                                                                                 al roles for women in society . Female
Oil Co ., 1981) and legislation (e .g., the
                                                                                 expatriates may be placed in situations
Civil Rights Act of 1991) make it ille-
                                                                where these cultural differences have a more direct
gal to deny a woman a global assignment based on gen-
                                                                impact on their performance on the job, and the ability
der (Cava and Mayer, 1993).
                                                                to be open to differences in values, norms and behav-
                                                                iors may be all the more important . These women will
 Ensuring the Success of
                                                                need to be flexible (and tolerant) in their attitudes
Women on Global Assignments
As the Caligiuri and Tung study suggests, women can             toward cultural differences .

be very successful in global assignments . However,
 MNCs cannot ignore the fact that it is a challenge for         Family Support
 women to be global assignees in some countries . Thus,         The process of moving to an international location

 in an article in the Journal of World Business, a frame-       often involves the expatriate's family . Past research has

 work to better understand what makes women suc-                noted that a family's ability to adjust to a move overseas

 cessful in global assignments was developed .                  is related to the expatriate's ability to adjust and suc-

        The four critical factors in the model include :        ceed on the global assignment (Harvey, 1995) . In a lon-
 •      Personality traits                                      gitudinal study of families on global assignments,
    •    Organizational support                                  Caligiuri, Hyland, Joshi and Bross (1998) found that
    •    Family support                                          family characteristics, such as family cohesion, were
    a    Host nationals' attitudes toward women expatriates .    related to an expatriate's success on an assignment .
         Strategies                           HR Tool, Method                      Possible Problems/
                                              or Intervention                      Strategies for Implementing

     1   Select female expatriates            Selection based on                  It may be difficult to find a person
         who demonstrate the technical        demonstrated competencies .         with every necessary credential
         or managerial skills for the                                             who is willing to accept the
         position . Don't send tokens .       Additional technical or             assignment .
                                              managerial training prior to
                                              departure, if needed .               The organization should attempt
                                                                                   to identify every skill needed for
                                                                                   a given global assignment .

     2   Select women for global              Select expatriates based on          An expatriate who is too self-
         assignments who are self-            their self-confidence in their       confident may come across as
         confident in their knowledge,        knowledge, skills and abilities .    arrogant to the host nationals .
         skills and abilities .                                                    Finding the balance between self-
                                                                                   confidence and arrogance may
                                                                                   be challenging .

     3   Select female expatriates            Select expatriates based on          It may be difficult to find someone
         who possess a greater                personality characteristics, such    with the requisite personality
         perceptual orientation               as openness and flexibility .        characteristics who is willing to
         (e .g ., openness) .                 Consider using the SAGE              accept the assignment .
                                              (Self-Assessment for Global
                                              Endeavors) or a similar

     4   Select female expatriates            Select expatriates based on          It may be difficult to find someone
         who possess a positive               personality characteristics such     with the requisite personality
         orientation toward others            as sociability.                      characteristics who is willing to
         (e.g ., sociability) .                                                    accept the assignment.

         Train female expatriates             Offer pre-departure plus             All of the possible difficult
         on the norms, values and             on-site culture-specific             situations cannot possibly be
         traditions that the host             training for female expatriates .    anticipated .
         nationals possess regarding
         women, and train them on
         deriving solutions for the
         challenging situations they
         may face .

     6   In order to dispel the "token"       Memos of introduction .              Some of these initiatives could be
         image, MNCs should actively                                               misinterpreted, depending on the
         promote expatriate women as          In-person introduction by a          cultural context . The intervention
         their "best qualified" candidate .   very senior executive .              should be culture-specific .

                                              A statement of qualification .

                                              Any other culturally
                                              appropriate method for
                                              establishing credibility .

36                                                                                WoridatWork Journal Second Quarter 2000

            Strategies                                                                 Possible Problems/
                                                                                       Strategies for Implementing

   7 Provide female expatriates                Have a mentor back home -               Communication is more difficult
          with an in-country support           and a method for communication .        from a great distance . Provide
          network or mentor.                                                           specific communication media
                                               Have an in-country mentor .             (e .g ., video-conferencing, e-mail),
                                                                                       plus training on their use and
                                                                                       protocol .

   8        Have policies worldwide            Be sure the policy is                   The policies can be viewed as
            regarding the fair and             communicated through all                culturally ethnocentric if not
            equal treatment of all             culturally appropriate channels .       communicated correctly.
            employees .
                                               Train employees on
                                               the policies .

                                               Reward managers on promoting
                                               the policies .

   9 Offer mechanisms to improve               Cross-cultural training for spouses .   There is always a chance that
          the likelihood that the spouses                                              the spouse's needs will not
          of female expatriates will adjust    Male-oriented social networks .         match what is being offered .
          well cross-culturally .
                                               Language classes .                      The spouse may choose not
                                                                                       to use the services .
                                               Re-employment assistance .
                                                                                       The options may not be
                                               Money for professional or               available in a given location .
                                               personal development .
                                                                                       To promote usage, try to match
                                                                                       these services to the spouse's
                                                                                       needs .

   10 Offer mechanisms to improve              Day care .                              Some services may not be
          the likelihood that the children                                             available for expatriate children
          of female expatriates will adjust    Educational assistance .                in a given location .
          well cross-culturally .
                                               Language classes .                      Try to find the necessary services
                                                                                       for these expatriate children .
                                               Cross-cultural training .

       11   Western female expatriates         Train women on how to cope               It may be difficult for the female
            should not attempt to "blend in"   with being "different" from              expatriate to balance perceptions
            with host national women .         host national women .                    (i .e ., not appear too masculine) .

                                               Train women on the behaviors             Provide role models from which
                                               that could be misinterpreted             expatriate women can learn
                                               (e .g ., serving tea in Japan) .         appropriate (and professional)
                                                                                        behaviors .
helped them find suitable schools and day care for                          Spousal support also had a significant role to play

their children in the host country . These women also                   in the cross-cultural adjustment of female expatriates .

described cross-cultural training (including language                   The women in this study mentioned that they and their
training and spending time with host nationals before                   spouses had been given cross-cultural training, and
leaving for the assignment) as having been beneficial                   that the training had been beneficial in making the
for them .                                                              move . However, some of the male spouses were unable
     The results of this study also found that high-level               to continue with their careers as a result of the move
women executives had more effective cross-cultural                      overseas . The lesson : Companies should provide
adjustment on their global assignments compared to                      opportunities for the trailing spouse to secure employ-
lower-level female expatriates . Often companies pro-                   ment or to pursue educational programs while on the
vide support for higher-level expatriates, while mini-                  overseas assignment.
mizing the needs of lower-level ones. The differences
in the level of support were evident in the women's                     Conclusion
responses . A senior director of finance mentioned that                 The objectives of Title VII, as well as the need among
she always had an in-country consultant to help her                     MNCs for talented pools of expatriate candidates, have
with matters of protocol in the host country . In con-                  mandated full use of the potential of female global
trast, a lower-level manager felt that her company had                  assignees . The research presented here has shown that
failed to inform her that in her host country, the new-                 women can be highly effective on global assignments
comer was obliged to call upon colleagues and intro-                    and that support - both from the company and the fam-
duce herself rather than the host nationals welcoming                   ily - will only enhance success. This research also sug-
her. As a result, it took her a long time to get acquaint-              gests that the experience of women may differ depend-
ed with her co-workers, depriving her of support net-                   ing on their job level in their organizations .
works in the initial part of her assignment. The study                       Companies need to act promptly to ensure that
indicates that companies will benefit if they provide                   their female expatriates, both senior and junior, are
the same kinds of support to high- and low-level female                 well supported on their global assignments to maxi-
expatriates .                                                           mize success, regardless of the location .

       The Authors

                   Paula Caligiuri, Ph .D ., received her Ph.D . and                       Wayne F. Cascio, Ph .D., received his Ph.D . in
                   M .S . from the Pennsylvania State University in                        industrial and organizational psychology from the
                   industrial/organizational psychology. Caligiuri is                      University of Rochester in 1973 . He has taught at
                   an Assistant Professor of Human Resource                                Florida International University, the University of
                   Management in the School of Management and                              California at Berkeley, the University of Hawaii,
                   Labor Relations at Rutgers University, where she                        the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland) and the
                   teaches Global Human Resources at the master's                          University of Geneva . During the academic year
                   level. She researches, publishes and consults in                        1987-1988, he was a visiting scholar at the
                   the areas of strategic human resource manage-                           Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania .
ment and multinational organizations - specifically on the selection,   In 1988, he received the Distinguished Faculty award from the HR
performance management and repatriation of global assignees . Her       division of the Academy of Management . In 1994, he received the
academic publications include chapters in Management                    Bemis award for excellence in HRM from the International
International and Expatriate Management : Theory and                    Performance Management Association's Assessment Council, and in
Research and articles in International Journal of Human                 1999, he received the Heneman Career Achievement award from the
Resource Management, Journal of World Business, Journal of              HR Division of the Academy of Management .
Applied Psychology and International Journal of Intercultural                 Cascio is past president both of the Human Resources Division
Relations . Consonant with her interest in action-oriented research,    of the Academy of Management and the Society for Industrial and
she has also published on the topic of psychometric statistics in the   Organizational Psychology. He has authored or edited six texts in
Handbook of Statistics and Statistics and Probability .                 human resource management, and has consulted with more than 150
                                                                        firms on six continents . His research on personnel selection, training,
                                                                        performance management and the economic impact of human
                                                                        resource activities has appeared in a number of scholarly journals .

40                                                                                                 WoridatWork   Journal Second Quarter 2ooo
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Harvey, M.G . (1985 .) "The Executive Family : An Overlooked
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Business . 20, 84-92 .                                                        For more information on this topic, search through
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