Send women on international assignments: Prof. Rosalie Tung

Sep 21, 2011

Send women on international assignments: Expert

Published in Human Capital Magazine
September 21, 2011

An international expert has revealed that fewer than 20% of women are given international assignments in business, despite being better equipped to handle the pressures of working abroad.

At a seminar held yesterday at Macquarie University and attended by management leaders from across Australia, Dr Rosalie L. Tung (pictured) presented her findings on the complexity of doing business in Asia and dispelled myths related to women in international assignments.

Dr Tung said the alarming statistic is perpetuated by a three-pronged myth, namely:
– That women don’t want overseas assignments (due to family considerations)
– Other countries don’t want female expatriates in business dealings
– Women lack the skills/competencies to succeed

In her studies, Dr Tung found no difference between men and women in supervisor-rated performance and instances of early-return from a posting. However, she did find that women encountered more problems related to adjustment, explained by the lack of support systems in place.

In fact, Dr Tung’s studies have shown female managers were better able to cope with isolation abroad, because women place greater emphasis on harmony and cooperation in their interactions with local people.

Her studies have led her to suggest that female expatriates may in fact be the ‘model’ global manager. Additionally, she said that it is important to recognise that not all countries high on the gender inequality index behave in the same manner, and tailored training and support is the key to successful postings.

Her seminar also highlighted the significant role that host country ethnocentrism can play in affecting expatriate success, if proper support mechanisms are not in place.
Corporate support, she concluded, not just for the expatriate but also for the hosts, is integral when companies decide to send a female on international assignments.

Dr Tung told Human Capital that corporate support may include:
– Very clearly articulated information sessions.
– Support in terms of the decisions made by female managers.
– The establishment of good overseas networks, such as women’s executive clubs.

Lists of associates should be regularly updated, especially in countries experiencing widespread growth in expatriate populations (such as in China and India).
Personal assistance on the ground from a knowledgeable colleague or personal assistant.
Proper introductions, where qualifications are clearly and specifically articulated.

Dr Tung is Professor of International Business at Simon Fraser University in Canada, a visiting professor at Harvard University and University of California – Los Angeles, and has served on the United Nations Task Force on Human Resource Management.

-Stephanie Zillman

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