International HRM -- Women on International HRM assignments
International HRM has gained a lot of importance in the last few years, thanks to globalization and the opening up of many economies. It is more complex than domestic HRM and this can be attributed to six factors, namely, the increased number of activities such as taxation, relocation and orientation; need for a broader understanding and perspective of different nations, the higher role of HR managers in the personal lives of employees to ensure they are happy and satisfied, dealing with the cultural changes of a diverse workforce, higher risk and extensive influence of factors that are beyond the control of HR managers (Dowling, Festing & Engle, 2008).
In the context of such a situation, international assignments have assumed greater importance and more people are traveling to foreign countries as a part of their job. A closer analysis of international assignments would show that more men than women are willing to take on international assignments due to personal and organizational reasons and this paper aims to examine the different reasons why women HR managers are not traveling on international assignments.
Women on International Assignments
The globalization of businesses has erased physical boundaries and has encouraged the free flow of resources from one part of the world to another. There is a large movement of HR professionals within and outside organizations as a part of this concept of "boundaryless career." More HR people are willing to take on international assignments to enhance their prospects of moving up the career and also to learn the skills and techniques that will help them to be successful in a global environment.
Despite these career aspirations, the number of women take up international HRM assignments continue to be low. A study shows that women represent a mere 18% of international assignments by U.S. companies and these numbers are at 9% for Europe and 6% in Australia. These numbers are contrasting when the percentage of women in HR middle management in the U.S., Europe and Australia is between 30 and 45% (Stahl & Bjorkman, 2006).
The earlier assumption is that women were inefficient when sent on an international assignments. However, this has been proved to be wrong by research and experience and today, it is believed that women are equally capable as men when it comes to international assignments. So, what are the reasons for these low numbers of women in the world of international HRM? Some of the aspects explained below contribute to this trend.
Gender discrimination affects the largest portion of the population among workplace discrimination and this is evident in the areas of recruitment, nature of assignments, remuneration and promotion (Harel, Tzafrir & Baruch, 2003). Though many companies employ Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO), they are sadly ruled by a legal aspect rather than an understanding of the benefits that women can bring to an organization. This is another reason why EEO has not translated into true equality.
Family and feelings of security
Another reason for women to take a backseat in international HR assignments is the importance they attribute to family life. For them, family and kids present a sense of security and a feeling of wellness and they do not want to rock the boat for an international assignment. When they move abroad, there is always the big question about kids and their education. Some countries may or may not have the same level of education and also, if the assignment is only for a short period of time, then there is a big dilemma of whether to take the kids or not.
The overall security that comes from a happy marriage, children and social networks may be impacted when they take an international assignment and this is why many women shy away from them and this in turn, can cause them to lose a promotion or a raise as well as the opportunity to get more exposure and knowledge in their field of work.
Dual career couples
Yet another family-related issue is that of dual career couples. The husband may want to accompany the wife on an international assignment if it is going to be more than a few weeks and this means finding a job for him and the mental and emotional pressure that comes with it. They may also be faced with many sociocultural barriers in the new place. There is a likelihood…