Women in International Business

Women in the workplace are no longer a shock in the United States. Our culture is very accepting of the workingwoman, and ever-changing gender roles make it more acceptable for women to go to work while men stay at home to watch the kids. The U.S. has grown a lot in terms of gender equality. Women make up about 50 percent of the workforce in the U.S., but only 20 percent of employees chosen for international assignments. Why is there such a difference between domestic and international?

Women tend to have lower success rates than men with international assignments, making men more popular candidates. This is because many cultures still hold a bias against female managers, which can make it difficult for women to be successful internationally. Cultures that are still male-dominated have an old fashioned view of women’s roles as compared to our progressive women workforce in the U.S. This can be seen in most Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American cultures where women don’t usually hold management positions. 

Even though these countries tend to be more biased towards women, it doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t be sent on international assignments. Women can be successful internationally if a company does their research. You should always do your homework on the specific country you are working with. Make sure women know what kind of dress is appropriate in that country to not offend anyone. She should receive cultural training just like any other employee, but also prepare her for any prejudices she might encounter.

The most important thing that every company must do to insure success is to show support. A woman will be taken seriously if your international counterparts can see that she is supported and respected by the company. Her title should be a true representation of her status within the company. These cultures generally rely highly on status, so an important title will show her credibility. Once negotiations start, biases are generally forgotten and business can be conducted without difficulty.

If you are a women looking to go into international business (like me) or you are a company looking to send women on international assignments, make sure you know a little more about gender biases in specific cultures. With the globalization of our economy, it makes it ever more important to have a strong presence in international markets. Companies need to send their best employee, be it man or woman, on international assignments. So, have you had any problems with women taking international assignments?


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