Women Expatriates’ Challenges in Management

Subject: Management
Pages: 2
Words: 581
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: Master

Women are significantly underrepresented in international management, and they form a small percentage of expatriates. There are many justifications presented to explain the gender difference in this field. One argument claims that women are less suited as expatriates because they will encounter more challenges than their male counterparts in business management-related assignments. This is an unsubstantiated claim that serves to further reduce the number of women sent to foreign countries to represent their companies. Research shows that women do not necessarily face more challenges in international management.

Some people argue that by virtue of being female, women will have more problems adapting to a new country when sent on a business assignment. As discussed by Adler, various explanations are given for this erroneous assumption. The first explanation is that women are not interested in expatriate assignments, possibly because they have a stronger commitment to their husbands and children. Another explanation is that they do not have the experience, training, or technical know-how to perform such an assignment. Finally, others argue that women will face extra challenges because they are less likely to be accepted by foreigners (Adler, 1984a). These factors allegedly compound to make it difficult for female expatriates to produce the same output as their fellow countrymen.

The explanations given have been shown to be flawed and unsubstantiated. In a 1984 study, Adler investigated whether new female graduates had as much interest in pursuing international careers as their male associates and found that they did. This debunks the belief that women are not interested in international management (Alder, 1984b). Further, research shows that women do not necessarily face hostility from citizens of the countries to which they go. They are treated as non-nationals who happen to be female and thus not expected to behave or live similar to the local women (Harris, 2002). Without these cultural expectations, female expatriates do not face prejudice from foreigners. The only myth that proved to be true was that companies are reluctant to send women overseas on assignments.

Aside from Adler’s research that discredits the argument that female expatriates face more challenges, other research shows that they may actually adapt better in foreign countries. For instance, female expatriates have greater levels of work adjustment in contrast to their male colleagues. Work adjustment is defined as the expatriate’s level of comfort with regard to the foreign assignment and their performance standards (Cole, 2011). Women also display high interactional adjustment, which refers to relationships formed with nationals of the host country. Consequently, the adjustment process is easier for women than it is for men. They form relationships with local employees, customers, and suppliers and effortlessly navigate the new country. A possible explanation for this observation is that women display qualities such as broadmindedness, understanding, and acceptance of cultural differences. Such principles and values reduce the challenges that an expatriate would face in a foreign country.

The assumption that female expatriates face more problems than their male colleagues in their international business management-related assignments is an unsubstantiated argument. Contrary to the claims made by this argument, they display the same interest as male expatriates in pursuing assignments outside their home country. They also do not face prejudice or discrimination from foreigners because they are not expected to behave similarly to resident women. Finally, further studies show that women possess certain traits that enable them to adapt to their host countries easily. Female managers should be accorded the same opportunities to expand their careers as their male counterparts.


Adler, N. J. (1984a). Women in international management: Where are they? California Management Review, 26(4), 78-89. Web.

Adler, N. J. (1984b). Women do not want international careers: And other myths about international management. Organizational Dynamics, 13(2), 66-79. Web.

Cole, N., & McNulty, Y. (2011). Why do female expatriates “fit‐in” better than males? An analysis of self‐transcendence and socio‐cultural adjustment. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, 18(2), 144-164. Web.

Harris, H. (2002). Think international manager, think male: Why are women not selected for international management assignments? Thunderbird International Business Review, 44(2), 175-203. Web.