Inter(man)tional Assignments? : - A Study Concerning Women’s Possibilities to Work Abroad

University essay from Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet; Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet



Title: Inter(man)tional Assignments?

– A Study Concerning Women’s Possibilities to Work Abroad

Problem: How do women perceive their possibilities to obtain an international assignment?

Purpose: The main purpose with this study is to create an understanding for women’s possibilities to obtain an international assignment. To be able to achieve this and to obtain a more faceted picture two types of sectors have been examined; larger Swedish corporations within the Swedish business world and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. We will further elucidate how women within the two sectors may perhaps learn from each other’s experiences, this to create new knowledge regarding women on international assignments.

Theory: In this study concepts linked to the fields of culture, management and international business are included; more pecifically the areas of international assignments, gender based differences, female characteristics, the glass ceiling and networks. A second theory part has been added after the completion of the empirical data collection to create a better and broader foundation for our study. Dual-careers, male structures, male bonding and old boys’ networks are included in this part. The supplemented theories have been placed previous to our analysis.

Method: We have performed a qualitative study from a gender based perspective with a focus upon female expatriates. The study has an abductive approach and we relate to a hermeneutical epistemology. Telephone interviews have been performed with female respondents who currently possess and international assignment or previously been an expatriate.

Result: The result of our study shows that there is no clear-cut answer to how women perceive their possibilities to obtain a foreign assignment, since their experiences are complex and individual. However, the core of our answer to the research question distinguishes a few aspects which are common among the respondents. The major cause affecting women’s possibilities is the issue of dual-career couples. The spouse’s and family’s situation is the main reason for the lack of women in these assignments. Another aspect which appears to be of great importance is the lack of women in leading positions. More women are needed on each and every managerial level to allow more women to achieve higher positions. If this is accomplished there will be a larger pool of competent and skilled females to choose from when selecting expatriates. Even though we have studied two diverse sectors, the issues and problems for the women seem to be the same. Still, both sectors have something to learn from each other. First, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs should improve their recruitment process. Second, something the Swedish business world can learn from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is to support their expatriates in a better way before and during their assignment abroad.

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