Women working for big global companies say they aren’t getting the international assignments they need for career advancement because employers think they’re less mobile than men. Photo: Stocksy
Authors: Jeff Green and Carol Hymowitz
Women working for big global companies say they aren’t getting the international assignments they need for career advancement because employers think they’re less mobile than men, according to a new PwC survey.
More than 70 per cent of millennial women in the study said they want to work outside their home country. Yet only 20 per cent of international postings are filled by female workers, according to a poll of 3,900 male and female professionals and companies with headquarters in 23 countries. The study, released by the consulting firm, defined millennials as people born between 1980 and 1995.
“Too many overseas assignments are still today generated by an old-boy network” that assumes men are more willing to relocate, said Peter Clarke, PwC’s global mobility services leader. Companies “need a fact-based understanding of people’s willingness to take an assignment”.
Women make up just 4.4 per cent of S&P 500 chief executive officers and hold about 20 per cent of board seats, even though they now represent almost half of college graduates and entry- level employees at large firms. Six in 10 of the companies surveyed said international assignments are critical to potential managers gaining experience, connecting with more senior role models and getting promoted, according to the survey.
Only about 20 per cent of the companies said they align diversity goals with programs to help executives move around the world, Clarke said.
“CEOs are worried about the talent pipeline,” he said. “But right in front of them is this tremendous growth experience of global mobility that can transform the career of women, particularly early on. It’s so underutilised.”
The study found that bosses often mistakenly assume that women won’t take on foreign assignments because they have children. In fact, a nearly equal number of executives – 41 per cent of the women and 40 per cent of the men – who said they wanted overseas assignments already were parents, PwC found.
“Is this a real barrier or an assumed barrier?” said Aoife Flood, a senior manager of the PwC global diversity and inclusion office, and a researcher for the study. “Organisations need to really make it clear to all of their populations the types of opportunities that are required for advancement.”
Companies also should recognise overseas assignments as drawing cards for future top managers. About 64 per cent of women said that going overseas was both key in attracting them to their employer and a factor in retaining them.