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Dr Sue Shaw & Dr Andrew Rowe

Manchester Metropolitan University
May 2012

Sue Shaw:

Andrew Rowe:


Sue Shaw
Sue is Associate Dean. Learning and Teaching and Head of the Department of
Management at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School. She studied
History at the University of Southampton before completing an MSc in Manpower
Studies and Industrial Relations at the University of Salford and a Doctorate in
Business Administration at the University of Manchester. Her teaching and
research interests are in international HRM/HRD, individual performance and
women in management. She has a number of publications and conference
papers in these areas. She leads the MMU accredited McDonalds in-house
Foundation Degree programme in Managing Business Operations and until its
conclusion in March 2011, led the Schools four year METP EU/China
management development project. Sue is a Chartered Fellow of CIPD and has
been actively engaged with the CIPD for a number of years both nationally and

Andrew Rowe
Andrew is currently a senior lecturer in organisational behaviour at Manchester
Metropolitan University, leading a variety of post experience courses and
successfully supervising at doctoral level. Prior to joining MMUBS, he completed
a PhD in Management Learning at the University of Essex, then becoming a
research fellow at the Cranfield School of Management on an EPSRC project
looking at teamworking in construction. Recently, alongside researching female
expatriation, he has also been investigating executive remuneration as well as
the contribution of the arts to organizations: the latter through a metaphorical
application of dance, in addition to exploring a spatial understanding of
organizational learning. He has published in a range of international journals and
has written on Learning and Development for a CIPD publication


The authors would like to thank the UFHRD for their generous sponsorship of this
research in the form of a research honorarium

1 INTRODUCTION................................................................................................ 5
2 The LITERATURE.............................................................................................. 8

Women Expatriates...............................................................................8

2. 2

Learning and Development for Expatriates........................................11

3 THE STUDY..................................................................................................... 19

Research Aims................................................................................... 19

3. 2

Methodology..................................................................................... 20

4 FINDINGS....................................................................................................... 23

Motives for Going on an Expatriate Assignment..................................23


Previous Work Experience....................................................................25


Expatriate Cycle................................................................................... 26


Expatriate Learning..............................................................................45


Expatriate Career Management and Development..........................52


Expatriate Women and Identity............................................................57


Expatriate Women and Generational Factors..................................59

5 DISCUSSION................................................................................................... 61
Womens Learning and Development & the Global Assignment Cycle
...................................................................................................................... 61

Emphasis upon the Product and Process of Learning......................63

Exploring the Potential of Learning & Development to Support
Female Expatriates........................................................................................ 66
6 IMPLICATIONS OF THE STUDY........................................................................67

Implications for Organisations.........................................................68


Implications for Individuals.............................................................69

7 CONCLUSIONS............................................................................................... 70
References........................................................................................................ 71

INTERVIEW FORMAT...................................................................85

APPENDIX 2 BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE PARTICIPANTS.......................................87




This project examines the development of female expatriates, both traditional

and self-initiated expatriates across the expatriate lifecycle. Globalisation has led
to an ever increasing cross-border international business activity and it has been
estimated that there are currently 850,000 subsidiaries of Multinational
Corporations (MNCs) operating worldwide. International staff mobility has
emerged a major strategic issue for MNCs and expatriate numbers are expected
to continue to rise steadily over the next decade. Consequently, the need for
organisations to be able to develop and deploy effective global managers has
never been so important and this has led to increased academic interest on the
global career and female would take more interest and role of expatriate workers
assigned abroad. At the same time the rise in protean and boundaryless careers
is an emerging issue in the field of international management.
Traditionally characterised as an ambitious male manager with his trailing
spouse, research suggests that the expatriate profile is changing in a number of

One notable feature is the increasing use made by organisations of

alternative forms of international assignment (e.g. commuter, short-term,

flexpatriate, etc.), alongside the so-called Independent Internationally Mobile
Professionals or international itinerants, who have emerged in the context of
boundaryless global careers (Banai and Harry, 2006; Collings, Scullion and
Morley, 2007; Peltokorpi and Froese, 2009). First acknowledged in the work of
Inkson, Arthur, Pringle and Barry (1997) this group have been

referred to

variously as self-initiated expatriates (SIE) or self-initiated foreign experiences

(Myers and Pringle, 2005). They now constitute a large contingent of workers
that are largely invisible to extant research because they are not sponsored by a
specific organisation (McKenna and Richardson, 2007).

Their importance to

organisations in the staffing of foreign subsidiaries in todays competitive global

environment cannot be underestimated (Peltokorpi and Froese, 2009).

Research into expatriates traditionally has focused on those people sent abroad
by multinationals. However

studies of SIEs

whilst increasing are still limited

further studies that look at SIEs are to be welcomed not just because of their
distinctive nature but also because and to date largely exploratory ( Suutari and
Brewster, 2000; Forstenlechner, 2010): therefore of the size of the group
(Bozionelos, 2009).
Another notable feature is the changing gender profile of international managers
and professionals.

Relatively little attention has been given to female

expatriates partly because expatriates have traditionally tended to be male. It

is only in recent years that there has been a significant increase in the number
and visibility of women in international assignments (Altman and Shortland,
2008). Whilst the number of females that pursue expatriate assignments
(particularly Traditional Female Expatriates [TFE] sent by an organisation)
continues to remain at a disproportionately low level (Varma, Stroh and Schmitt,
2001; Cole and McNulty, 2011), it is argued that female participation is actually
rising to around an estimated figure of between 14% and 23% of the total
expatriate workforce (Meyskens, Von Glinow, Werther & Clarke, 2009). Finding
that they continue to be faced with a glass border:

women may now be

choosing the self-initiated rather than a traditional route into international

careers (Altman and Shortland, 2008).

Early research into women in

international management focused on the very small numbers employed as

traditional expatriates sent abroad by their organisations, the reasons for that,
the difficulties and challenges women encountered and the ways they
surmounted these (Adler,1979, 1984a, 1984b, 1986/7, 1987, Tung 2004).
Rather less is known about female expatriate career development needs and
experiences particularly within this new context. Yet the business case for having
a well developed female cadre of international managers is clear- given the
predictions of increasing organisational demand (Harvey and Moeller, 2009). This
fact together with the rise of female workers actively seeking international
experience and the general interest into alternative options such as the selfiniated route (Fitzgerald and Howe- Walsh, 2008) in turn challenges the role of
HRD in supporting females in this changing

international career context.

Research that incorporates the perspective of self-initiated female expatriates

will deepen our understanding of the development issues facing female
expatriates in general.

The issue of expatriate failure rates measured by the premature return of

assignees - and the factors that influence success of an international assignment
have been important areas for research (Mendenhall, Dunbar and Oddou, 1987).
Whilst the precise size of the problem has not gone unchallenged (Harzing, 1995,
2002) or suggested varies between nationalities (Lett and Smith, 2009) the
occurrence of expatriate failure has highlighted the significance of expatriate
preparation such as pre-departure training and cross cultural training (Tarique
and Caligiuri, 2004) with the precise nature and content of learning and
development interventions mediated by contextual and situational factors
(Mendenhall , Stevens, Bird and Oddou, 2008). HRD can play an important role
in equipping expatriates to cope with postings: training, mentoring and career
development interventions have been identified as ways of obviating common
problems such as personal adjustment, career anxiety and under utilisation of
global skills on repatriation (Dowling, Festing and Englel, 2008).










Organisational (Male) Expatriate perspective notwithstanding the rise of other

forms of expatriate described above. The provision of HRD support (particularly
the funding of this) is an important issue- especially who pays, how/whether the
return on L&D investment is calculated. Existing theories and models of career
development fail to adequately explain the experiences of international
managers who pursue boundaryless careers (Banai and Harry, 2006) not least of
all when those individuals are women.
So, we support the view that it is important for organisations to manage
expatriates effectively providing opportunities for them to develop their career
through overseas assignments; especially as the skills required for organisational
leadership positions require international familiarity (Altman and Shortland,
2008). Those organisations finding it difficult to diversify their expatriate mix can
suffer a negative impact on their performance (Rhinesmith, Williamson, Ehlen
and Maxwell , 1989) with the potential loss of knowledge and skills gained by
expatriates learnt through their experiences.

This means that organisations

must in future pay careful attention, not just to managing the development of
the traditional expatriate at each stage of the life cycle from selection and predeparture training to repatriation (Dupuis, Haines and Saba, 2008 ), but also to
managing their SIEs (Ariss, 2010; Banai and Harry 2006).

A gender

understanding is vital if organisations themselves are going to deliver high

performance in an international context. However, extant research also

highlights how organisations face difficulties in comprehending the specific

issues experienced by female expatriates: be it in relation to selection (Harris
and Brewster, 1999), ethnicity (Tzeng, 2006), adjustment (Linehan and Scullion,
2001) or work-life balance (Fischlmayr and Kollinger, 2010). For these reasons,
further understanding how female expatriates are managing their global careers,
what challenges they have encountered in their experience of expatriate working
and how they are learning to construct their performance within their working









management of female expatriate employees.

Consequently, this study explores the development issues facing female
expatriates in the context of boundaryless careers. It takes the view that human
resource development is not only a very broad process that encompasses all
learning situations both formal and informal that develop individual, group and
organisational knowledge but also one that is socially situated and embedded in
interactions with others (Lave and Wenger, 1991). Unpacking this further, the
term learning and development refers not simply to the capturing and
codification of explicit knowledge e.g. manuals, information systems and
handbooks but the harnessing of tacit knowledge held in, and developed
between, individuals in practice.

Thereby transcending formal organisational

boundaries to include communities of practice as vital arenas in which learning

can take place (Brown and Duguid, 1991). It refers to the achievement of goals,
both at the individual & organisational level, exemplifying a collaborative
approach implicating all key stakeholders governmental, organisational and
individual working together to provide opportunities, as well as identify further
needs, for learning and development. However, not all believe that this idealism
is reflected in practice. Vince (2003: 559) suggests not much has changed at all.
He laments at what appears to be an over-simplified view of development at the
individual level alone, with too often mechanistic learning based upon a limited
range of models. This, he contends reflects no stimulation for staff to learn and
develop new knowledge; no concern for the needs of diverse individuals
(overlooking gender or cultural issues), and little consideration given for transfer
of learning from the individual to the organisation. This raises concerns for the









Notwithstanding such scepticism, research into the learning and

development of expatriates therefore needs to adopt this broad view.

This paper first examines the relevant literature in relation to women expatriates
and learning and development of expatriates particularly in relation to women
expatriate development

and that of self- initiated expatriates. It then goes to

report the study, outlining its aims, the methodology used and the findings. It
concludes with a discussion of the implications of the research and highlights
areas for future development.
2.1 Women Expatriates
2.1.1 Traditional Female Expatriates
Female participation in global assignments has been of academic interest for
over three decades since the work undertaken by Adler in the late 1970s and

Whilst the barriers to womens increased international representation

have been attributed to attitudes of the host country, the reluctance of

employers and to the women themselves, there has nevertheless been some
attempt to challenge this picture of negativity or what Adler called the three
myths about women in international management (Adler, 1984a; Caligiuri and
Tung, 1999; Linehan, 2005). Adlers early finding (1987) that in Asia expatriate
women were seen first and foremost as a Gaijin (Japanese for foreigner) has
been confirmed in later studies. For example, research highlights female
expatriates reported perceived success -in terms of intentions to repatriate and
repatriation in cultures as diverse as China, Japan and Turkey (Napier and
Taylor, 2002) and Mexico, Korea and Germany (Paik and Vance, 2002). Moreover,
Varma, Toh and Budhwars (2006) study of US and Indian Host Country Nationals
(HCNs) found that female US nationals far from being discriminated against were
actually preferred as co-workers over male US nationals by Indian HCNs. Whilst
this suggests that claims made about foreign prejudice stopping women
succeeding abroad need some qualification, not all research has appeared so
positive particularly in areas where women are not well accepted in the
workforce. In the Middle East for example whereas Bozionelos(2009) study of
self- initiated expatriate nurses in Saudi Arabia found women could succeed in
cultures that appear to treat genders differentially provided they were working in
a female dominated profession and work environment,

Stalker and Mavins

study (2011: 288) of self-initiated expatriate women in the United Arab Emirates,
in contrast, found the women were exposed to gendered discriminatory values
and practices without the protection of legal or procedural support. Moreover,


Hutchings, French and Hatchers (2008) study of female expatriates in China










organisational support than men.

What is more, there are suggestions that women overcoming the stereotypes
and prejudices of poor selection practices of the employers and actually getting
sent overseas (Linehan and Walsh, 2000; Linehan, 2002; Harris, 2002, Insch,
McIntyre and Napier, 2008; Varma et al, 2006), have been as significant a barrier
as the actual challenges experienced once abroad. Labelled the glass border
by Linehan and Walsh in 1999, it is suggested that institutional hurdles as
manifested in both formal and informal organisational policies, have worked to
limit womens career opportunities in international management and keep them
at relatively junior levels of management (Forster, 1999). These include formal
policies relating to international selection criteria and career development
frameworks together with both informal processes, which influence womens
perceived suitability to international management roles and the operation of
informal socio-organisational processes that construct gendered career paths
and roles (Harris, 1995). The result is human resource practices which reflect the
interest of the dominant (male) group (Linehan and Scullion, 2004). Furthermore
these organisational barriers are compounded by

the weakness of female

organisational networking (Varma et al, 2001) and the perceived lack of

organisational support for females pursuing global careers as evidenced in the
lack of women mentors and role models. The work of Linehan and her colleagues
together with other writers, suggests that the lack of social network support also
presents another barrier to womens international mobility (Linehan, 2000;
Linehan, Scullion and Walsh, 2001; Caligiuri and Lazarova, 2002). These
developments lead Linehan and Scullion

(2004) to conclude that Women

expatriate managers will remain a minority in Europe until organizations reexamine their human resource management policies and practices and offer

support in the form of mentoring and interpersonal networks












considerations, such as family responsibilities, which influence the decision to

become an expatriate and can make this a disproportionately difficult choice for
women (Hearn, Jyrkinen, Plekhari and Oinonen, 2008; Tharenou, 2008). The rise
in dual career couples also has implications for international relocation (Harvey,
1995, 1996). Furthermore, whilst the likes of Stroh, Varma and Valy-Durbin


(2000) reinforce Adlers (1984a) refutations of the myth that women are
unsuitable to work overseas, it is significant that there is a predominance of
single/childless expatriates (Tzeng, 2006) as well as accounts of high levels of
work-family conflict (Fischlmayr and Kollinger, 2010; Tharenou, 2008). There is
also evidence that women are reluctant to pursue careers in countries that
appear to have discriminatory cultures (Tung, 2004). Gender role theory, for
example, helps to explain how women need to overcome substantial social
barriers. This suggests that an international career is still not without challenges
or sacrifices that make it difficult for women to achieve or maintain high
performance and that the majority of international women mangers typically
choose between a career and a family (Linehan and Walsh, 2000; 2001).
Notwithstanding these challenges, the increasing demand for expatriates means
that women should be able to play their full part in global organisations. Indeed
the exclusion of women from expatriate assignments seems to run counter to
Altman and Shortlands (2008) conclusion from their review of twenty-five years
of research into women on international assignments, that there is strong
evidence that women adapt better than men in cross cultural business situations.
However, in terms of adjustment in general, the results are ambivalent.
Linehams (2002) study of 50 senior female international managers found
women faced specific difficulties relating to gender bias linked to international
assignments, the negative influence of gender over international career, the
difficulties in finding career alternatives in the case of dual career couples and
the difficulties of balancing family demands. There is evidence that men and
womens adjustment patterns are different with women showing higher levels of
work adjustment (Selmer and Leung, 2003) and interaction and relational
adjustment (Haslberger, 2007; Selmer and Leung, 2003). Moreover, Janssens et
als (2006) later study found expatriate women rather than seeing them selves
as victims of a penalising

structural context (143) for gender, hierarchy or

cultural reasons actively sought to counter this in their interactions with men by
developing their own professional identities as either a woman, manager or
western expatriate.
2.1.2 Self-initiated Female Expatriates
One reason why published female expatriate numbers appear to remain low may
be because research tends to concentrate upon female expatriate managers
(and their development) from a TFE perspective rather than those who work


outside of that kind of employment contract (Meyskens et al, 2009). Yet as we

asserted in the introduction recent research suggests that newer categories of
expatriates (particularly the self-initiated or self-financed expatriates [SIE]) play
an important role within the context of boundaryless global careers (Peltokorpi
and Froese, 2009).

Indeed, some writers suggest that because female

expatriates continue to be faced with a glass border, more women may now be
choosing the self-initiated rather than a traditional route into international
careers (Altman and Shortland, 2008). This reinforces the need for female
expatriate research when discussing non-traditional routes to explore the








development on those differing routes.

One factor that is related to the rise of interest into female expatriation
particularly the non-traditional route is changing attitudes from younger
generations of women.

The emerging literature on generational differences

provides some rationale for why there is a steady increase of traditional and SIE
female expatriates, as well as why females are overcoming hurdles to take up
international assignments. Gen X, Gen Y and third culture kids (TCK) are
seemingly more culturally aware than previous generations and therefore may
not need as in-depth cross-cultural training (Selmer and Lam, 2004). This project
provides the opportunity to investigate what differences exist amongst the
female expatriates how they value the expatriate assignment and in particular
look at how organisations are perceived to value expatriate assignment and
experience (Scullion, Collings and Gunnigle, 2007). This is an emerging issue in
the literature and little is known specifically regarding Gen Xers as well as Gen Y
in the context of international assignments.
2. 2 Learning and Development for Expatriates
Whilst they are inextricably linked it is nevertheless important to distinguish
between the expatriate assignment as an organisational and individual career
development vehicle and the training and development to successfully
undertake the international assignment.
2.2.1 The International Assignment as a Means of Career Development
International assignments are increasingly used as a development tool by MNCs
(Dowling et al, 2008; Harris and Dickmann, 2005) and indeed studies show that
job development and opportunities to enhance their career capital are major
considerations for individuals in their decision to accept an overseas assignment


(Suutari and Brewster, 2000, Tung, 1998, Stahl and Cerdin, 2004, Dickmann,
Doherty, Mills and Brewster, 2008). Jokinen, Brewster and Suutaris (2008) study
of Finnish expatriates found that an overseas assignment was an important
learning opportunity for both conventional and self-initiated expatriates, with
both groups perceiving that the assignment experience had enhanced their
knowing how, knowing why and knowing whom career capital. This led the
authors to conclude that an international assignment provides a real opportunity
for a SIE to develop his or her career capital.

Interestingly organisational

expatriates were found to learn more organisational knowledge and know-whom










organisational knowledge and organisational networks which enabled them to

enhance their learning through their comparative and cumulative experiences.
In their study of British academic SIEs, Richardson and Mallon (2005) found the
internationalisation of higher education and the belief that international
experience would enhance their career capital and academic marketability was a
key driver in the decision for academics to seek a post overseas. Vance (2005)
developed a three-phase career path model to represent how an individual
initiated and implemented a career strategy for obtaining significant foreign work
experience. Stage one started with a foundation building stage centred on
exposure to or immersion in international activities such as tourist travel,
language training, international internships or study abroad and this was
followed by specific preparation using networks, mentor and the development of
marketable skills for working abroad. The final stage was either securing foreign
employment with a MNC or transferring immediately into a internationals post,
Interestingly in the research that underpinned this model Vance found that was
individuals who took up the immediate expatriation track were typically younger
and less constrained by domestic career and family support responsibilities than
their MNC counterparts.
2.2.2 Learning and Development to Support the International
The traditional expatriate cycle which is traditionally depicted as having three
stages: pre, actual and post assignment has been central to understanding the
effective management of expatriates (Bonache, Brewster and Suutari, 2001;
Collings, Heraty and Morley, 2006). Training and development is at the heart of








interventions have been recognised as supporting expatriate adjustment, on-


assignment performance and repatriation, thereby contributing to the overall

success of the expatriate assignment (Dowling et al, 2008).
The importance of both anticipatory and in-country expatriate adjustment (Black,
Mendenhall and Oddou, 1991) to assignment success has led to research into the
relevant dimensions of expatriate acculturation and their implications for the
expatriate selection process (Mendenhall and Oddou, 1985; Bhaskar-Shrinivas,
Harrison, Shaffer and Luk, 2005). The importance of adjustment has also led to
an emphasis on the need for companies to undertake comprehensive predeparture training programmes covering cultural and country awareness and
language skills training. For instance, Harzing and Pinnington (2011) argue that
by providing cross cultural training, MNCs can positively influence anticipatory
adjustment by helping to build up realistic expectations about the assignment
and reducing culture shock. According to Vernon, Sparrow and Brewster (2007)
the pre-departure preparation usually includes training and other forms for
example briefings, visits and shadowing. Extant literature identifies cross-cultural
training as a means of facilitating effective interaction across different cultures
(Brislin, 1981; Tung 1981; Bochner, 1982; Mendenall and Oddou, 1986). In order
for female expatriates to effectively perform whilst on assignments in foreign
countries cross-cultural training is required, to assist interaction between the
head office and the host country Tung, 1981; Bochner, 1982; Mendenhall and
Oddou, 1986).
Harris and Brewster (1999) argue, however, that in many MNCs actual training
falls far short of good practice with language training and country briefings being
the extent of what is offered. Moreover, research specifically into the
effectiveness of cross-cultural training has shown mixed results (Deshpande and
Viswevaran 1992; Black, Mendenhall and Oddou, 1991). Vance and Paik (2002)







ethnocentrism and the universal/generic nature of past approaches may have

led to the design of expatriate pre-departure training that does not adequately
address the specific and unique workforce demands present in a particular
assigned country (558). This leads them to suggest that training far from being
generic, should be customised and should incorporate input from the host
country workforce. Consequently, whilst early models of cross cultural training
(Tung, 1981; 1998 and Mendenhall, Dunbar and Oddou, 1987) concentrated on
the development of cultural awareness, later adaptations have emphasised the


need for expatriates to retain and reproduce learned behaviours appropriately in

the new host culture (Black and Mendenhall, 1989; Vance and Paik, 2002) and
the need to link adjustment and performance within a wider performance
management system (Dowling et al, 2008). It is in this context that the
importance of

in-country training and development has been recognized

(Mendenhall and Stahl, 2000), together with the wider process of learning that
actually takes place once the expatriate is in situ and becomes more sensitive to
the challenges of working in another country (Caligiuri and Di Santo, 2001). This
is summarised succinctly by Mendenhall and Stahl (2000): ...expatriates need
training in real time; they need cross-cultural training or some form of personal
assistance on the fly (253). This leads Vance and Paik (2002) to suggest that it
may not be pre-departure training per se, but rather its inadequacies in the past
that has led to the conclusion that on site real time learning is more effective
than pre- departure training.
Black (1988) identified three types of adjustment that were necessary for an
expatriate: general /cultural, work adjustment and interactional. The importance
of adjustment at the interpersonal interaction level has also been acknowledged
in other studies.

In Napier and Taylors (2002) study female expatriates both

recognized the importance of adapting their interpersonal skills to the cultural

context and gave examples of how they had learned to develop and enhance
them in situ. They also reported feeling that, in certain circumstances, they were
more successful than men in interpersonal interaction. Mendenhall & Oddou,
(1985) argue that female expatriates need to develop international working
competencies through adaptability, cultural empathy and cultural toughness.
Furthermore, Suutari and Brewster (2000) as well as Selmer and Leung (2003)
point out female expatriates need to effectively adjust and feel comfortable with
the environment in which they have gone to work.
Mentoring is a long established form of individual development and means for
improving learning and career development (Clutterbuck, 2004) and the









development has been acknowledged ( Jassawalla, Asgary and Sashittal, 2006;

Mezias and Scandura, 2005).

However, it has been asserted that expatriates

may receive less mentoring than domestic staff and female expatriates less
mentoring than their male colleagues (Harvey, McIntyre, Thompson, Heames and

2009) do. Harvey et al (2009) argue that three forms of mentoring:


traditional, reverse and reciprocal are essential in todays hyper-competitive

global environment and particularly so for stimulating the learning of female
global managers. Furthermore, where mentoring of an expatriate woman does
occur it is likely to be undertaken by men because of the shortage of
appropriately experienced female international women although this is not
necessarily always seen as detrimental (Linehan and Walsh, 2001).
A key issue that has emerged is the lack of perceived value that organisations
have in regard to the experience that individuals have gained working
internationally (Begley, Collings and Scullion, 2008). This is reflected in
expatriates reported dissatisfaction with the final stage of the expatriate cyclerepatriation-the lack of support they receive from their MNEs when they return
home and the impact it has on their decision to remain with the organisation
(Bossard and Peterson, 2005; Stahl and Chua, 2006; Stroh, Gregerson and Black,
2000, Tung, 1998).

Not withstanding the importance organisations attach to

international assignments as a means of knowledge transfer and management

development, researchers have suggested

that the area is both under

researched and under developed organisationally (Bolino 2007, Lazarova and

Cerdin, 2007, Stroh et al, 2000 ). In their study of US firms, Pattie, White and
Tansky, (2010) found only 5-7% offered some form of training with less than 70 %
offering no training whatsoever and only 5% had formal career development
plans which utilised the repatriates careers. Whilst acknowledging that the link
between repatriation and career success is not straightforward (Bolino, 2007),
good practice suggests that repatriation expectations should be set at the predeparture stage of the cycle.

In addition, from a learning and development

perspective, by incorporating mentoring programmes during the assignment and

pre-return training repatriation training seminars on return, these expectations
should be met by a well integrated career planning and development process for
the assignee (Lazarova and Caligiouri, 2001).
Much of the above discussion and research into expatriate development has
focussed on conventional organizationally driven expatriate training as part of
the expatriate management cycle. This has two implications. Firstly, it can lead
to a very narrow view of expatriate learning and development.

The second

implication of what is a focus on organisationally driven expatriate development

is that it tends to ignore the development needs and practices of self-initiated
expatriates. The next two sections explore these issues.


2.2.3 The Role of Informal Learning in Expatriate Development

Recent studies
have demonstrated
the importance of host-country
management and support ( Shaffer, Harrison and Gilley, 1999; Hutchings et al,
2008; Kraimer, Wayne and Jaworski, 2001), the informal workplace learning
(Morrison, 2002)

and the role of local social networks in aiding expatriate

adjustment (Bhaskar-Shrinivas et al, 2005, Wang and Kanungo , 2004 ). Using

social identity theory, Stalker and Mavin(2011) define expatriates as out-group
members or other

and argue that they

could benefit from host country

nationals or third country nationals acting as socialising or informal learning

agents, providing role information , access to networks and resources. Indeed
Varma et al (2006) suggest that the perceptions attitudes and behaviours of
HCNs can impact not just the adjustment but also the learning about the
organisation, local practices and customs of expatriates. Interestingly Yamazaki
and Kayes (2007) study of Japanese expatriates working in the United States
found that Japanese managers became more concrete and more active in their
learning style during the time spent in the United States leading the authors to
conclude that the learning style of expatriates changes and adapts in response
to cultural demands. Social networks with HCNs and other expatriates not only
provide a sense of affiliation but may also be a source of information about the
host environment (Caligiuri, Joshi and Lazarova, 1999). Bhaskar-Shrinivas et al
(2005)s meta analysis suggests that that the performance of expatriates who

not well connected to their work units social networks is

likely to be

adversely affected, because they are less likely to receive local job knowledge
and support. Caligiuri and Di Santo (2001) go as far as to argue suggest that
networks can be more effective than pre-departure cross-cultural training.
The role of womens networks as a means of learning, development and support
has been well researched in a national context (Catalyst, 1999; Ibarra, 1995,
1997, Bierema, 1996, 1999, 2005). Consequently networks are seen inter alia as
a means of learning about corporate culture (Bierema, 1999),

as a way of

counteracting and navigating organisational patriarchal structures (Catalyst,

1999) and

for providing contacts and support

for career guidance and

(Hanson, 2000). The importance of formal and informal social

networks is seen to be particularly important to female expatriates.


(2011) suggests such networks are potentially a valuable career intervention for
women at each stage of the expatriate cycle and in particular on assignment and
repatriation because their lower numbers make adjustment more challenging.


Her study of female expatriates in the extractive industries found the women
valued the opportunities networks presented in preparing to go as well as living
and working abroad. However, whilst they were helpful in terms of adjustment
the majority of women felt they were not important from a career development
or promotion perspective. At the same time, working in a male dominated
industry the expatriate women found the value of a formalised female network
helpful although potentially divisive.
Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that accessing such networks is by no means
easy to achieve and research suggests that international women like their
domestic counterparts are less well integrated into organisational networks as
their male colleagues (Linehan and Walsh, 2001). Although evidence suggests
that they do take opportunities to join associations or womens networks not only
as a means of learning how business is done and to enhance their cultural
understanding but also for friendship (Napier and Taylor, 2002). Linehan (2000)
found that female expatriates, notwithstanding the difficulty in accessing male
dominated networks, experienced greater benefit from these because of the
absence of family and friends than they did in the domestic environment. Gender
differences in networks have been acknowledged for some time and, in
particular, the practice for womens networks of being more relational than
mens, which Bierema (2005) suggests may be down to womens pre-disposition
to relational and connected knowing (Belenkey, Clinchy, Goldberger and Tarvie
al, 1986). Furthermore, suggestions are that women expatriates experience
difficulty in accessing networks in a male dominated environment but not vice
versa (Bozionelos, 2009).
2.2.4 Learning and Development of Self Initiated Expatriates
Research into the learning and development of self-initiated expatriates is
limited and we know little about how individuals overcome barriers to their
professional development in the host countries (Ariss, 2010). Mayerhofer et al
(2004a and 2004b) suggest that self-initiated expatriates are often expected to
assume responsibility for their training and development. Both Howe- Walsh and
Schyns (2010) and Suutari and Brewster( 2000) make the point
organisations should do more


to facilitate the adjustment of the SIE both in

terms of his/her role and in the wider social environment although the former
authors suggest that the reality is more ad-hoc than planned. Mayerhofer et al
(2004b) argue that cross cultural issues are as important for self-initiated


expatriates as they are for conventional ones although the evidence suggests
that this group of assignees do not get the same level of cross cultural training
as their organisational counterpart (Tahvanainen, Welch and Worm, 2005). This
lack of support is also evident in the repatriation phase. Begley, Collings and
Scullions (2008) study of self-initiated repatriates to the Republic of Ireland
labour market found that the international experience of many of these
individuals was not valued in the indigenous labour market. This led them to
conclude that the adjustment to work following repatriation presents even
greater problems for this group than it does for their traditional counterparts and
furthermore to suggest that on appointment they will therefore need training to
be integrated into the domestic corporate culture before they can add value to
the organisations cross-cultural activities.
The importance of mentoring and peer support for self-initiated expatriates has
already been alluded to above. Bozionelos (2009) study of self-initiated
expatriate Saudi nurses found a positive relationship between mentoring and job
satisfaction leading him to acknowledge the importance of mentoring as a
resource for self-initiated expatriates in general and particularly for those who
are based in countries that are culturally distanced from their own and where
peer support may not be forthcoming. The results of the study also led the
author to suggest that mentoring and supportive relationships with peers
appeared to be far more beneficial to self-initiated expatriates than cross-cultural
training although he acknowledged that further research was needed before firm
conclusions could be drawn.
There is limited research that looks specifically at the development of female
SIEs. In one of the few studies to date to focus on the learning of SIE women,
Stalker and Mavin (2011) in their research into the development experiences of
12 SIE expatriate women in the United Arab Emirates, found that formal
organisational support for learning and development was lacking.

Faced with

marginalisation on account of their gender and foreignness the women in their

study chose to take responsibility for their own

professional and personal

development through their networks and contacts leading the authors

conclude that

further work is needed on informal and relational


methods of

learning in the context of SIE women. The authors found that in the absence of
organisational support female SIEs in the UAE, embarked on their own


professional development initiatives including studying for formal qualifications

and accessing professional networks. They relied heavily on informal learning.
For SIEs, the overseas assignment is also a means to enhance their career and
secure accelerated development (Myers and Pringle, 2005). Fitzgerald and,
Howe-Walshs (2008) study of professional women in the Cayman Islands shows
the extent to which this is attained. Writers have suggested that SIEs attitudes
towards their careers and the development

of those careers differ from

conventional expatriates in a number of ways and this has implications for how
career management is practiced within organisations (Banai and Harry,2006;
Biemann and Andresen, 2010). Begley et al (2008) suggest that one of the key
distinguishing features of a self-initiated assignment is that it is driven by an
individuals motivation to explore and learn rather than as a response to an
employer initiative. They are seen as free agents crossing organisational and
national borders without difficulty (Tharenou, 2009; Tharenou and Caulfield,
2010) and consequently that has implications for how careers are perceived.
Inkson et al (1997) argue that unlike conventional expatriates SIEs these
individuals plan and manage their own careers and are loyal to their own
professional development and career progression. They select their jobs for the
potential to provide more knowledge and judge their success not by salary level
but by learning related milestones (Banai and Harry, 2006: 171). Consequently,
the focus of their development is on the job training rather than formal training
programmes. Furthermore, not only do they feel an urge to move and migrate to
another country earlier in their career but their career orientation is sustained
longer at a higher age than their multinational expatriate counterparts (Biemann
and Andresen, 2010). At the same time, SIEs face organisational and institutional
barriers to their career development (Richardson, 2009, Ariss, 2010).
What is clear from the review above is general agreement that further research
is required into the less traditional forms of expatriation. The diverse nature of
female expatriation, particularly given that they are prevalent in a globalized
workforce is attracting further interest in research, but there are concerns over
how successful are their expatriate experiences. The importance of managing
the learning and development of employees is acknowledged for leveraging both
individual and organisational performance generally, although the ad-hoc nature
of such provision suggests a need for further research to investigate how HRD


strategies affects the experience of female expatriates especially given that

many women are not following the traditional organizational-bound route.
This study looks at the lived experiences of learning across the traditional
expatriate cycle for female expatriates from different nationalities following the










organisational route. We have investigated the perceived role of Learning and

Development phenomena covering formal HRD interventions such as crosscultural training provision, as well as less structured (but nevertheless important)
processes like informal mentoring from pre-departure preparations, up to the
adjustments needed to be made post-repatriation. It covers these issues both in
terms of personal and professional growth, as the women progress through the
stages of the expatriate life cycle (Fitzgerald and Howe-Walsh, 2008; Vernon,
Sparrow and Brewster, 2007), This is important for organisations as well as
individuals as the underlying concerns remain concerning the facilitation and
nurturing of human resources to benefit both individual and organisation. We
argue that acknowledging Learning and Development issues reveals the function
of both structured and unstructured learning exploring the role of individuals,
organisations and other actors in shaping the experience of female expatriates
through their journey. Employing this approach has enabled us to engage with
how the women themselves construct their own performance within international
contexts. Our qualitative empirical research is timely in light of the changes that
are taking place in the expatriate arena and we suggest will help in gaining a
deeper understanding of the lived experience between the female expatriates,
which is proving an increasingly rich source of insights for gender research (Xian
and Woodhams, 2008).
3.1 Research Aims
This research was designed as an exploratory qualitative study of the
development issues facing female expatriates in the context of boundaryless
careers. Specifically the study aimed to:

Identify what are the diverse development needs & experiences of female


Understand what are the tensions & issues facing female expatriates
particularly those following non-traditional routes (e.g. the SIE route) in
terms of their learning and development (L&D) needs.



Explore what is the perceived potential of available L&D interventions for

supporting female expatriates (pre, during and post assignment) and the
extent to which L&D supports female expatriates in practice


Understand how HRD might support the process of female expatriate

development and determine the future directions for research

3. 2 Methodology
3.2.1 Rationale for Approach
We employ a qualitative approach to investigate the social worlds of female
expatriates. In this, we reveal the negotiation of identity, the different voices
and understandings emerging from being confronted with unfamiliar situations
that not only challenge their extant theories-in-use (Argyris and Schon, 1978),
but reveal how the female expatriates learn to participate within these novel
contexts (Gherardi and Nicolini, 2002). Employing this approach enables us to
engage with how the women themselves construct their own performance within
international contexts. In tracing through the lived experience of the female
expatriates, we link with Elkjaers (2004) suggestion of a pragmatic view of
learning. In this, learning is understood as arising from the reflection that occurs
when habitual practices appear not to work these act as triggers for reflection.
Learning involves participants addressing this uncertainty by coming to
understand the situation, with its challenges and possible solutions.


envisages organisations as arenas of multiple social worlds, formed around

organisational activities to which individuals commit or not. This draws partly
from the traditional experiential learning theorising, with its emphasis upon
critical reflection on action (e.g. Argyris and Schon, 1978) as well as the practicebased approaches that focus upon communities of practice that form around
people with common interests and shared identities (Brown and Duguid, 1991).
Elkjaer (2004) suggests for learning research to focus upon the inquiry arising
from challenges to habitual practice such as when an expatriate goes abroad or
changes post.

This permits investigation into what happens when expatriates

face these challenges.

It gives an insight into how organisational practices

shape these social worlds and the implications for establishing roles and
identities: at individual, group and organizational level.









Pragmatic theorizing


organizations, groups, or even communities; instead, to focus upon the social

worlds of collective actions and interactions shaped by individual commitment
(Elkjaer, 2004: 428). Here learning is understood as both an individual and
collective enterprise and reveals the diversity of ideas, meanings, and power
bases that influence and emerge from the action or inaction, commitment or
withdrawal, from organizational processes. This is useful for investigating how
the female expatriates engaged, or disengaged, in their expatriate experience.
3.2.2 Data Collection
Data were collected by means of individual interviews, both virtually and face-toface. The qualitative approach allows response to highlight personal stories
through explanations emerges because of the explanatory and descriptive nature
of questions that were asked. Mann and Stewart, (2000) point out this method
allows a socially constructed world to emerge, allowing data to be collected
through the building of rapport with the interviewees. This fits in well with the
main aim of the research project considering a deeper understanding and
exploring the lived experiences of female expatriate working.
The level of depth and personal experience can be achieved effectively through
relationship building making the interviewees feel comfortable in disclosing
personal information. This makes it quite different from quantitative data through
questionnaires, diagrams and statistics which is known to create a detached
involvement with the research subjects (Glesne and Peshkin, 1999). Therefore,
the qualitative approach is seen appropriate and was suitable in achieving the
data that helps in developing a depth understanding of expatriate working.
The use of MSN messaging was applied to collect the data, primarily to enable
interviews to take place with interviewees dispersed around the world, which had
a by-product of helping to reduce the time spent on transcribing some of the
responses. Offline messaging and file sharing can be particular useful when one
individual is not logged in as messages can be sent and picked up when the
person logs in next. This can be particular useful when collecting the responses
of females who can send messages as and when they feel regarding any issues
that may arise. The response rate of individuals who use MSN instant messaging
compared to normal email is much higher more so as the responses are live and
being processed as the interviewee is typing.
The use of instant messaging via MSN was useful when communicating with
respondents living overseas or a long journey from the researchers.


It was

practical for dealing with such a geographically spread set of respondents in the
research project covering the globe. Furthermore, Watson (2004) suggests that
the saving of costs in terms of travel, time, transcriptions and expenses adds to
the advantages of using this particular type of method. The location of the
females adds to the difficulty in conducting interviews in a convenient and cost
effective manner and MSN provides a practical solution to these problems.
In a research project conducted by Davis, Bolding, Hart , Sherr and Elford (2004)
the use of instant messaging using MSN was applied and was found to be
particular useful in addressing sensitive issues as opposed to conducting
interviews face to face. This is particular useful when applying this to the females
when discussing certain issues might not be so easy through face to face.
However instant messaging makes it more difficult to develop effective rapport
and trust which could have an impact on the quality of data obtained.
Consequently, respondents were informed about the issues that the study was
seeking to address beforehand, to allay any concerns.
Aspects of the cycle were included in the research framework to scope the
experiences of both TFEs and SIE to help investigate their experiences in depth
(Brewster, Sparrow and Vernon, 2007). At the same time, the study aimed to be
particularly sensitive to the Learning and Development needs of female
expatriates from different routes. The open-end nature of the research questions
was deliberately designed to ensure that the analysis (as much as possible) was
not delimited by researcher assumptions. Our preliminary investigations engage
with the diverse journeys made by the women: with interviewees having
experiences of the different stages of the the global assignment cycle
(Brewster et al, 2007).

These journeys, whilst in detail unique, also reflected

links with factors such as generation, culture and levels of international

A copy of the interview outline can be found in Appendix 1
3.2.3 The Sample
Whilst the conventional view of expatriate is of someone sent abroad by an
organisation on a specific assignment, Engle, Dowling and Festing (2008: 4) refer
to expatriates more generally as those employees who are working and
temporarily residing in a foreign country. This is characteristic of all the female
expatriates in the sample, who have left their home country and are (or were
recently) working internationally. Daymon and Holloway (2002) point out there is


no final answer for the right sample size. However, Kuzel (1999) suggest that in
order to achieve a level of depth rather than breadth i.e. regarding the personal
experiences of female expatriates a sample between four and fifteen is a
satisfactory number to allow sufficient data.
The sample in this study consisted of a variety of women who have been or are
working as expatriates, from different sectors, positions and occupations. Each
generation group is included in the sample. In total, thirty interviewees were
interviewed for this exploratory study. A full break down of the participants that
have taken part is included in Appendix 2. The sample was gathered through
networks and snowballing (Fitzgerald, C. & Howe-Walsh, 2008). Each woman was
asked if she was aware of any other individuals who might be interested in taking
part in the research to help identify any other female expatriates that would like
to take part in the interview. Lee (1993) suggests that by asking members of the
sample for further contacts it will allow a network to be identified. This will help
source female expatriates who would be interested in taking part. Furthermore,
Fitzgerald, C. & Howe-Walsh, L. (2008) highlights personal contacts to be helpful
in finding potential female expatriates therefore these were contacted in helping
source female expatriates.

3.2.4 Data Analysis

Grounded theory is the most widely used framework when analysing qualitative
data and was applied to this study. There are number of tools of grounded theory
referring to theoretical sampling, coding, theoretical saturation and constant
comparison. It is best described as the interpretative method that share the
common philosophy the methods that are used to describe the work of the
person or persons under study (Stern, 1994:213). According to Collis and
Hussey, (2003) the approach builds theory that is faithful to the area that is
under investigation. The data collected from the females was organised into a
framework that aims to make sense of the information provided by allowing
issues to be grouped together (Glaser and Strauss, 1967).

Moving from

descriptive categorisation through to analytical categories that attempted to

capture similarities and differences in the reported instances enabled the
development of an empirical framework. This grounded theory approach has
proved useful in developing new theory in research topics that are relatively new
and unexplored.

It has been used to address aspects of female expatriation


(Fischlmayr and Kollinger, 2010). The study employed a largely abductive

approach wherein ideas are both inductively drawn from the data as well as
integrated with deductively drawn categories. Our data was subject to
theoretical sampling, involving the collection of further data in the light of
emerging categories, in order to refine the categories to ensure theoretical
saturation is achieved (wherein further coding no longer reveals new categories
and/or addresses the within-code variations). The comparative comparison
approach is then applied in order to allow further interesting codes to form under
sub-headings after scrutinizing the transcripts, which were then added to the
framework (Stern, 1994).
Smith (2004) points out that accounts of the interviewees need careful attention
with the interpretation of the data as there is a risk that in making sense of the
journey the researchers use their own interpretation: therefore an open mind
was considered to allow the details of the individual experience to be conveyed
effectively. We draw out themes from the narratives, reflecting the contextual
emergence of learning, noting temporal and spatial considerations (Elkjaer,
2004), when and where events occurred, and being sure to distinguish between










considerations for individual and organization.

The main aim of the study was to explore the interpretations females have of
their lived experience as an expatriate.

This was achieved by probing and

questioning through the interviews allowing primary research to be collected in

a detailed and sensitive manner.

In particular, whilst following through the

expatriate cycle, the learning and development implications of the female

expatriate experiences were explored. The first section explores the motives for
undertaking an expatriate assignment and this is followed by an exploration of
previous work experience. A detailed exploration of the expatriate cycle follows
in particular paying attention to the learning and development aspects. This
section then moves on to examine expatriate learning more widely, including the
formal and informal learning followed by issues of career development and
identity. The analysis finishes with an exploration of generational issues.

Motives for Going on an Expatriate Assignment


4.1.1 Choosing SIE or TFE Route

The interviews explicitly addressed the choice of the routes taken by the

There was no evidence that those who took the TFE route felt

under pressure to do so, contrary to the findings of earlier research (Stahl, Miller
and Ting, 2002).

However, it was noted by Expatriate 28 (TFE) that it was

difficult for her to obtain permission to go abroad, as although the company was
a MNC it tended to recruit from local workforces partly because it is a
franchised organization.
4.1.2 A Multiplicity of Drivers for Working Overseas
Respondents gave various reasons for working overseas and in addition to
personal reasons such as following a spouse, or to be closer to family and friends
or limited opportunities in the home country and there was evidence that the
move was development driven to some degree. Some women left their home
country for professional reasons to improve career prospects and enhance their
employability which is consistent with Jokinen et al, (2008) findings. For example
experience with a global company, exposure to different countries tax practises
and accounting standards (Expatriate 5 (SIE)), an international assignment
looks good on a CV (Expatriate 1 (TFE)).

Others found themselves facing

difficult employment condition in their home country for example no jobs in

Toronto at the time when I graduated and decided to leave for the U.K
(Expatriate 6 (SIE)). Some women found working internationally had more scope
in terms of their career compared to staying in the home country staying in
New Zealand didn't really have much scope with London, they will send you for
small projects but want you back!(Expatriate 2 (SIE)). Whilst others preferred to
have contacts that already existed in the country they were working in for
example the prospect of moving to a foreign country with no friends/family
PLUS the uncertainty of not knowing whether I would even like the new
company/colleagues might have put me off from resigning from a safe job at
home surrounded by people I love and a country I know (Expatriate 7 (TFE)).
Some women were motivated based on creating a gaining international
experience to develop a portfolio of managing international assignments that
would help their career for example the international experience was crucial to
developing my own global career as I want to work in a global organisation,





assignment(Expatriate 1 (TFE)).






Moving to another country specifically in order to study was a prominent reason.

The opening up of China enabled our Chinese respondents to come to the West.
The choice of becoming a student was taken partly because of the push of
conditions back in the home country (e.g. Expatriate 21 (SIE) had lived through
life under siege in Sarajevo) or the pull of opportunities to be able to
legitimately travel to a different culture.

However, these are not necessarily

either/or for the respondents.

Other women decided to work internationally because of their own desire to
travel more for example I left New Zealand to travel more and I have been
fortunate enough to land a job that allows me to carry out advertising shoots
across the world (Expatriate 3 (SIE)), thought of working and being able to
travel through Europe compared to just working in U.K (Expatriate 7 (TFE)).
Whilst others shared a passion for learning and experiencing different cultures
for example I have a passion for travelling having been to Ireland, Jordan,
Austria, Czech Republic and the Netherlands to live abroad and experience a
different culture and work environment first hand defiantly motivated me!
(Expatriate 8 (SIE)).
A number of observations can be made about female expatriate development
driven motives.

Firstly, our findings reinforce Vances (2005) model of how

individuals might initiate and implement their career strategy for getting
international experience. Secondly, the findings demonstrate clear generational
differences. The age range of the SIE route suggested that there was a
preponderance of women seeking to go abroad in their early 20s particularly
for studying abroad.

This was counter-balanced by those (e.g. Expatriate 16

(SIE)) who are currently abroad in their 30s or 40s. The latter support the idea of
older women moving abroad as free agents (Myers and Pringle, 2005). Finally it
is noticeable how the respondents seem to suggest a very ad hoc approach. For
instance, Expatriate 19 (SIE) commented that she did not actually plan to go
abroad and no plans as to how long to stay out of China as her decision to come
to the UK and other career decisions were made 70% on impulse. Conversely,
Expatriate 25 (SIE) stated that she came to the UK to study as she couldn't get
into uni in Finland, UK was the easy option! It is important to bear in mind that,
as Xian and Woodhams (2008) point out, it is not uncommon for women
(particularly Chinese) to underplay their decision making.

Previous Work Experience


Given the emphasis in this study upon Learning and Development, how the
expatriates drew upon any relevant experiences was investigated.
4.2.1 Years of International Working
Some of the women have previously worked internationally. Whilst expatriates 9
and 23 had only three years of international experience, other women, perhaps
not surprisingly, the older women had more international experience.


instance, the two oldest women (Expatriates 2 and 7) had over 25 years of
international experience each respectively as a SIE and TFE.

However, the

diversity of our sample highlighted how the age of first overseas position varies
greatly, meaning that younger women also had extensive foreign experience.
Some of the respondents had little or no experience of working in their home
country before moving abroad: for example, Expatriate 19 (SIE) only had
experience of vacation jobs. Others had more full time working experience in
their past, although not necessarily in the same sector that they now found
themselves in their host country.
Respondents not only mentioned whether they had worked abroad, but also
whether they had experience of going abroad for an extended period of time (i.e.
beyond a two week vacation) and the impact these experiences had on them
and how it influenced them in their future overseas experiences. Indeed, the
interest in travelling as argued earlier formed a motivation for taking an
expatriate route, consistent with Vances (2005) model.
We also asked the respondents for their experiences of their first working
position abroad.

For some, they were still on their first assignment (e.g.

Expatriate 23 (TFE)), so had not been through the whole expatriate cycle
personally. They consequently, did not have the advantage of those who had
worked abroad before to draw upon first hand experiential learning.
However, we note that being a first time assignee does not necessarily infer
lacking work experience abroad. For instance, Expatriate 28 (TFE), although she
had travelled for work abroad to the Far East numerous times for her that was
not working abroad to me that meant more like a prolonged stint out of the
country working, and so to that question, this is the first time (Expatriate 28


4.2.2 The Value of Previous Experience

There was variation in the womens opinions in respect to the extent to which
previous working experiences informed expatriate performance.

For instance,

Expatriate 17 (SIE) had worked for 10 years in retail in her home country (UK)
and was able to move into a similar retail management position in her host
country (Australia). Conversely, others found that their previous experiences did
not seemingly help to obtain a particular position, but instead informed their
attitudes towards adapting to the work place:
I think it wasnt that hard to me, because my two degrees totally irrelevant you
can see, especially things I do here, and things I do backwards, I had tonnes of
job experience back in China working in the hotel, in the consultant industry, so I
wouldnt think thats very hard to I get used to things quite quickly so it never
bothers me, change environment, that kind of thing. I actually quite fancy a
change, every couple of years. Ha ha! (Expatriate 20 (SIE))
Testimonies from other expatriates suggested that moving abroad, despite
ostensibly remaining within the same company, can result in having to meet new
challenges, not necessarily covered by previous experiences.

For instance,

Expatriate 28 (TFE) was working in the UK, but for the Olympic connection in a
different role from her experiences in the US.

This required her to act as a

project manager, running a team, unlike her earlier specialist role.


Expatriate Cycle

This section looks at the expatriate cycle and explores the womens experiences
at each stage of the cycle in detail from selection and pre -departure to
repatriation. It starts with a discussion of the length of the cycle and womens
experiences within it.
4.3.1 Projected Assignment Length
The expatriate cycle often has no specific time-limit for SIE (Howe-Walsh &
Schyns, 2010). Some of the women had experiences of the different stages of
the the global assignment cycle (Vernon et al., 2007) for example I am
traditional expatriate referring as being sent from the home country to the host
country via a pre-arranged agreement from an organisation. I did encounter the
stages of the traditional expatriate cycle; however I did not receive a formal







(Expatriate 1 (TFE)). Whilst other females who consider themselves being selfinitiated had experiences of the cycle as well for example in my opinion I did


encounter the stages as a traditional expatriate would have faced in terms of

being recruited through an agency, prepared myself with a brief cultural training,
performance appraisal in my various positions. However I have not experienced
the repatriation stage as I have U.K my permanent home (Expatriate 3 (SIE)).
All the TFE women agreed to take on managerial roles. For example the project
manager asked me to help his team with some business processes because of
my expertise and because the processes were been transferred before that I
went to learn how to deal with complex queries about devices (Expatriate 1
(TFE)). Some of the women used their own initiative to travel abroad to find work
rather than be transferred through an organisation for example yes, selfinitiated. My old Australian company and new English company are independent
of each other but members in an international network of agencies. I sought
employment at the UK one with my own initiative (Expatriate 9 (SIE)).
Those on assignments were asked how long they were meant to last.


proved to be significant as the length could be flexible. For instance, Expatriate

23 (TFE) found that her assignment length changed after she went there because
her client wanted her to remain, although her company wanted to repatriate her.
However, the (changing) length of assignment refers to TFEs.


respondents, particularly those SIEs who had moved to a new country for the
first time in their lives, many did have more than one position: often the early
positions being part time, low grade jobs (such as the Chinese expatriates
serving time in a restaurant).

Those women with a more substantial TFE

background also had experience of multiple assignments.

For instance,

Expatriate 11 (TFE) had been sent on a number of assignments from her current
and previous employers.
This demonstrates the complex nature of female expatriate careers.
4.3.2 Selection Process
There are suggestions that a common problem with the selection process is that
a decision is made on technical rather than cultural considerations (Harris &
Brewster, 1999).

The study itself noted how selection varies from the formal

Formal Selection: Some of the women were selected for their post once they
arrived in the host country via different agencies and going through a formal
selection process based on CVs, portfolios etc. for example, I spoke to number


of advertising recruiters who put me in touch with a potential creative partner. I

started off freelancing with the creative department for Channel 4 which was
based on my creative portfolio (Expatriate 3 (SIE)). Other women were selected
by recruitment companies for example I was approached by a recruitment
company who were contracted to fill our contract roles. I was then interviewed
by the project leader and was hired as a contractor (Expatriate 5 (SIE)).
Other women employed different strategies in order to successfully gain a
position. This might be through a combination of both CV and portfolio without
actually being interviewed for the position for example I have made contacts at
the UK agency when at two international conferences (representing my old
agency) in 2007. I stayed in touch and they let her know if a position opened up,
I supplied my CV and portfolio via email and they hired me 'remotely' as it were,
I did not have an official interview. My new boss had worked with me on projects
at those conferences and they also had verbal references from other people
throughout the network who she had successfully worked with in the past
(Expatriate 9 (SIE)). Others did have to go through an interview albeit how this
was carried out differed. In Expatriate 13 (SIE)s case, she had to go through
rounds both of virtual (telephone interviews) and face to face interviews,
because she was in Germany at the time.
The respondents from the SIE route tended to go through a similar formal
selection as local employees, even for part time positions such as university
teaching. For the TFE, Expatriate 11 had an interview for the Japan assignment,
but it was also a look-see visit, whereas in her previous position the selection
was based on her language competence.
Formal selection by a specific organisation was not the first step for SIEs. For
instance, Expatriate 16 (SIE) and her husband found speaking with the consulate
was important as, in order to gain a (temporary) residency visa they had to
demonstrate a good business case that they could offer sufficiently to the
country, given their capabilities ultimately they made the presentation in
Spanish, which she felt helped their cause.
Informal selection: Some of the women had been selected for international
assignments through informal chats that had taken place amongst senior staff
consistent with the coffee-machine approach (Harris and Brewster, 1999). For
example I was informally approached by the project manager who asked me to
help his team with some business processes (Expatriate 1 (TFE)). Some of the


women highlighted this is a common approach which exists in organisations

today for example it is often expatriate assignments are disclosed through
informal networks (Expatriate 1 (TFE)). Whilst others had been approached by
external agencies for example I had been approached by a head-hunter in
China (Expatriate 4 (SIE/TFE)).

Some women who were accompanying

partners/spouses decided to work on the project their partners had been working
on for example My fianc company contracts, the positions under his industry
fall into the job shortage category. Therefore I was able to work with my fianc
(Expatriate 3 (SIE)).
According to Harris

and Brewster(1999) in practice, much of the selection

process for expatriates is conducted through the coffee-machine approach

whereby an expatriate can actually start off through an informal chat taking
place amongst senior levels of staff in informal settings (e.g. over the coffee
machine) where employees are unaware of what is happening. The experience of
the TFE women seems to support this theory of informal selection and suggested
it was the most common approach their organisation disclosed international
Expatriate 17 (SIE) obtained her first overseas position through family contacts,
which she felt was advantageous for such a young teenager with little prior work
because I was going into acting, as my first degree, I was taking a couple of
years out. You dont normally go when youre 18 and the job was actually offered
to me by somebody that had known my Dad, who they wanted somebody in
their office for a year, and it was actually more an officially set up expatriation
because I had a flat provided, a car, and a wage, so it was pre-arranged in that
respect (Expatriate 17 (SIE)).
4.3.3 Pre-departure Training
Importance of pre-departure training: The respondents demonstrated that
some organisations at least recognised the importance of pre-departure
training. They reported having received some organisational pre-departure
training, such as in the form of briefings and site visits, so that they would be
able to interact in the host country effectively (e.g. Expatriates 4 and 10) and
this is consistent with the literature (Vernon et al, 2007). However, the other
expatriates did not universally experience this provision, thereby reinforcing the


findings of Harris and Brewster (1999) that pre-departure training falls short of
good practice in many cases.
It is suggested that SIEs have little or no knowledge of the local culture (HoweWalsh & Schyns, 2010) and this view was confirmed in the responses of a
number of the SIE respondents when they went abroad to work: such as the
perceptions that the Chinese expatriates had of the UK.

However, it was

pertinent for this study to note how the more experienced SIE expatriates
targeted the appropriate sources for cognitive, behavioural & motivational
knowledge cross cultural training (Waxin and Panaccio, 2005).
Self pre-departure training: This varied considerably. Some of the women
provided themselves with pre-departure training although this did not consist
necessarily of cultural preparation, especially where some women had visited the
host country previously and could speak the national language which was not so
different from their mother tongue.

Other women had thought it would have

been a better idea to conduct some research which would have helped reduce
the culture shock that had been experienced for example it would have been so
much better if I had carried out some research regarding living in the U.K more
so as she had experienced a lot of culture shock. I remember November was
really dark and depressing (Expatriate 2 (SIE))
Some of the women did not conduct any pre-departure training for example I
did not prepare myself for the U.K as I felt it would be relatively the same being
from an English speaking country (Expatriate 6 (SIE)). Having said this, others
carried out some ad hoc preparation, accompanied by drawing upon lessons
learned by previous exposure to the host country environment, particularly those
moving to the UK from English speaking countries, such as Ireland:
Id been in the UK for a couple of weeks whilst travelling in the past so knew
that the English culture was extremely similar to my own! (We all drink stupid
amounts of tea) That and the lack of language barrier were very reassuring. I did
do online research on the local towns - basic Wikipedia stuff really - and also
things like opening bank accounts, medical care for foreigners etc (Expatriate
10 (SIE)).
Organizational cross-cultural preparation:

Experience of organisational

training to support the assignment was mixed. Some of the women had been
provided with some form of pre-departure training that consisted of cultural
training prior leaving for the assignment for example I received a briefing on


culture and language training prior to leaving the organisation in the U.K asked
and visited the plant and the neighbourhood in which we would be living in
(Expatriate 4 (SIE/TFE)). The recipients noted the significant benefits of crosscultural training incorporating language and local knowledge of living and
working practices:
I did a week of intensive Japanese before I went, which enabled me to at least
direct a taxi, even if I couldnt tell where they were taking me, and some of that
covered the culture, but actually my language tutors did a lot of culture stuff
with me. Both of them they had both lived one in Australia and one in
Canada, and so they could having both lived in significantly different cultures,
they can see the things and I felt quite comfortable asking them well what is
this, why is everyone sitting here till 7 oclock at night, or 8 oclock at night,
whatever, and that was a useful actually non-threatening third party type
(Expatriate 11 (TFE)).
Conversely, other women did not have any pre-departure training from the
organisation. For example the organisation did not see it relevant to provide
any training due to the number of weeks the assignment was for (Expatriate 7
(TFE)) and I did not receive any formal cultural training prior to leaving the
home country even though there was a substantial time that was left between
me actually leaving. It would have been so much better if they had provided this
as it did have an impact on training schedules when the local were
commemorating religious birthdays (Expatriate 1 (TFE)).
Those following the SIE route had to rely upon their own initiative in order to
obtain some training.

Other organisations, such as the British Council, were

drawn upon instead. Indeed, the role of other bodies in providing information
from others experiences was highlighted:
I went to the events organised by the British council. twice I went [to hear] the
experiences shared by ex-UK Masters students it was quite useful... it set out
the expectations I think, what would I expect when I arrive, what would I need to
do, etc (Expatriate 12 (SIE)).
4.3.4 Expatriate Adjustment
Adjustment to Organisational






challenges experienced by respondents in adjusting to the particular culture and

their stories reveal how they learned to cope in a new organisation. Females are


known to find it difficult to adjust to male dominated environments (Mendenhall

et al., 1987). Furthermore, Harris (1995) claims that women particularly find it
hard adjusting in traditional cultures due to greater divergences in the societal
roles of men and women, this highlights increase pressure for females to perform
effectively on international assignments.

The sample included a number of

women working in traditionally male dominated jobs (e.g. engineering). Some of

the women adjusted well in male dominated environments for example I had
adjusted to the culture. I consider adjusting to the culture as being the most
important thing. I did work in a very male dominated environment and settled in
very well! (Expatriate 1 (TFE)). Moreover the same individual found males had
difficulty in adjusting to work with females and went to explain: I felt I had to
work extra hard when working with local male colleagues to get the work done
and did experience some pressure to get the assignment done especially
working in such a male dominated environment (Expatriate 1 (TFE)).
The narratives revealed that women still feel that they are missing out on
international assignments to males, not (in their opinion) because of their
inability to adjust to the environment, but due more so to biased gender
perceptions in the organisation. For instance:
I thought I was just as capable (if not more capable) than the other staff to
perform the role, however not being sent away was due to the girl" needed to
be in the office to do the admin work. There seemed to be a bit of an "old boys"
network. One of the guys from her team got approached that he had no
experience with an oil company who got the job offer even though I had helped
him write the paper who got a permanent position (Expatriate 5 (SIE)).
However, it is not simply that expatriates struggled with the host country
culture. Indeed, Expatriate 23 (TFE) found that it was easier to work with host
country (UK) male managers in the client organisation than her own
organisations line managers.

Whilst the former both made an effort to

understand programming, they also respected her judgement in making

decisions based on her knowledge. In contrast, her opinion of Indian expatriate
managers was different:
They just manage. They want to be administrators. They dont want to get into
the technical stuff, but here, the more theyve experience they even at the
simplest, up to the simplest level of that coding. They [UK managers] take
interest and get into the bottom of it, know what it is, but people India Managers


have just said we dont care, they dont want Managers. He is a Desk Manager;
he should be able to tell the end to end impact. He should he must know the
big picture, just not managing the resource management and time management,
which is usually all people [managers] from India do.

Theyre reluctant to, yes,

because they dont think thats their job. They just take the person who knows
the technical stuff with them everywhere (Expatriate 23 (TFE)).
The problems of fitting into a different working culture were not always related
purely to unpleasantness with their male colleagues. The attitudes of a female
boss, whose more forthright, aggressive style contrasted with her own:
I think there was the Manager of the Group, or the boss of that Group where I
worked, was a woman, actually my age, but very driven, very successful one,
and I think she didnt see me fit or I dont know why, I mean we did not have
any problems or any like work-related issues, maybe because Im not really I
tend to be quiet and Im not too like interact with people too much, maybe it was
that and I think it was some other people from that Group who told her or
suggested you know to consider me for full time (Expatriate 21 (SIE)).
This links with the concerns of Napier and Taylor (2002) that female expatriates
can struggle to adjust to the local women, as well as male colleagues.
There was an acknowledgement that one of the problems for adjustment
appeared to come from the lack of preparedness by the organisation. Expatriate
28 (TFE), although working for a large, well-established MNC, noted how few
expatriates, particularly female, were in the UK branch.

This was despite the

branch being a relatively large and important one for the European Region:
I dont think they've had any, besides there's only one other American in the
building, and she didn't come here for [current employer], she came here for
Burger King four or five years ago, and then has stayed on you know started to
work for us two or three years agoBut there isn't anyone else. Now we right
now have, I think, two people, two or three from here, that are working in the
States, so there's more folks that'll go that direction because that's our corporate
office, so a lot of opportunity there, a lot more people are hired, many times it's
to gain that knowledge to bring back here, as opposed to this other way around
where I was presumably bringing something of value from my previous jobs to
here (Expatriate 28 (TFE))


Adjustment to Country Culture: All of the respondents had examples of the

challenges of adapting to a different country. Expatriate 19 (SIE) was mugged for
the first time in her life within weeks of arriving in the UK, for instance:
we thought it would be a safe environment, especially in the economically
developed country, but I just I just didnt realise that there could be dangers
just around the corner and nobody I suppose you know that area nobody actually
forewarned us. The area we lived in was probably known to the general society
its not the most safe area for a foreign student to live, but there wasnt any
information available for us to find out. Expatriate 19 (SIE).
For her, this was a shock to her original expectations. Although the adjustment
for her as a Chinese woman took time, she felt more comfortable in the working
culture of the UK (see section 4.5.1). In contrast, as a gaijin working in Japan,
Expatriate 10 perceived herself as remaining peripheral to the workplace and the
society in general, commenting that:
I felt welcome however I always felt as if I would never be 'one of the gang', Id
always be the foreigner. the host country is quite closed culturally to foreigners.
It took about a year to get used to things and because I did not speak the local
language, it was very difficult even in day-to-day tasks like shopping. However, I
presented myself with an open mind and decided I would need to change and
adapt and that made things easier. I was lucky as I was surrounded by coworkers who were in the same position so I had support and could share this
with them. Expatriate 10 (SIE)

The effect of having previously studied in a country was explored by expatriate

24, who found the contrast between studying in the UK and returning shortly
afterwards to live was a challenge:
...well this for me was like that, you know, I just stayed there all the time with
students. We would go into London and back but I was not really aware of what
was happening in the wider context of the UK, I don't think I was until I came to
Liverpool, then you settle and it's totally different and you really interact with
the local people. I don't even think I had that many British friends when I was a
student, even the nature of the course I was taking, there were only very few


British students, most people were either from Taiwan or from other countries.
Expatriate 24 (SIE)
Respondents highlighted the importance of support from social network to make
the adjustment. For instance, a British Care Assistant found some unexpected
issues in adjusting to Dutch life.
I felt I had adjusted very well to the environment more so thanks to my friends t
hat were already in Amsterdam. Looking back i did feel some frustration as the c
ompany hadnt really told us about the culture and what to expect when arriving
in Amsterdam. This was not a big deal as I had friends who were living there and
were able to show me the ropes and brief me in terms of what to expect from th
e Dutch foke[sic].More so as i wasnot aware that Dutch are pretty reserved, I re
member going to friends dinner who was Dutch and found that people were very
reserved about talking about their personal lives. This I did find hard especially a
s I was used to talking about my life quite open. (Expatriate 7 (TFE).
Similarly, expatriate 13 felt that the UK should not be that much different from
Germany, but she found that the British had a them and us attitude towards
foreigners. Consequently, the adjustment experience varied between
individuals. This was a product of the expectations of the expatriate herself of
the host country, as well as of the industry. Expatriate 3 was an experienced
Copywriter from New Zealand who spent time in Hong Kong. The working
conditions in the latter were not a great shock to her, because of her industry
experience in advertising you work long hours anyhow, so I was used to working
12 hour days norm. The creatives in HK were amazed that my partner and I
turned up to work at 7.30am like usual (when the cleaners were there!), but then
again, we left at 8 or 9 pm, whereas they worked till past midnight! (Expatriate
3 (SIE)).

Organizational support for adjustment: Some women had support from the
organisation to help with the adjustment for example the organisation provided
us with a colleague who had been previously working on an assignment in the
host country. He played an important part in her adjustment in socialising with
locals and into the work environment itself (Expatriate 1(TFE)).

In contrast,

other respondents noted the lack of formal organizational support in making



In respect of induction, the SIE experience was generally that there was no
difference between the provision for them as overseas women and that given to
the local employees. There were differences of opinion in respect to the quality
of this induction.
Positive responses included a Taiwanese academic who had just started her first
year as a lecturer in UK University we had staff induction which lasted for a was very very good, we got to meet other new staff who started at the
same time...the staff induction was university wide, not based on the
department (Expatriate 22 (SIE)). Conversely, another expatriate working in
another department of the same institution had a very different experience It's
just like a day thing. I think it was probably a day of talks and then one afternoon
we did like a little tour of Liverpool. That was about itAnd I think it took place a
few months after I'd started. I think it's like once a year it happens. Some people
had it at the end of the first year (Expatriate 27 (SIE)). These differing
perceptions of the support given by the same organisation are interesting: they
could be explained by a number of factors differing perceptions on the part of
the expatriates, or the fact that Expatriate 27 (SIE) joined the organization a few
years before Expatriate 22 (SIE).
One issue that emerged from the experiences of the respondents was
homesickness: both its prominence as well as how they coped with this aspect.
The lack of communication channels for some was important.

For instance,

Expatriate 21 (SIE) noted that her years in the States were harder because there
was no internet connection or Skype available for her to use in the early 2000s,
whilst upon coming to the UK from Taiwan in the 1980s Expatriate 14 said she
knew little of the UK and she regretted it for first six months. I was crying every
A common theme was that, despite their homesickness, the women did not
regret leaving their home countries.
You always have your down moments when work gets stressful and the
homesickness hits but I've never once regretted my decision to come. I'm very
much a people and adventure person (the career bit is an added bonus!) and I'm
fortunate to have had luck on all three fronts, (Expatriate 9 (SIE)).
That women reported this as an issue is consistent with Linehans (2000)
assertion that women benefit from networks because they miss their family and


friends. The experience of being away from home impacted for different reasons
for different women.
Homesickness was not always simply a product of being away from home it
was also connected with other life changes, such as Expatriate 27s realisation
that she was no longer able to perceive of herself as a student.


homesickness was identified as a period gone through at the start of their time
abroad, it could reappear later on or periodically.









significance of being at an age that made it possible to travel abroad was

highlighted. This was both in terms of being relatively young and single, or older
and free of family responsibilities:
I think it was after that we actually thought about it some more, but for us, we
were in a very good position, children grown, my husband, when we had relocated to New Orleans, had sold his business in Chicago, so he came down to
help get the household set up and then he ended up really being stay at home
Dad, so he wasn't leaving behind a job, he wasn't needing to have to find a job,
my family, my parents, healthy, you know, there just didn't seem to be any
compelling reason not to come, from that aspect (Expatriate 28 (TFE)).
The lack of female representation in the workplace was discussed. Being in a
male dominated environment was still apparent but apparently less intimidating
than previous research suggests:
Sometimes I go to meetings, notice that 20 of us, and Im the only femaleAnd
Im a foreigner. Its amazing you know just feel like how did I end up to this
position and you know but the more you get into this kind of environment, you
start to get used to it. I sometimes I forget my gender; I just know I need to go
there and get my job done. It doesnt bother me any more, ha ha! (Expatriate 20
For Expatriate 28 (TFE), there was only two other females out of a cohort of TFEs
of around 30.
because ladies dont prefer to comeThats the thing, otherwise they may give
the opportunitys open, but ladies because they are coming to Im going
back so most of them came and some will have debts and they want to settle it
so theyll be coming for six months assignment. Theyre making have a kid so


they must fly backThey dont have no discrimination against you. Theyll
always actually theyll give more preference for ladies (Expatriate 28 (TFE)).
This seems to provide a slightly different picture from the extant literature (e.g.
Tharenou, 2008), which suggests that that professional females from poorer
countries are pulled abroad to escape disadvantage gender bias and lack of
Not female, male only. Female they dont the thing is, they dont feel they
stop the family. I dont know what that kind of feeling is, but they dont feel good
for them to stay single, without her parents, they dont want them to be alone,
and Im not married yet, so thats the other botheration, and they speak
differently because the parents are using me to earn money so it wont be
they wont think it the way they should. Its all cultural thing because women are
not allowed to go to work. They get married at the age of 23, just after their
studies, they dont even now it has changed because of IT boom. But they are
still the same in my area (Expatriate 23 (TFE))
When the issue of whether the expatriates were treated differently because of
their gender or culture, the responses varied.

Some felt that they had not

experienced any disadvantaging because of their gender or culture:

I have to say; I personally, didnt feel any difference. I dont know for the
applications that failed, you know, whether my gender or my nationality made a
difference, but for the jobs that I did do, I didnt feel much difference or being
treated differently, and I think except for the Chinese restaurants, Jerry and
Premier Inn and the hospital, and sometimes working for an agency that serves
banquets in hotels, you have a mixture of people from different countries,
different nationalities, so I know so boys and girls. I think the service industry
does attract a variety of races for the reason that you know I said about the
training because most time its not accepted for you to learn silver service skills,
but you know the general working requirements is not very high(Expatriate 19
Female participation, albeit not at the senior management levels, was not always
seen as a problem as articulated by Expatriate 9 I was the only girl on my team
when I began, but now its half half. We have women at every level in the
company bar the very top, and I've never encountered any negative treatment
of anyone due to gender (Expatriate 9 (SIE)).


On the other hand, others saw a mixed picture. Expatriate 3 (SIE) felt she was
not getting the opportunities to take on the better projects in her earlier
positions have learnt my lesson there!!!! in some agencies yes. In others, my current agency, no... I think my previous agency also had too many
people and not enough work too...a lot of very senior teams fighting over the
good briefs and not enough good stuff to go around!!!(Expatriate 3 (SIE)).
Expatriate 20 (SIE) referred to her development opportunities available in her
position with a UK engineering firm, but that other issues that made her leave
overshadowed these:
Yes, pretty much. I mean professional skills-wise, company always provide
these opportunities, but there was another reason why I left the {Engineering
Firm} because all of a sudden before half a year I was about to leave, they
changed their Director, and he is kind of I dont know, towards women or
something, become a big bully, and nobody likes him. The office was size of 10,
they reduced it to three of us, and I thought its not much point for me to stay at
all ................I dont know if it is because of the recession of not. Skill-wise I get
trained like anybody else and I do my job, but the promotion just happens really
slow because they keep on using this excuse saying because of the recession
and you know we cant afford to give you any pay rise or cant afford to do
anything, but my Line Manager helped me to push. I did get my pay rise but its
just the title never changed....Q: Yes, So But Is That The Same For Everybody
You Know?....No, because Ive got a fellow colleague who entered the company
the same time as me, hes now already the Senior and now my position is still
Assistant (Expatriate 20: (SIE))
4.3.5 Arrangements & Benefits
Relocation: The experience of having relocated on numerous occasions seemed
to be a benefit for the respondents.
I had tonnes of job experience back in China working in the hotel, in the
consultant industry, so I wouldnt think thats very hard to I get used to things
quite quickly so it never bothers me, change environment, that kind of thing. I
actually quite fancy a change, every couple of years. Ha ha! (Expatriate 20
Family considerations in general: The implications of having a family were
not high for the majority of our respondents, because many of them were single
without children.

Tharenous (2003) research has investigated the significant


challenge that having a family provides.





Our research reveals the hard work






assignment (Expatriate 11 (TFE)). The SIE respondents reflected the same

challenges, although for some the children were resident in their spouses home
country however, Expatriate 27 (SIE) and her husband moved to Thailand with
a child.
Trailing spouse: Traditionally, the concept of trailing spouse is associated with
a wife. However, for two TFEs (Expatriate 11 and 28), the role of trailing spouse
was something that their husbands seemed to cope with quite well. However, it
is noticeable that both were at stages in their careers in which they were able
(mentally, professionally and financially) to take a career break. Expatriate 11s
husband took time away from a very busy finance career; whilst Expatriate 28s
husband had his own business and was able to wind that down in order to spend
time as a house husband.

Both men became active in family duties (looking

after child, house hunting etc.). Nevertheless the change in role was perceived
to be a challenge. An expatriate career is a learning experience for the spouse
as well.
4.3.6 Social support
Social support provided by organisations: Some women had social support
provided by the organisation for example organized culture, language training
helped me feel more comfortable working in the U.K (Expatriate 4 (SIE/TFE)).
Some women felt let down by the organisation in not providing assistance in
helping to socialise with individuals in the host country for example the
organisation did not provide any support: I felt it should have been offered by
the organisation some sort of briefing to help with socializing with locals terms of
language, society norms and values (Expatriate 7 (TFE)). The women that had
been provided social support by the organisation in particular felt they were
satisfied with what they had received whilst others would have liked more
Non work support: Some of the women were did receive social support
provided by their mentors for example a colleague that who had already been
to the country who told me what to expect. He provided physical and emotional
support helping introduce to the local people who then provided support from
transport and creating awareness of festivals and public protests that were
taking place (Expatriate 1(TFE)). Whilst other women found support through


other groups for example through colleagues and women that I met at the baby
group classes I began to socialise with other individuals (Expatriate 2 (SIE)).
Some women found support to adjust socially in the host environment through
work colleagues and informal networks they became aware of for example
colleagues that had accompanied me on the project had worked in the U.K
previously and had creating contacts and by talking and socialising with them I
felt I began to adjust to the U.K smoothly (Expatriate 4 (SIE/TFE)). Some women
had expatriates already in the host country for example friends already out
there helped me in adjusting especially non work going out, socialising and
meeting local people (Expatriate 7 (TFE)).
4.3.7 Mentoring
The importance of and relative shortage of mentors and role models referred to
elsewhere (Scullion and Linehan, 2001; Harris, 1995) to assist performance and
adjustment was reinforced in this study. The females did indicate how useful
mentors were in helping to adjust to the host country and in some cases assist in
providing support for their career.
Some TFE women (e.g. Expatriate 1(TFE)) wanted the organisation to provide
mentors to help them adjust to the host environment and would have liked
mentors to help them through assignments. Other women found mentors/role










organisation. However, what is common all women could identify an individual

they could go to gain assistance in adjusting to the host environment. Some of
them suggested that, if it was not for the mentor, they would find it hard to
adjust hence having an impact on their performance (Expatriate 5 (SIE)).
Formal mentoring: Most expatriates did not have a mentor however some of
the women did highlight the need for mentor being beneficial assisting other
females to consider international assignments for example having a mentor
would have been useful which may have helped support other female colleague
as many of them decided not to go through with the international assignment. It
would have been ideal to help the other female colleagues offering insight into
how they have managed previously on international assignments and prepare
them for the journey ahead (Expatriate 1(TFE)).
However, it was clear that simply identifying a formal mentor was not a
guarantee of successful support for expatriate learning and development. For
instance, Expatriate 11 (TFE) had a supportive mentor originally when travelling


to Japan. However, later on the female mentor appointed for her had was based
in the Home Country (US) and did not like to travel abroad (e.g. would take own
food, only eat in Fast Food restaurants etc.).

In this event, having a formal

mentor was devalued: instead, Expatriate 11 (TFE) relied upon informal

mentoring from other sources such as a friend, a British man who went out to
teach English (TEFL) and who married a Japanese woman, who provided useful
insights and contacts into Japanese culture.
Informal mentoring: Some women however did identify other individuals who
they considered as a mentor or a role model for example I found support
through pregnancy and baby group classes the women who I came in contact
with acted like my mentors helping to support me through my time in the U.K
(Expatriate 2 (SIE)) and I would consider my manager who is a top creative
director as someone I aspires and has on several occasions asked for her opinion
of going for certain advertising contracts. She has been useful in helping me
through current advertising projects (Expatriate 3 (SIE)).
Whilst other women highlighted if it was not for these mentors or role models it
would have been more difficult in adjusting to the host country for example I did
have two role models that had helped me during previous assignments whom I
did look for support and help during the assignment latest assignment. It
important to have someone you can look up to and talk to especially during
international assignments. If it was not down to those two colleagues I would
have found it difficult adjusting (Expatriate 5 (SIE)).
Women in the sample have appeared to find other forms of support amongst
other individuals rather than relying on organisations providing mentors/role
models. Howe-Walsh & Schyns (2010) are very unclear on the precise role of
mentoring for SIEs, suggesting that We can assume that this is less relevant for
private expatriates (267), yet though they are familiar with the culture of
their country of choice, they may still need to be advised on business practices.
We therefore assume that both types of expatriates benefit from mentoring
(267). The experiences of the respondents suggested that mentoring tends to
be ad hoc and that mentoring would be a very important developmental tool.
4.3.8 Performance Management and Reward
Experience of performance management: Some of the women recounted
experiences of performance appraisals which they have encountered whilst
working on their position. for some this was not altogether satisfying experience.


For example I have had formal performance appraisal during the time I have
been employed in the U.K. They were conducted by the head of department, the
executive creative director. I would have liked them a little more often and
wanted to move away from the account mainly I worked on. However I did not
get a chance to discuss this through the performance appraisal more so as my
manager and I did not meet as often as I hoped we would have (Expatriate 3
(SIE)). "You've passed your probation period - keep up the good work" thing and
at 9 months had a formal review with my line manager (Expatriate 9 (SIE)).
Whilst other women found they had positive experiences of performance
appraisals for example I did have formal performance appraisals they were
mostly just a big group hug and thanks for being a good employee. They were
conducted by the director so they would be the best person to do the appraisal. I
have never had a bad experience during an appraisal (Expatriate 6 (SIE)).
Some women felt that specifically due to the nature of their assignment being a
contract basis did not experience performance appraisals. However traditional
expatriates felt they had been let down by the organisation who did not provide
any opportunities for them to review their performance for example I did not
have any formal performance appraisal during the two years I had been posted
abroad for. There was a lack of communication, with the home country whilst I
was working, I felt really let down by the organisation once I was in the host
country I was left on my own which is what I had not agreed to everything
seemed right before I left (Expatriate 1(TFE)).
However, some women found due to the host countries culture performance
appraisals were not the norm. Some women found managers in these situations
open to new ideas and introduced performance appraisals into the workplace for
example I had performance appraisal on a once occurrence culturally
performance appraisal were not big where I worked. However my supervisor was
very open to 'western' ideas and therefore when a colleague introduced the idea
of performance appraisals they were very open to it and tried it (Expatriate 10









management was carried out regularly such as those working in the UK Higher
Education sector (e.g. Expatriates 19 & 22).
Experience of Reward Management:


Cultural factors in reward management: Expatriate 21 (SIE) noted from her time
working as an engineer in the US that Government legislation appeared to her to
shape both reward and performance management strategies:
You know what; my Group actually consisted of quite a few foreigners, and in the
engineering field, even here, employs a lot of foreigners. There was some
Government rule there that to help ensure that they would not hire a foreigner
to pay them less than they would Americans, so that Americans did not stay
without jobs, so I dont think that my salary or my annual review was
significantly affected, perhaps there was some differences, but I couldnt tell. I
couldnt really come with evidence. They know thats one thing they know
that you I had a work permit and that work permit tied me to that particular
job, changing jobs was a major hassle, so basically they knew that I was fairly
flexible in terms of like switching jobs, something that, at that time, Americans
did on I dont want to say a monthly basis, but they would stay in one job two
months or three months and then they would move, just because they got a
bigger salary, so in the U.S., at that time, it was a known fact that if you wanted
to increase your pay slip significantly, you would have to change the job
Similar concerns were raised in other countries. In the UK, whilst working parttime for an SME, Expatriate 18 (SIE) was only paid on an hourly basis (10 per
hour), which she considered to be very unfair because she had won a large
contract with a power station in China. There were no financial bonuses at all.
Indeed, there were no performance-related bonuses at all. The only bonuses
were two bottles of wine each at Christmas, which were not linked to past
performance at all. She left soon after to pursue a full time PhD, and was
replaced in the SME by a full time employee.
Gender-related factors in respondent experiences. Expatriate 25 (SIE) was
asked about her experience of performance management in her current
employer (a university) It's been same from the beginning. However, haven't
been successful in promotions, and I feel strongly it's partially because of my
part-time contract. Having had kids, time off work, working part-time definitely
goes against promotions (although of course, it shouldn't..).


Expatriate 20 (SIE) did not know if there was a difference because she was a
foreign female, but suspected that there was a difference I think, from the job


Im doing at the moment, I suspect there is a difference. Its just really Ive got no
proof to push.
The gender factor had an unexpectedly consequence for Expatriate 11 (TFE).
I didnt, was the very long and short of it. I didnt even ask the right questions
about how well I did ask what housing was covered and what was subsidised. I
didnt push for anything; in fact my boss must have thought bloody hell shes
supposed to be in reward, why isnt she asking. I think I was just so excited by
the prospect to be honest. What became very apparent early on and which Ive
subsequently found is an issue is, and this is perhaps more to do with the either
the modern incidence of a woman being the lead mover where the spouse has
worked or dual careers, is the uplift that we got to move to Tokyo, the (41:31)
didnt cover my husbands salary by any stretch of the imagination because at
the time we went out we were broadly doing the same salary, and what
happened was that we were very lucky, we rented our house out, so the
mortgage was covered I think thats a harder discussion for a female
expatriate to have because its not the norm. I think the men Ive seen
negotiating for expatriate packages have always been more direct and specific
about their requirements than the women. If I think of the one weve got here
now, shes she just took what we said we were giving her, and was quite
happy about it.
It is interesting to note how, despite having a background in reward, this TFE
realised how nave she had bee in her negotiation. This is a significant learning
issue something that TFE expatriates and their employers need to consider.
4.3.9 Repatriation
Self supported repatriation: Many of the women had not received any
support from the organisation during this process and had to manage the whole
process on their own. The difficulties this presented are clear in the narratives of
these two individuals:
I did not experience any formal repatriation program and did not have any
support from the organisation during this process. I felt very disappointed and
stressed, during the time I spent abroad I had no communication with the home
country and knew once I arrived back I would have to start looking for work on


my own instead of being able to share my experiences with the organisation, I

felt very let down! (Expatriate 1 (TFE))
I did not have any support from the organisation when moving back to China.
The project was aborted and I felt pity that the project could not go ahead. I had
simply to pack things up and could not do much about the situation. I felt let
down and had to start over again after 3 years working and then going back and
looking for work as well as making new friends has been the biggest difficulty
(Expatriate 4 (SIE/TFE))
Some women found the repatriation more stressful then going to the host
country in the first instance for example I returned back as I always felt I would
be the foreigner and found the host country is quite closed culturally to
foreigners. It was quite demotivating and demoralising as I tried really hard to
'fit-in' but I knew |I never would. The country I went to was so 'different' when I
came back it felt like people were not interested in what I had done or where I
had been (Expatriate 10 (SIE)).
4.4 Expatriate Learning
4.4.1 Transfer of Learning
Value of international experience: The study explored the extent to which
the respondents felt that there was value in the assignment for them and
perceptions varied. Some women reported that employers were interested in
their experiences of expatriate working, for example:
I am more confident in my abilities now - and it showed apparently when I
applied for the contract.

The international exposure and the name of the

organisation on my resume will always be well received by future employers.

The general skills like people and project management that I picked up working
will always be helpful (Expatriate 5 (SIE)).
Whilst other females found employers less encouraging of their experiences for
example I starting from scratch as previously I worked in development in
America which is completely different than it is in the U.K. I now work for an
American Company so they do but my first job in the U.K they were all British
and it was not quite as open here to the skills I had gained through previous
assignments (Expatriate 6 (SIE)). This latter view of feeling that their expatriate
experience is not valued by employers is consistent with the findings in Bossard
and Peterson (2005) own empirical research of both male and female repatriates.


Transfer of learning barriers: Whilst there were those who felt that they could
transfer previous learning from before becoming an expatriate, others found it
problematical. This was partly because they had studied courses that were not
related to their jobs:
I think it wasnt that hard to me, because my two degrees were
irrelevant you can see, especially

to things


I do here, and things I do

backwards, I had tons of job experience back in China working in the hotel, in the
consultant industry, so I wouldnt think thats very hard to I get used to things
quite quickly so it never bothers me, change environment, that kind of thing. I
actually quite fancy a change, every couple of years. Ha ha! (Expatriate 20
Being able to put into practice any development experiences was highlighted as
being difficult. Expatriate 13 (SIE) was sent on a four day leadership training
course, from which she found it difficult to transfer the lessons learned as the
day to day job was so busy it was difficult to get time to practice. In addition, as
she was not in a leadership position, it meant that not always opportunities to
practice. However, some skills were put to use (such as active listening skills
being immediately useful for dealing with other staff).
Looking forward, concerns were raised over the transfer of learning in future
contexts. For example, Expatriate 22 (SIE) noted that although she now had
gained experience of academic teaching, it was all gained in the UK, along with
her postgraduate studies. Taiwan is the country I am familiar with, but in terms
of working as academic, I have no idea what it is will probably be
challenge for me once I go back to work in Taiwan.
Transfer of learning enabling factors: For some respondents, they were able
to transfer their learning from previous experiences into their expatriate careers.
For instance, Expatriate 19 (SIE) found that her student background in
hospitality, and her experiences in that sector, enabled her to deal confidently
when booking with hotels etc. For expatriate 20, it was familiarity with previous
systems that she found helpful for her:
Uhh with the finance side. Yeah. Because I remember the agency the
company I work, every agency I work before, which they use the same computer
system. I think its called ABS or something, yeah, that is the same the
mechanism so its not too bad to pick it up. My main duty is run the
department, make sure we invoice how much money per month. I need to reach


the target. Make sure the payments are paid to the suppliers and make sure all
the accounts management charging their clients correct amount of money
(Expatriate 20 (SIE)).
For others, the experience of having a similar position beforehand benefited their
performance. For example, Expatriate 26 (TFE/SIE) had worked as a HR manager
in a large entertainments corporation then moving to a similar position in a
smaller charity. Although, also she felt that taking time out travelling helped her
as well:
Because I'd already made the break, it wasn't as daunting, there wasn't as
much preparation for my personal life to do. I wasn't sure at that point in time
that I wanted to continue doing HR, I wasn't completely convinced. I certainly
wasn't at the point I am now, hadn't thought about doing a Masters, so I think
that's quite interesting because I think it can show how you can change a lot,
even in your 30's, about what you might want to do in the future, or what may
have not come to you yet in terms of thinking what you want to do later on, so I
wasn't absolutely I wasn't 100% convinced I wanted to stay in HR. I mean my
dream is to go and buy a chalet and live in a ski resort, but that's not going to
happen yet, so umm Working on different clients helps you learn about
different sectors and the best way to advertise them, but in general, you just
gain a better idea on how to advertise to certain targetsIn saying that, my
general skills mean I would be happy to go into a job advertising something I've
previously had no experience creating concepts for as a good creative you have
to get into your target's shoes...hence the theory that girls can write car and
beer ads and men should be able to do tampon ads!!!(Expatriate 3 (SIE)).
Whilst Expatriate 21 (SIE) did feel she was using some of her knowledge and
skills there was also a feeling of underutilisation:
Im not sure I use or transfer this knowledge consciously. My experience in the
U.S. was like so dense that here I feel like Im almost, even though Im working, I
feel like Im almost on a vacation, so Im not using all the potential or Im not
challenging enough. Im not saying that I miss that stress from there, but
definitely its more relaxed so I can spend more time on details, and I think
thats important because in the U.S. you reach one point where you get so
stressed that the quality of your work drops, so here, I feel things should be
more you know done more quicker, more efficient. Also, over here, things are


much more regulated so you dont have so much freedom in your work. In the
U.S. its like you have a problem, solve it, I dont care how you get to the
solution, where here, even more constrained, so there are pros and cons
everywhere, but what I feel like from my life abroad, just in changing
environments, you learn so much quicker about so many different things. I mean
you are forced to, to adjust, and to meet new people, to establish new
connections or make home in a new environment. I mean it seems to be its
happening to a lot of people. Everyone is moving around the planet, things that
were not common, that common, like even 15/20 years ago now(Expatriate 21
4.4.2 Exploring the Learning Process
Formal learning: The provision of formal learning by organisations for the
female expatriates was variable.
Expatriate 14 (SIE).

This is noticeable with the experience of

She found few training opportunities whilst working as a

Taiwanese expatriate for a home country organisation, she then moved onto a
major oil MNC, where she commented that: They send you for courses, they
send you for training, and send you to go to different places, and its absolutely
wonderful opportunity, thats if you want to learn (Expatriate 14 (SIE)).
However, her later experience at a UK firm was that little provision was given I
think I was too busy to implement a new system, new way, to making changes
and also when I started the job, it was massive, it merged three departments
into one, my department, so was a lot of things needed sorting out. The staff
needed sorting out. The system needed sorting out. A lot of, lot of things. No, I
didnt get any training (Expatriate 14 (SIE)).
The lack of formal learning provision was partly reflected in the length of contract
as well as the sector. For example, Expatriate 19 (SIE) on coming to the UK from
China had a succession of jobs in the hospitality industry, local Chinese
restaurants as well as UK Hotel Chains:
I think the only organisation where I did have a little bit of training in the official
sense, as in you were called in, sit in a room, and being told about this
companys history and culture and what youre expected to do, was [UK based
Supermarket] (Expatriate 19 (SIE)).
I dont get really any support. I think partly because they want me to explore
what other opportunities are there in the Far East, and they do not speak the


language, and Im the only person who can speak the language, so with the job
role of exploring, you know, what has opportunities there, I didnt get much
support with regards how to search for information and things (Expatriate 18
The lack of provision for training was not limited to those who took a SIE route.
For instance, Expatriate 23 (TFE) was assigned from India to the UK she noted
that the pressures of dealing with clients immediately after arrival meant little
opportunities for formal development:
No, the thing is, they dont have enough time they dont usually have enough
time for training. The client will be expecting us to start the work on day one,
and they are assuming that we are trained well enough before and we have
hands-on experience but most of them wouldnt (Expatriate 23 (TFE)).
This was common,


felt across

both male

and female


Interestingly, she noted that there was some provision:

...but it was very stressful because it didnt go the way it was intended, no, so it
was dropped. The Manager was pushing it too much to come to his place, on
Saturdays to conduct the training, which we were not happy Yeah, not office,
at home, concepts, basic questions. Which was redundant but we were forced to,
so I didnt like that mandatory it was not from the company, it was the
persons thing, so he was sent back its not its against the
policies(Expatriate 23 (TFE)).
Formal learning experience included university study:
I was a professional student, you know, I definitely knew how to study, how to
get organised to prepare all these things, how to get most out of the lectures. It
turned out that Financial Engineering is actually more engineering than the
finance, so it was not that big of a departure from my engineering field, lots of
mathematics there, but anyway, it was very interesting and I met some very
interesting people on that course, Professors, so I enjoyed that quite a bit
(Expatriate 21 (SIE)).
It is noticeable how the Higher Education sector provided formal learning
opportunities (e.g. Expatriate 15 and 18). Compare the experience of Expatriate
18 (SIE) going from no support whatsoever in the UK SME, into part time


lecturing for a local University wherein she was given the opportunity to receive
training in such matters as handling the classroom, marking, all delivered inhouse by the University. Similarly, Expatriate 15 (SIE) was given funding to take
specialist courses to support her development as a library information officer:
They encourage us, apart from the formal courses, like the STD, UD, staff
development scheme is paying something formal visit to other University,
because Im doing quite a specialist unit here is a self access area for the
language centre so its not quite a general thing or a library situation, and Ive
got a chance to visit different University language centre, resource centres, both
here, local, and overseas cause last time, four years ago, I went back to Hong
Kong. I said ooh can I take the opportunity to visit say a few Hong Kong
Universities there, and then they say yes, and then I got some extra money and
the time as well, so its then my holiday, but but it was a very good way to
enrich the sort of experience, to share, basically sharing experience and see how
people run their place and I can bring back the good bits and then we can sort of
streamline our operation better (Expatriate 15 (SIE)).
But, this picture does not reflect the experience of all the respondents working in
the HE Sector as this account from Expatriate 12 (SIE) suggests:
. not much in [1st University] as a RA [research assistant]at 2 nd University [ft
lecturer], I followed the teaching certificate programmeI did not particularly
seek learning and development supportthat was the problem.. i didn't know I
needed it.

I know the basics... I teach, I do research, and I do adminthe

expectations for research changed in the third year of my position at [2 nd

University]. I did not manage to pace up between colleagues, I did not interact
as much either so the L&D probably did not come from colleagues........ Q: what
do you mean by 'pace up'?.......Expatriate 12 (SIE): to step up the expectations
to push the publications throughthe planning etc ....Q:how did you learn to
cope with this situation?......Expatriate 12 (SIE): It seems that I don't learn very
fastI am taking some learning and development programme within [current
employer -

University]it is a coaching and mentoring programmeafter 6

years in academia, I realise perhaps I do need some help in L&Dyou can assess
the info from our website I think (Expatriate 12 (SIE))
Other respondents reported being given training on special technical skills, but
finding the informal learning from colleagues more helpful.


I went on those

workshop.... but to be honest, I found talking to the staff who work on the same
module is far more useful than the faculty training workshop (Expatriate 22
SIE). This importance of informal experiences is discussed below.
Informal learning: The significance of informal learning (i.e. outside of training
courses etc.) was noted by the expatriates:
The initial period is always copying from your colleagues and then, after a bit,
you find, when you are familiar with your job enough, youre confident with what
you do, you start to have thoughts about this system didnt suit me, Id rather do
it that way. Either way, I achieve what is expected what was expected for me
to achieve, then it was okay to alter the current order of things. (Expatriate 19
For some of the expatriates, informal learning was the only way to learn how to
perform in their role.

For instance, upon being made a part time lecturer,

Expatriate 22 (SIE), found there was no formal training. Her learning constituted
hands on experience if I had problems, or not sure how to conduct the group
discussion, I would ask other staff who also teaches on the same module for tips,
also I would sit in their sessions (Expatriate 22 (SIE)).
4.4.3 Learning Outcomes of Assignment
Explicit perceptions of identifiable learning outcomes by the respondents were
centred on learning that is focused upon their development professionally as well
as helping their personal development as an expatriate.
Professional learning: Expatriate 16 (SIE) (an HR Director) noted that, whereas
in the UK, there are readily available academic and CIPD/ professional
connections, in places like Chile there are few such connections. She was still
able to use internet (e.g. for CIPD website and other resources). However, she
felt that she needed to work harder to maintain her CPD.
Personal learning: Going abroad to Chile helped RC learn a lot about
resilience levels and how you deal with people and how you react to
challenges, which then can be translated into a professional role ..and I
really enjoy going abroad, meeting different people, involve myself in different
cultures, I think it's very exhilarating and I think if you have the opportunity to do
it, it's really beneficial and not just for that time but when you come back into
your working environment, I think it gives you valuable experience, gives you


insight, I'm more motivated than I was, and it gave me direction(Expatriate 26

Expatriate 10 (SIE) reflected upon how her employers had perceived the value of
what she had learned:
Yep. Both, again, exposed me to different working practices etc than I had been
used to in my Aussie agency. I think it has given me a broader education in best
practice etc... Plus the hands-on work I did was, again, in line with the kind of
work I'm doing now..... Q: so you have found employers interested in your
experiences?.......Expatriate 10 (SIE): They don't ask directly what I got up to,
but in terms of my personal learning I think the experience enables me to be a
better employee now....Q: have you found employers positive in terms of your
experience or perhaps your skills?...Expatriate 10 (SIE): Yep! I get to use a
pretty broad skill set because the creative department is very integrated and we
all jump in to help when we can. So my illustration, photography, concepting,
writing, client liaison etc skills have all come in handy (Expatriate 10 (SIE)).
In expatriate 16s words, her advice was to ride the waves and enjoy it
because succeeding as an expatriate is all about being able to take risks mental
positioning is important as there is often no family or friends close by to help
support in a difficult situation: therefore she and her husband have had to keep
Developing language competence:

Not speaking Spanish, the offer of an

assignment for her husband was seen by Expatriate 16 (SIE) as a very useful
opportunity for her in order to develop her language skills, apart from O Level
German and French, the opportunity to experience a very different working
culture (her husbands company actually paid for her to learn the language).
Provision of language training from employers was noted by TFEs Expatriate 11
(TFE) was given Japanese lessons provided by the company, Expatriate 4
(SIE/TFE) was provided with language training after arriving in the UK.
Yeah its basically integral adaptability, like they teach the basic English, like we
dont understand someone asks are you alright, we dont get it because, are
you alright (in an accent!), people will see their lips moving, itll be done and
theyll be waiting for a response [for us]So theyll teach us and then we call
curd but it is yogurt hereWhen I did look into that, which is standard stuff,


they have training material, so all basic English, and then some warnings like do
not use idioms, phrases because you dont really know the meaning of things,
youll get into trouble (Expatriate 23 (TFE)).
Expatriate 23 (TFE) came from India, where English was the official language.
For those who did not have that background, language acquisition was a more
piecemeal experience. For example, coming from Croatia, Expatriate 27 (SIE) as
a young adult was taught by a Croatian woman with work experience in London,
as well as having a background of summer schools in the UK as a pupil. Others
(e.g. Expatriates 12, 19) had gone to language centres in order to pass language
competence tests.
The significance of being able to demonstrate language competence in the
workplace was commented upon by Expatriate 11 (TFE):
That look on their face when they go oh no, she knows what were talking
about, it was priceless, it was priceless, and that wasnt even anything fun, it
was the Sales Commission Plan, but you know the fact that I could say no, no,
no, guys, its not then its then, not that date youre talking about, that one, and
they all went huuuh! That was yeah, it was good. Interestingly though I was
the only ex-pat whod taken the exams and maybe that I passed that me
wanting to have an aim in something, you know, I want to be able to do more
than order pizza and be polite.
Language competence provides a clear opportunity for the expatriates to
integrate into their workplace, as well as a barrier. Another expatriate in Japan
lamented that it was quite demotivating and demoralising as I tried really hard
to 'fit-in' but i knew i never would. For example i could speak the language after
3 years to a proficient level however when I spoke to host country nationals they
always spoke to me in English, it was very frustrating (Expatriate 10 (SIE)).
4.5 Expatriate Career Management and Development
4.5.1 Positive Assignment Experience
The interviewees responses provided clear evidence of positive experiences
and reflected the flexible nature of the workplace.

For example Expatriate 2

(SIE) had transferred from a long-term part-time contract to a permanent parttime member of staff I realize this is not how most employment works
(Expatriate 2 (SIE)). Another talked of how she came to widen her experience:


it wasnt an internal only job, but it was an internal job because of a change of
position and project, so the person who originally worked on this post had to
unfortunately re-apply, and of course I didnt know that, and I applied too, and I
suppose in a way I probably (inaudible 46:07) the interviewers to be a capable
person so theyve decided that they could open up a position for me as well, so I
started on this project, in April 2004, and I worked on it for about three years,
but after two years, I wanted a change. Because this department that I was
working for was known for its ability to applying for external funded projects, and
so there would always be bids and new projects coming in, so I worked on this
particular project for two years and then there was a new project coming in
which this first project was only UK based, yet this new project came in 2007 and
was more of a European project, and it involves three or four different European
countries, and it interested me, you know, way of just trying something different,
meeting different people, especially people non-British people from other
European countries, European organisations (Expatriate 19 (SIE)).
This experience helped expand her understanding of what she could do within
the organisation:
I think probably as I become a bit more experienced in working in the UK and in
working in the organisation, you know what is rightly yours, what you are
entitled to get, as far as your personal and career development, so you are a lot
more Im a lot more daring to ask for certain opportunities to be made
available to me and, of course, then there is again you have to combine your
personal pursuit with how you balance what your job responsibilities, what the
Department can offer you, should be respected in a way that you have to take
care of what you do for the Department at the same time as developing yourself,
in as many ways as I can find, and then of course, the PDRs are a lot more
regular now, you know, owing to the effort probably myself and the Head of
Department and the Managers. The general feeling is if youve stayed in your job
for some time, although the content of it has changed a lot, over the past few
years, like you say the METP and even accreditation and any other projects,
varied projects, that you know went through seven or eight different projects,
but the generic areas was you know a similar so the general understanding is,
after a certain time, you would want to put your energy into something different,
and so its just a matter of time when thats being catered for, that appetite for
learning something drastically different(Expatriate 19 (SIE)).


4.5.2 Female Expatriates Managing their Global Careers

Some of the women felt they were taking constructive steps towards managing
their career and found having worked internationally previously was an added
bonus for example I was able to apply the skills I have gained through the
assignment into my position now. The international experience I have gained has
prepared me for future assignments. This is crucial to managing my own global
career as I want to work in a global organisation (Expatriate 1 (TFE)).
Some women consider edmore personal and individual goals that have
influenced their career development:
I want to win more advertising awards and eventually take on a Creative
Director role it as about being able to produce good work and win awards. I do
not have a set path in terms of career. I am working on more interesting projects
to help create a portfolio (Expatriate 3 (SIE)).
Some women currently did not have career path but did have an experience of
an organisational career path for example I have not really considered it and do
not have a clear path. I finished university, with the Chartered Accountants
program (which is what you are expected to do when you work for the big
accounting firms).

Within the big firms there is a usually a clear path -

accountant, senior, manager, partner. This I did follow... (Expatriate 5 (SIE)).

4.5.3 Women Expatriates did not Consider Managing their Careers
Some women when asked had not considered much regarding their career and
did not like the question. Instead when asked where they see themselves in 5
years time women identified differing career aspirations. For example, Expatriate
10 (although currently a student after working as an expatriate in Japan) was
quite clear what was her career plan. She stated that I would like to join an
organisation in a role related to my studies and with an international element,
and would like to be in that role for about 3 years and then be promoted to
another level, so after 5 years I would like a second promotion (Expatriate 10
(SIE)).Conversely, other women felt they had come to the end of their working
life. For example, I am not considering it and I feel I have reached the furthest
in my working life. I have worked in the hospitality industry for over 25 years and
have a lot of experience but do not wish to continue working in the same field
(Expatriate 7 (TFE)).


4.5.4 Career Path Expectations

The respondents discussed how their expatriate experience fitted into their
career expectations generally. For some, the opportunity to go abroad was
paramount. Working abroad helped to clear the minds of some respondents:
No, I don't think so. I remember when I was in Austria, I remember thinking
about what I might do when I come back, and everything seemed much clearer. I
can't really explain it. I think it's just a feeling, things seemed much clearer
about what I wanted to do, what I didn't want to do, what was important, what's
not so important, and I think you can get really caught up in city life and
everything can tend to sort of get on top of you, and I think taking that break,
meeting new people, having a different way of life, when you go back, perhaps, I
was certainly more motivated and secondly I think I had I was able to give
fresher ideas, different perspective, and maybe that was a result of being around
lots of people all the time, younger people maybe(Expatriate 26 (TFE/SIE)).
For others, this experience was a negative one. Expatriate 19s original wish for
a managerial career in hospitality was changed because of her UK experiences in
the sector.
Not all of the respondents thought about their careers long term. For instance,
Expatriate 10 (SIE) was concerned about her responses not being too clear in her
interview hope this sounds ok, I tend not to think of 5 years down the line.
Similarly, others were unclear as to their future path:
...working in the hospitality industry for over 25 years I have alot of experience
and had been
contacted by Crown Plaza asking me if i would like to work with them and seeme
d very interested in discussing my experience in Amsterdam. I just feel being 60
years old I dont just want to be the old crock and just there to fill the position.
So i decided not to take the position up though they seemed very positive i just f
eel i dont want to go back into that environment. Im still searching as to what i
want to do now im back i have got myself involved in some voluntary working wi
th mental sick adults. But my experience of working abroad made me realise the
re so much more out there and i advise youngsters to get out there and explore,
you only live once. Im 50 50 at the moment might stay here a few months and h
ave a holiday home somewhere nice and warm the weather in the U.K is appallin
g(Expatriate 7 (TFE)).


For some, the expectations did not change but were reinforced. The experiences
of Expatriate 20 experiences of working in the UK had not changed this ultimate
goal of owning her own business. Indeed, her expatriate experience left her tired
of being overlooked for promotion etc. so wanted to become her own boss:
And at the end of the day we decided it wasn't going to be negative, but we
weren't going to come back as some lucrative expat as often happens where
they're paying me and paying for everything, so I can just put all this money
away, so that's not us, but it wasn't bad either and all the benefits that we saw of
having the experience and international just still made it worthwhile, but that
was at that point then became the another decision, because if it could
have been a standard expat package, it would have been easier, but because it
couldn't, then it did become harder (Expatriate 28).
It is interesting to trace the respondents and how, over time, their expectations
have changed. For example, Expatriate 14 (SIE) studied in a UK polytechnic as it
was part of her plan to work in the Computer industry. However, after working as
a programmer in various UK companies, she had become a translator, with no
intention to go back into business.
The problems of pursuing a career as a professional female were highlighted
particularly strongly by a Finnish lecturer in the UK:
However, haven't been successful in promotions, and I feel strongly it's partially
because of my part-time contract. Having had kids, time off work, working parttime definitely goes against promotions (although of course, it shouldn't.)
(Expatriate 25 (SIE)).
Direct comments were made as to how changing career path expectations
reflected their learning: about the technical aspects of the job and their own
personal development.

As expatriate 23 noted when reflecting on her

understanding when she came to the UK from India:

Yeah I knew nothing because I worked at a different lower level when I came
here [to the
UK] I knew that Its You can feel secure only if you get to know things,
technically, very well, so I went deep into that and I had good relation with the
people from those other vendors [mentions other IT companies] who are working


with Lloyds, they know the development, so we do the testing, so if you are
getting well with the level of work, and obviously you cannot move.
Development will tell you guide you what it is because Ill point his
mistakes, and hell give other option, and Ill be learning more, itll be nice
(Expatriate 23 (TFE)).
This she described in terms of now having the confidence to be more proactive
in career planning Yeah, we know how to sell ourselves!(Expatriate 23 (TFE)).
Future path issues identified by the expatriates included the challenge of having
a spouse who does not come from the home country (e.g. Expatriate 14 (SIE)).
4.5.5 Career Changes/ Career Breaks
Some women on the other hand decided to leave behind what they had
experienced of traditional career routes in their home country in the pursuit to
work more flexibly in the host country for example I am not too concerned with
titles / promotion as long as I am getting better at what I am doing. I left my
home country as I felt quite tied down to the position I had been working in for
the last 5 years. I want to travel and work a shorter week so I can visit more
places whilst I am working, this I feel I could not have achieved being employed
in my home country (Expatriate 9 (SIE)).
Indeed some felt the host country offered more scope in terms of their career
compared to staying in the home country staying in New Zealand didn't really
have much scope with London, they will send you for small projects but want you
back!(Expatriate 2 (SIE)).
Some of the females identified gaining international assignments in the pursuit
to satisfy personal goals they had for example I left my home country to
become a Creative Director (Expatriate 2 (SIE)),
4.5.6 Attitudes Surrounding Choosing SIE vs. TFE Routes
The respondents discussed issues surrounding the choice of either the traditional
route or alternative route.

For some, personal attitudes shaped the choice.

Expatriate 9 (SIE) stated that she did not consider following the TFE route
because this wasn't my first time as an expat so I was pretty confident it would
be easy.
Others also made assumptions about what route to take. Lack of perceived
opportunity shaped some choices reflecting attitudes in the home country. For


instance, as Expatriate 3 (SIE) explained agencies in NZ don't tend to send

people overseas. Either they are too small and don't have multinational contacts,
or they will send you for small projects but want you back!

Expatriate Women and Identity

4.6.1 Own Identity/ Nationality

Expatriate 11 (TFE) felt that it was important for her to be seen to learn Japanese
and show an understanding of the Japanese culture in order to be more accepted
by the Japanese co-workers/ subordinate.

But Japanese society is rather

misogynistic and the Japanese working environment at the Japanese [previous

employer] branch was a female manager who they appeared to feel had been
foisted upon them. However, in her experience, the Japanese working society
seemed to be more accepting of UK colleagues than the US especially, she felt,
those who try to learn about the language and are more outgoing. For instance,
Expatriate 11 (TFE) quickly learned to say go home to subordinates in order to
demonstrate to them that it was more important to focus upon the delivery of
targets, rather than remain at work tired (presenteesim).
The narratives revealed how the respondents represented themselves to the
interviewer. This revealed their reflections upon themselves and their identities
as a non-native:
I suppose working experience in Chinese restaurant was just part of the
traditional clich that Chinese students normally do I was working part-time in
Chinese restaurants, part-time, couple of weeks, in British restaurants, which
doesnt well didnt take me anywhere, and the only thing it did it made me fed
up with kitchen and restaurant serving, and getting ready to serve breakfast at 6
oclock which doesnt float my boat at all, so then I suppose next conventional
route at the time that was available to me was to see whether I could find any
office space work, and I think the first one another clich is you would find a
company who would want to employ a Chinese speaker to be able to further
their trading experiences or relationships with China which I did apply for some
jobs in trading company, but Ive not got a single offer because I dont have or
didnt have any business working experience (Expatriate 19 (SIE)).
The interviews encouraged reflexivity from the respondents about their
identities, cultural in particular, but also incorporating age as well as a Hong
Kong Chinese national mentioned:


I think because I came to came abroad at a relatively older age, there are a lot
of things that I dont think I would change to the British way at all, and so theres
always going to be a combination of Chinese-ness and British-nessValues you
hold towards things, life, jobs, values you hold towards your family and how
people behave in general, how they learn, how society should be like, how law
and order should be imposed (Expatriate 19 (SIE)).
Another expatriate, from Mainland China, reflected on her own identity in the
light of her experiences abroad as student or trailing spouse.
I always see myself with international people rather than just a specific Hong
Kong/Chinese or as such, cause I make friends while that year in Norwich, with
people from different countries, and doing different things, doing Degrees, and
different walks of life, and I always thought that oh theres only about 12 hours
flight apart from home, so as I say, at that time, I do feel a bit nave, yeah, its
just sort of extended the what is it called the international village, global
village idea, Im just moving away from home a little bit further than say normal
people do, and that is the thing that sort of keep me going

(Expatriate 15

The awareness of naivety is an interesting comment, because another Chinese
expatriate took a much more cynical view behind her choice of expatriate career.
in China I thought the employment environment wasnt that great because you
work long hours and the reward wasnt a lot, and you are under a kind of
pressure. If youre getting older you might lose the opportunity to carry on
(Expatriate 20 (SIE)).
This comment reflects the difficulties for women in the Chinese labour market
(c.f. Xian and Woodhams, 2008). All three of the Chinese expatriates mentioned
above followed the SIE route and have married UK nationals, albeit Expatriate 15
(SIE) met and married her British husband in Hong Kong.
4.6.2 Identity Perceptions of Others
As the above comments suggest, the expatriates make sense of their own
identities partly through their re-presentation of other cultures. This influenced
their choices of potential targets for expatriation, as a Canadian expatriate


A: Well being Canadian, I thought the cultures would be very similar and they
are in a lot of ways its not like I was moving to China or anything...Q: so
there were no hidden surprises when you arrived?...A: Beyond the cost of
living no (Expatriate 6 (SIE)).
The importance of being aware to the surrounding culture was seen as
important. Expatriate 11 (TFE) would start work early deliberately, so that she
could leave at a reasonable time, thereby enabling the others to leave at a
sensible time without losing face. She also attempted not to send e-mails at 8
oclock in the morning in order not to pressurise them into replying in the
evening. In contrast, one of her bosses was posted out to Tokyo and did not try
to understand the Japanese culture, was very much a Red Neck:
Im working in the language centre, apart from the team members, is the users
from over the world, so again, you can pick up bits of local culture, bits of say
the social customs here and there and, again, I think the key thing is I have bit of
an open mind. I dont want to be say really restricted to what I conceive to be
right or wrong or his to be this way, Im a bit flexible in that sense. It is an
advantage, helping me to adapt to a new environment(Expatriate 15 (SIE)).
4.7 Expatriate Women and Generational Factors
4.7.1 From Baby Boomer to Generation Y
There was a spread of ages in the research sample between 1949 and 1986
covering the Baby Boomer to Generation Y.

Glass (2007) claims that

individuals brought up in difference generations have different sets of beliefs,

values, attitudes and expectations which all can have an impact on their
experiences of working. In his study of the two groups who make up the largest
parts of the workforce, Sirias (2007) points out Baby Boomers are considered as
individuals who are loyal and have more of an attachment with the organisation
whilst Gen Xers have been considered to be less loyal and more individual
compared to previous generations. According to Chen and Choi (2008) Gen Yers
value the need for work-life balance, retirement factors in job choices, intense
use of technology and having more expectations of themselves. It was
interesting to note how respondents from different generations shared common
attitudes towards expatriating i.e. the idea of travelling more and being more
culturally aware than their grandparents were (for example expatriates 2, 3, 5, 9


and 10). Indeed, some women agree to having more expectations of themselves
(e.g. Expatriate 3 (SIE), wanting to win more advertising awards).
4.7.2 Third Culture Kids
A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is traditionally seen as someone who has spent time in
his or her formative years living in another culture (Szkudlarek, 2010). In our
project, Expatriate 11 (SIE)s son, born to two British parents in the UK, but living
and schooling in Japan for three years from the age of five, provides a good
example of a TCK:
..he did three lessons a week, one was language, one was culture, and we
only found out two months before we left how much hed picked up our
housekeeper had picked him up from school. It was chucking it down with rain,
as it only can in Tokyo, the stair rods, and they hailed a cab, got it, and whilst
she was grappling with the umbrellas and all this sort of stuff, umm, shed given
the address to the driver and he turned round and said, oh, is it off a particular
road, she hadnt heard, but James had, and he said oh yes, and then proceeded
to direct the driver in Japanese, so and [the housekeeper] was like amazed,
and she reported this to us and we were equally amazed, as hed said you know
turn right, turn left, stop here, and all that sort of stuff, and wed never have
given him the opportunity, because we had always spent our time arguing about
which of us was gonna direct the taxi or whatever it was, so he picked up really
quite a lot, culture-wise he did (Expatriate 11).
Other women had children who were born and brought up in the host country
(e.g. Expatriate 21 (SIE)) who seemingly had adapted to the host country
although expatriate 21 was herself very concerned at the implications of growing
up in a threatening environment in a northern UK city. However, the term has
evolved to cover those people who were raised within different cultural
worldviews, without ever leaving their country of birth (Szkudlarek, 2010: 11).
Expatriate 17 herself, as an adolescent, experienced moving abroad to work
and how that experience influenced her worldview.

Furthermore, some of the

younger womens espoused attitudes could be identified as being akin to TCKs,

for example, I am more open to different cultures than my grandparents were. I
have passion of travelling and meeting people from different cultures which has
become a main priority in life and plan weekends away abroad quite often
(Expatriate 10 (SIE)). Some women who do not fall under this definition and have


been found from different generational groupings (Baby Boomer women born
between 1946-1961) shared passion for travelling for example I am more open
to different cultures than her grandparent were during her time abroad I have
managed to travel the world extensively over a 25 year period (Expatriate 7
The respondents had similar attitudes right across the different generational
groupings in terms of their motivations for international assignments for example
the issue of travelling and interesting projects. However some respondents from
the baby boomer grouping had more of an attachment with the organisation for
example; I decided to stay with the organisation for 24 years (Expatriate 7
According to Selmer and Lam, (2004) TCK third culture kids who are more
culturally aware than previous generations may not need as in-depth crosscultural training. Some of the women support this perception, highlighting they
did not conduct any pre-departure cultural training as they already felt that they
knew what to expect and had visited their host country previously.
Expatriate 29 (SIE) was very open about the influence of her mother. She was
raised with Croatian traditions in Germany, but her mother deliberately wanted
her to learn German and integrate and make friends in Germany: Expatriate 29
(SIE) followed this deliberately conscious policy when she came to the UK.
Similarly, Expatriate 30 (SIE) was the daughter of Dutch parents, so was open to
more than home country (Australia) influences in terms of furniture, language
and food.
However, as noted above, a key point that emerged from a number of
respondents was that overlooking pre-departure training proved to be a problem.
5.1 Womens Learning and Development & the Global Assignment Cycle
Our preliminary investigations engage with the diverse journeys made by the
women: with interviewees having experiences of the different stages of the the
global assignment cycle (Vernon et al., 2007). These journeys, whilst in detail
unique, also reflect links with factors such as generation, culture and levels of
international experience. For instance, the motivations to go abroad are many
and varied, including both personal and professional factors. We also note the


rise of women coming from previously closed countries (e.g. from China), as well
as the diverse experiences of women making adjustments to work in different
industries and sectors, alongside those more experienced women who have a
mixture of both SIE and TFE positions. From a learning perspective, we explore









experiences into current assignments both from positions at home and

internationally as well as the benefits of applying knowledge gained from
previous assignments into future positions.

Our research supports the view of

Altman and Shortland (2008) advanced earlier


for organisations



that it has never been so




opportunities for them to develop their career through overseas assignments;

especially as the skills required for organisational leadership positions require
international experience. It also reaffirms the assertion that organisations must
in future pay careful attention, not just to managing the development of the
traditional expatriate (TFE) at each stage of the life cycle from selection and predeparture training to repatriation (Collings, Heraty and Morley, 2006; Dupuis et
al, 2008 ), but also to managing their SIEs (Ariss, 2010; Banai and Harry 2006).
What are the diverse development needs & experiences of female
expatriates? The research has explicitly explored the expatriate cycle. A key
issue to be considered is the impact of previous experiences upon the individual.
The naivety highlighted by some of the respondents whether in respect to their
preparations and first expatriate posts and/or how they struggled to adapt to the
realities of their situation reflects the role of informal learning as much as
formal learning activities. The significance of previous experience of expatriate
working is something that emerges from the narratives of the women. Having
experience of working abroad is a decisive factor that differentiates the
experiences of the various women. Respondents following a SIE approach found
that they had to take a greater responsibility for their development (in
professional and personal terms).
It is interesting to note that the concerns raised by both SIE and TFE about HRM
and HRD issues relate both specifically to their status as female expatriates as
well as more generally to problems surrounding HR and HRD processes. For
instance, concerns as to the effectiveness of reward systems within organisations
for incentivising workers generally.


With the SIE respondents this can be explained because that they are ostensibly
treated the same way as home employees. There are differences in the
experiences between SIE and TFEs. For instance, it is important to remember
that the selection process also includes the selection of the organisation by the
SIE herself, because the decision will have been made after moving.


important issue that arises from the SIE respondents is how nave they felt in
their job hunting experience in targeting employers, understanding how they
needed to take on responsibility in developing themselves and their careers.
The study helps to understand the tensions & issues facing female expatriates
particularly those following non-traditional routes (e.g. the SIE route) in terms
of their learning and development (L&D) needs. The findings reveal how the
respondents have been able to transfer the skills they have gained into their new
roles. Some of the respondents have found employers interested in their
experience whilst one of the TFEs found her home country employer not be
interested in the experience even though they had been sent by them to work on
the assignment. Some SIE have found it difficult to transfer what they have
learnt more so as the jobs they have applied for are quite different to the work
they had previously carried out.
It is important to note that whilst research has hypothesised that SIEs may have
little or no knowledge of the local culture (Howe-Walsh & Schyns, 2010); the
evidence of this project suggests that this is not always the case. It was the case
for some of the SIEs in our sample, but others have made concerted efforts to
understand not only the practicalities of day-to-day living and working but also
about the working culture.

However, it is significant to note how this is

characteristic of the more experienced expatriates (e.g. Expatriate 16 (SIE)).

What emerged from the respondents were the challenges that they faced in
respect to managing their learning and development in terms of ensuring the
acquisition of appropriate skills as well as learning to participate within their own
working milieu.

Consequently, we have explored the implications for female

expatriates careers (and their own identities) as they reflect on their

development through their experiences, both personally and professionally. This
is not necessarily a smooth progression, indeed, it is clear that the expatriate
experience has been a difficult one for a number of the expatriates as they
manage the changes in their evolving career path alongside changing family


We explored further the implications of organisational learning and development

strategies failing to grasp the significance of a changing, internationalised,
female workforce.

In this, our findings resonate with wider issues in extant

For instance, the frequency of failure generally in expatriate

assignments has highlighted the significance of expatriate preparation, such as

pre-departure training and cross-cultural training (Tarique and Caligiuri, 2004),
with the precise nature and content of learning and development interventions
mediated by contextual and situational factors (Mendenhall, Stevens, Bird and
Oddou, 2008). From a gender perspective, we engage with the perceived lack of
support, particularly from the organisation, for females pursuing global careers
and the role of women mentors and role models (Linehan and Scullion, 2001), as
well as the functions of female organisational networking (Varma et al., 2001),
and social support (Caligiuri and Lazarova, 2002).
5.2 Emphasis upon the Product and Process of Learning
Elkjaer (2004) demonstrates how synthesizing both the dialogic-focused and
practice-focused approaches allow us in order to understand the social worlds in
which actors contribute to their collective sense-making.

This is because

learning is a combination of skills and knowledge acquisition (product) and

participation in communities of practice (process) (Elkjaer, 2004: 429). Looking
at the social worlds of the expatriates we see that they are embedded within a
network of relationships that transcend organisational boundaries. Therefore, a
practice-focused learning as participation perspective unveils a consideration
for the tacit knowing required to participate in a particular organizational and
national context which can be very different from previous experiences.
5.2.1 Product: Expatriates need to develop critical learning skills particularly
to become independent learners (to draw upon diverse sources of Learning and
Development support). The importance of becoming reflective practitioners is

but how does this happen to what extent does (or can) organizations

support this, or inhibit it? The focus of learning is not merely upon formalized
training and development, but the significant role of informal or incidental
learning (Watkins and Marsick, 2001).

The key to engaging in higher-level

learning is the ability to apply critical thinking. Proponents note that this should
apply widely, from education through to politics and religion (Paul and Elder ,
2001). They add a second level of thinking to the prejudices of ordinary (first
order) thinking. Through reflection, the learner can progress through stages in


order to develop as a critical thinker, from an Uncritical Learner (unaware of

significant problems in her thinking), through to a Master Thinker for whom
skilled and insightful thinking become second nature (Paul and Elder 2001: 22).
However, as gender theorists have pointed out, learning is more than simply a
matter of acquiring the knowledge and skills of these members, but of having a
deeper understanding of their identity, and of ones own identity gradually
approaching this (Paetcher, 2006: 16-17).
What emerges is the lack of content knowledge and the extent to which


expatriates had to acquire it in order to survive in their new countries.


involved knowledge about:

the working culture in the new country

the expatriate procedures at the organisation (for TFE)

the working culture in the organization (particularly for SIE, although also
for TFEs transferring to other parts of ostensibly the same organisation

The ability of the expatriate to cope with the demands of moving to

another country and/or organisation and/or position.

The more experienced expatriates noted how they developed their resilience
levels (Expatriate 16 (SIE)). This came through informal and incidental learning
(Watkins and Marsick, 2001) as well as (to a lesser extent) formal training and
development. The importance of informal mentoring and the perception of role
models was investigated (from a gender perspective, the importance attributed
by some to female role models) within and beyond the organisation, for instance
previous employers or family members.
It was noticeable how expatriates with experience of working in multiple
countries were very proactive in ensuring that they liaised with the sources of
information (e.g. Embassies).However, whilst useful ,even informal and incidental
learning can become obsolete or out of date (Watkins and Marsick, 2001). The
context of the expatriate experience is an important factor. Power and political
factors within organisational contexts can make it difficult for expatriates to
apply their learning in the workplace.

Becoming aware of the gender and

cultural differences and how this impacts upon the expatriate experience was


important : from disadvantages in job-hunting to adjusting to the workplace and

getting promotion in the workplace.
This connects with concerns raised in extant literature about how power
inequalities can inhibit learning and the impact upon the womens perceptions of
themselves and their position in the workplace. Consequently, appreciating the
content of OL needs to encompass not only the rational and cognitive, but also
the affective. Indeed, Vince and Saleem (2004), amongst others, have noted,
learning requires and is constituted by the affective as well, for example, the
presence of fear in organisational cultures can militate against a reflective
culture (Vince, 2002).

This emotional aspect can be seen in some of the

responses reflecting the difficulties of dealing with bullying line managers and
unsupportive environments.
5.2.2 Process of Learning : female expatriate learning can be understood in
terms of attempting to become a participant within a number of communities of

These are found at the organisational level, as they move into new

organisations, working in unfamiliar sectoral cultures etc. as well as wider

communities at national level. There is a link here with the recent research that
has begun to explore learning in terms of learning to participate within a
particular situation (Salminen-Karlsson, 2006; Stalker and Mavin, 2011).

It is

important to note how the expatriates adjusted to their new working










problematical, partly due to cultural and personality factors. It is interesting to

compare the diverging experiences of women during their expatriate career.
Expatriate 16 (SIE), for instance, who was able to become a full time employee in
France, yet struggled to get into the job market in Morocco. It is significant from
the narratives how the women had to work their way into male dominated
environments: reflecting the concept of legitimate peripheral participation
(Brown and Duguid, 1991).
Gender, particularly in respect to the situated learning literature, has been
accused of smoothing out issues of gender and power (Salminen-Karlsson, 2006).
Introducing gender into situated learning does not primarily mean doing gender
studies. Rather, it means accounting for gender and power in studies of situated
learning, whatever their focus (Salminen-Karlsson, 2006: 44).


However, Elkjaers depiction of social worlds recognises individual and group

differences in organizations.

It is suggested that the social worlds metaphor

opens the eye to see that participation not only involves the strive for harmony
but due to the focus upon the making of participation through commitment, it
opens the vision for the emotional elements of organizational life and work to
tensions and conflicts reflected in the different commitments to organizational
activities (Huysman and Elkjaer, 2006: 8). Following through the journeys of the
expatriates, it is possible to follow the activities in the expatriate cycle, from predeparture preparation to repatriation. In turn, it can be seen how the individual
(e.g. the expatriates or their local colleagues) and the organisational actors
engage with these activities.
Importantly, these learning connections can extend beyond national boundaries.
This gives rise to many opportunities to learn from other cultures, but also can
lead to many problems. The impact of cultural differences has been covered by
many, building upon the pioneering work of Hofstede (Hofstede, Bond and Luk,
1993). These issues will be increasingly important to globalised industries for
their employees host nationals or home country expatriates to appreciate
how to work together in practice: to learn how to participate in communities of
practice (Brown and Duguid, 1991).
5.3 Exploring the Potential of Learning & Development to Support
Female Expatriates
Our research looked at the provision and needs of learning and development
across the traditional expatriate cycle for female expatriates following different

Whilst the term learning and development is superseding human

resource development (c.f. Harrison, 2004), the underlying concerns remain in

respect to the facilitation and nurturing of human resources to benefit both
individual and organisation.

We argue that taking such a Learning and

Development lens exemplifies the function of both formal and informal learning
as well as exploring the role of individuals, organisations and other bodies in
shaping the development of female expatriates.
The lack of cross-cultural training provided by organisations has been identified
as an issue. Organisations need to provide adequate training so female
expatriates are aware of the host country culture and be able to adjust
effectively. This can be provided prior to leaving or through the time the
expatriate is on the assignment. SIE can also benefit from carrying out self


training particularly when leaving for countries that are very different from their
home country. Becoming aware of what to expect on arrival can help prepare
female expatriates for the different cultural that exists in host country.
Our tentative findings raise concerns for the effectiveness of organisational
learning and development provision in the new millennium, with its globalised,
organisational workplace.

In this we link with wider critical concerns (Vince,

2003) that there has not been a significant movement away from a traditional
HRD model of training being done to passive learners, with insufficient concern
for the needs of a diverse workforce (particularly overlooking gender or cultural
issues), and little consideration given for transfer of learning from the individual
to the organisation.
Whilst the experiences of pursuing an expatriate path do reveal significant
learning and development opportunities for women pursuing an international
career, questions remain surrounding the level of preparedness of both individual
and organisation. We note the implications of both formal and informal
organizational policies such as the impact upon those women marginalised in
attempting to perform within male-dominated environments, raising connections
with wider learning theory surrounding the challenges of effective participation in
their social worlds (e.g. Elkjaer, 2004: Gherardi, Nicolin and Odella, 1998).
Ultimately, attempting to deliver high performance in 21 st century global
workplace provides a significant challenge for both individuals and organisations.
Clearly, given the mixed experiences of the SIEs in their experiences of learning
and development support by their employers, there is a connection between
HRD and Talent Management In contrast to an assignment, the self-initiated
expatriate chooses the organization. Therefore, HR interventions can play a vital
role in developing their organization as an employer of choice. Thus, positively
engaging with potential candidates is arguably as important as the actual formal
selection process. (Howe-Walsh and Schyns, 2010: 266).
So, whilst the experiences of pursuing an expatriate path do reveal significant
learning and development opportunities for women pursuing an international
career, questions remain surrounding the level of preparedness of both individual
and organisation. We note the implications of both formal and informal
organizational policies such as the impact upon those women marginalised in


attempting to perform within male-dominated environments, raising connections

with wider learning theory surrounding the challenges of effective participation in
their social worlds (e.g. Elkjaer, 2004; Gherardi et al, 1998; Salminen-Karlsson,
2006). Ultimately, attempting to deliver high performance in 21 st century global
workplace provides a significant challenge for individuals and organisations.
6.1 Implications for Organisations
Organisations need to provide adequate training so female expatriates are aware
of the host country culture and be able to adjust to the latters cultural milieu
effectively, whether provided prior to leaving or during the time the expatriate is
abroad. We also note the benefits from carrying out self-training when leaving for
countries that are very different from their home country, as becoming aware of
what to expect on arrival can help prepare female expatriates for the different
cultural that exists in host country.

The SIE respondents articulated how little

specific concern is given to the development needs of female expatriates. The

research highlights the challenges facing the recruitment of female expatriates,
as well as the retention and effective exploitation of their human capital.
However, it is not simply businesses that need to address HRD issues.
Particularly, the importance of support provided by other bodies (such as
Government or NGOs) for living in the host country has proven to be of mixed
value to the expatriates particularly for inexperienced SIEs.

Those more

experienced SIEs were able to exploit these resources, particularly in their

The GMAC (2005) survey highlights that only 20% of organisations had crosscultural training as compulsory: a low percentage when compared to previous
studies. This connects with the comments by some of the TFE females who found
their organisations not providing any cultural training support at all (e.g.
expatriate 1 and 7).
The interviews revealed the perceived lack of understanding on the part of some
organisations about the practicalities of employing expatriate workers. Even in

28s organization

her expatriate



seemingly little

experience of managing the expatriate cycle.

The responsibility of the various actors emerges as important from the data.
This supports recent comments by nascent SIE research, because as Howe-Walsh
and Schyns (2010: 264) note One could argue that if an individual decides to


expatriate, his or her adjustment and acculturation is his or her own

responsibility. However, in order to gain advantage from self-initiated expatriates,
organizations must try to smooth the transfer from one country to another
professional HRM policies and practices can assist the expatriate to perform at
the expected standard from early on. HRM can become a unique selling point for
the individual organization in the competition for global talent.


need to provide adequate training so female expatriates are aware of the host
country culture and be able to adjust to the latters cultural milieu effectively,
whether provided prior to leaving or during the time the expatriate is abroad.
However, we also note how particularly SIEs can benefit from carrying out selftraining when leaving for countries that are very different from their home
country. Becoming aware of what to expect on arrival can help prepare female
expatriates for the different cultural that exists in host country.
In addition, we argue that it is not just businesses that need to address HRD
issues. Particularly, the importance of support provided by other bodies (such as
Government or NGOs) for living in the host country has proven to be of mixed
value to the expatriates particularly for inexperienced SIEs.

The use of

information provided by Government agencies in the home countries was a

valuable resource that Expatriate 16 (SIE) had noted helped her and her husband
when preparing their case to establish their eligibility for a working visa
6.2 Implications for Individuals
The findings are equally important for women in todays global but uncertain
economic context and it has been suggested earlier that women in the face of
barriers within traditional routes may choose a self-initiated route to expatriate
employment. Employability is an important consideration for individuals at all
stages of their career and training and development is central to that.
6.2.1 Generational Issues
Most of the expatriates were in the Generation X and Y categories. Shaw and
Fairhurst (2008) discuss the implications of Gen Y characteristics on graduate
learning and development and make the following assertions.

Firstly, training

and development initiatives ought to aspire to a level of security for Millennials

and be used as a retention tool and an opportunity for their CV enhancement.
Secondly, the importance of maintaining Gen Y engaged in the culture of the
organisation, through innovative use of technology, relaxation of status and
hierarchies, the encouragement of meaningful social interactions, work- life


balance and genuine care for employees.

Thirdly, early, regular and honest

feedback to ensure tailored approach to personal development and ample

mentoring and coaching opportunities. Whilst these points are relevant to both
men and women, arguably in the light of the findings in this study, they continue
to present considerable challenges for Generation Y women working on
international assignments
6.2.2 Development of Communities of Practice
What is clear from the respondents is the importance of knowledge gained
through informal sources, rather than formal organizationally provided provision.
The informal and incidental opportunities (Watkins and Marsick, 2001) from
social networks, or from connections made in the workplace, are indicative of
research that emphasises how learning is a primarily social phenomenon
situated in the historical development of ongoing activity (Lave and Wenger,
1991: 51). The importance of this form of learning through participation in
communities of practice formed by informal networks of relations, a process
known as legitimate peripheral participation, has been shown to be particularly
important for women expatriates in our study.
Interestingly, a source mentioned by Expatriate 26 outside of the interview itself









( although she had not used it herself.


there are other websites providing information for expatriates of both genders






nationalities in specific host countries (e.g. for US expatriates in the UK there is

Other respondents focused more upon the

role of official host country resources, as well as the web resources from
professional bodies, so the opportunities given by the internet are clear.
Similarly, the role of conferences (especially for those employed in the academic
and education fields) for interaction with those from a similar industry
background reflect the importance of what are informal communities of practice,
developing on from nascent ideas recently addressed (c.f. Stalker and Mavin,
2011). This places emphasis upon female expatriates nurturing multi-directional
career opportunities with emphasis on learning through doing. However, issues
arise as to whether there is sufficient awareness of these resources by novice
Expatriates or whether they would be able to implement this knowledge in the
workplace, given how difficult it can be for newcomers to introduce their


practices in the face of old-timers asserting their own established practices

(Elkjaer and Huysman, 2008). These scenarios indicate innovative ideas being
stifled, whilst existing practices remain unquestioned.
This projects contribution has been to address the relatively low profile of female
expatriates in research.

This is partly because expatriates traditionally have

tended to be male and the research that exists tends to look generally at the
barriers to womens international career mobility and ways of surmounting this
(Tung, 2004). Rather less is known about female expatriate career development
needs and experiences, particularly within this new context.
Yet the business case for having a well-developed female cadre of international
managers is clear given predictions of increasing organisational demand (c.f.
Harvey and Moeller, 2009). This fact, together with the rise of female workers
actively looking for international experience, especially with the opportunities
opening up for women to travel abroad from countries such as China to study (as
amply reflected in our research sample) questions the role of HRD in supporting
females in this changing international career context.
Consequently, this study explores how HRD specifically can equip female workers
to meet the changing demands of the globalized workplace. Because our current
research is exploratory and ongoing, we envisage this developmental paper as
providing both the basis for future publication, alongside opening up potential
avenues for further investigations of the lived experience of female expatriates.
We envisage further developing the key empirical issues in the research
unpacking further how female expatriates construct their identities in performing
their expatriate roles and the (variable) contribution of learning and development
in supporting this performance. Our ongoing qualitative empirical research is
timely in light of the changes that are taking place in the expatriate arena and
we suggest will help in gaining a deeper understanding of the lived experience
between the female expatriates, which is proving an increasingly rich source of
insights for gender research (c.f. Xian and Woodhams, 2008). We investigate the
perceived role of Learning and Development phenomena covering formal HRD
interventions such as cross-cultural training provision, as well as less structured
(but nevertheless important) processes like informal mentoring and explore the
personal experiences of women from different nationalities following the different
expatriate routes. Employing this approach has enabled us to engage with how


the women themselves construct their own performance within international


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Traditional cycle followed?
1.1. Does the cycle apply to SFE ?
1.2. Indeed, is it perceived by all respondents?
Selection Process
2.1 Role of informal & formal
2.2 Used at what stages?
2.2.1 Any variation in selection process between SFE TFE?
2.2.2 Organisational support for female to become expatriates Specfic support for female expatriates
2.3 What drives women to choose to become expatriate?
2.3.1 Why do they choose SFE/ SIE route instead of TE?
3.1. Mentoring :
Formal vs Informal selection of mentors (roles of perceived vs. assigned mentors)
Intra organizational & Supra-Organizational
3.2. Social support
3.2.1 Provided by organisation role & adequacy
3.2.2 Social support through different methods e.g. informal friendship methods (social
networks; kinship & industry)
3.2.3 to what extent has the role/balance between organisational/informal support changed over
time also does experience contradict expectations?
Performance Appraisal
4.1. Positive or negative experience? Reasons for either/both (e.g. not appropriate)
4.2. Similarities/ differences for SFE/TFE? (e.g. SFE ignored by employers)
4.3. Similarities/ differences in different assignments?
4.4. impact of organisational/ national cultures towards appraisal (e.g. inhibits/ prevents its use)
4.5. agreed vs actual implantation (e.g. ignored whilst on assignment)
5.1. Repatriation Experience
Expected different from actual? (e.g. organization fails to deliver on promises; no
position to go back to)
Similarities/ differences between SFE/TFE (e.g. suggested that SFEs suffer more but
depends upon expectations/ individual experiences?)
Similarities/ differences between assignments (e.g. have they learned to cope with the
stresses of repatriation?)
Gender implications (harder? )
Managing career Path
6.1. Identified Career Path? (e.g. respondents in Monicas questions did not consider managing
their career, or dont consider it relevant .e. not applicable for end of career)
6.2. Has this path followed predicted route? If not, why not? (e.g. unexpected developments due
to economic climate; personal changes etc.)
6.3. Organizationally-focused or individually-focused? (Particularly any changes in focus over
time: reflecting their learning e.g. understanding that career path maybe outside of the
6.4. to what extent does gender influence these decisions?
Previous Experience of International working
7.1. To what extent do they have previous experiences?
how have previous experiences helped further assignments?
Experiences of following a different route (e.g. previously followed a SFE) perceived
differences (easier harder etc.)?
gender implications similarities/differences between experiences (e.g. deliberately
choosing alternative approach because of previous lack of organisational support)
Cross Cultural Training/ Preparation
8.1. Organizational training preparation provision
Pre-departure provision by the organisation?


specific focus (general cultural; specific role)
8.2. Self pre-departure training
Amount/ focus of SPDT
value of SPDT: comparisons with organizational Cultural Training changed attitudes towards SPDT on future assignments (e.g. was overlooked previously)
8.3 Adjustment to new culture
8.4 Training Provision during assignment
impact of non-work support
9.1. Availability of support beyond the job itself.
What networking opportunities are there? Formally or informally arranged?
9.2. Support for partner? Significant in making decision to join organisation?
10. Learning Outcomes of the assignment (value of assignment)
10.1. Transfer of Learning
10.1.1. Learning from the assignment any perceived by the expatriate?
10.1.2. enabling factors organizational (could be original employer or new) individual (e.g. skills/knowledge acquired by the
10.1.3. barriers Organisational (could be original employer or new: e.g. lack of support to apply newly
acquired skills) individual attitudes towards learning (e.g. feeling unable to transfer)
11. Generational factors
11.1. Third Cultural Kids: comparisons with females from other (older) generations
12. Gender issues in making adjustments
12.1. Adjusting for male dominated environments (organisational & national cultural differences)
12.2. organisational sensitivity towards adjustment
12.2.1. role of formal organisational support (e.g. formal training)
13 Reward management
13.1 Negotiating Reward Package
13.2 Relocation
13.2 Influence of SIE



Name of female expatriate.




(TFE) Expatriate 1






international assignment of which








agreement made between herself

and an employer in her home
country. She had 6 years of working
internationally and is waiting on a
reply from an employer regarding a
new expatiate assignment.

(SIE) Expatriate 2
Has worked in the U.K for the last



Technical Author

24 years in the I.T industry on


various contracts. She has 24 years



of working internationally in one

country and works more from home
due to family commitments.
(SIE) Expatriate 3 ()
Has worked in the U.K for the past


5 years, the job she is in now allows


Senior copywriter


for Brothers and

her to carry out advertising projects


internationally. She left her home







professional reasons and has made

the U.K her permanent home.



(SIE/TFE) Expatriate 4
Has worked 2 years of working



internationally and came to the U.K











returned back to her home country





seeking to work internationally as

an opportunity arises

(SIE) Expatriate 5
Has worked internationally for 3



Tax Accountant




years on a contract basis, her job

whilst in the U.K allowed her to







considering a career move but not

a career change as she feels. She
feels she is well settled into her




travelling aspect having returned

back to her home country.
(SIE) Expatriate 6 (SIE)
She has worked internationally for
7 years and had to start from the


bottom of an organisation. She had


applied for work once she had

arrived into the host country. She is
finding it hard to adjust to the
lifestyle in her host country more
so as she is living in apartment as





considering a career break to start

a family.


(TFE) Expatriate 7 (TFE) ()

She has over 25 years of working






Care Assistant







repatriated back after numerous

years of



She is

finding it cope with being back in

her home country after so many
years of being away. Currently she
is debating the fact of staying or
moving abroad permanently which
will not be career related as she
feels she has reached her peak in
her working life.
(SIE) Expatriate 8
Married. Has 2 years of working
internationally and came over to


the U.K supporting her partner who

had a pending contract. She is
currently working for her partner
but is considering a career change
and is hoping once the market has
come out of the recession she feels






concentrate on her career.


Expatriate 9 (SIE)
Single. Has 3 years of working



Art Director




internationally and left her home





experience as well as gaining more

scope in the field she would like to
specialise in. She has a passion for




weekends away to Europe which is

one of the main reasons behind
why she left her home country. She
would rather see how it goes with






concerned about doing well in the







seeking promotion.
(SIE) Expatriate 10 ()
Single. Has 3 years of working in
one country (Japan) which was not
related to the career choice she is
currently making. Her time in the
host country left her feeling very
disappointed as she did not feel
she could fit and be accepted by
the locals, this became the reason
for why she returned back. She is
not currently thinking of working on
an international assignment and





working in her home country rather

than moving abroad as she had
previously done.


(TFE) Expatriate 11 ()


Works currently for a UK Based


A married mother,


HR Director



University. Single without children



and has worked in two full time


positions (research and teaching)


who has experience of a number of

assignments, both with this firm
and previous positions. Worked in
the Far East, the United States and
Africa. Currently based back in the





(SIE) Expatriate 12 ()
Currently a lecturer in a British

in other British Universities.







accountant n the family firm back

in Taiwan.
(SIE) Expatriate 13 ()
First time to work abroad.





Credit Controller





employed by large US-Based MNC

in the UK. Previously worked for a




(SIE) Expatriate 14 ()
Currently self-employed.




to a UK citizen, has extensive

experience of working as IT for
various UK companies.

(UK Passport

Came to

the UK to study at a UK University.

Was a cram school teacher before
coming to the UK.


(SIE) Expatriate 15 ()

Chinese (UK Librarian





Previous experience as

a teacher in Hong Kong.







HR Manager



HR Manager


Chinese (UK University



without children, came to the UK

with her British husband.
(SIE) Expatriate 16 ()


Currently works in MNC in Chile.

Married without children. Previous
experience of working as SIE in
Europe. Her husband is French. He





expatriate (both as a TFE and as a

SIE) in the UK, Spain, Morocco and
currently Chile.
(SIE) Expatriate 17 ()
Currently works for a UK MNC in
UK. Previously worked in Australia





extensive retail experience in the

UK before leaving for Australia.
Also worked

in Australia

for a

(SIE) Expatriate 18 ()
Currently a full time lecturer in UK

Single. Was previously


working in the UK as part time







teacher as well as having worked

for a UK SME.

Studied at UK

Business School.



(SIE) Expatriate 19 (
Works as a university administrator.


Chinese (UK Administrator

Married without children to a UK


citizen, whom she met after arrival


in UK. Previously had a variety of

short term positions in UK retail &

Studied at University

Business School.
(SIE) Expatriate 20 ()









without children to a UK citizen she











Chinese (UK Engineer.


university before moving into first

position with another UK firm.
(SIE) Expatriate 21 ()
Works for UK transportation firm.
















another US firm to UK
(SIE) Expatriate 22 ()
Full time lecturer in UK Business


(UK Passport

Studied in another UK
Previously part time

lecturer in UK University. First full

time position abroad.



(TFE) Expatriate 23 ()




seconded to UK firm.




IT Analyst.




First time

assigned abroad, having just joined






After interview left to

get married back in India.

(SIE) Expatriate 24 (.


Came to UK to study MBA after a

number of years working in the
cement industry in Columbia. Met
husband whilst studying, married
and moved to Canada as a trailing
spouse until husband obtained a
job in the UK as a lecturer in

Came to UK as a trailing

spouse seeking work in cement





lecturer at the same university as


Two children at local

primary school.


(SIE) Expatriate 25 ().




She works currently as a part time

lecturer in the UK. Came to the UK
in 1997, in order to study for First
degree (Human Evolution), then
Masters and PhD. She had worked
in Finland in a number of jobs,
including journalism and Club DJ
before deciding upon an academic

Met and married a British

man and now has two children

(aged 4 and 7).

Wants to stay in

UK and academia

but depends

upon employment opportunities in

academia and husbands business
TFE/SIE Expatriate 26 ()


student, she has experience of

following the SIE route (working
abroad as an assistant at a ski
resort) as well as having recently
worked as a frequent flyer on an
international project that involved
extensive travel abroad working



Whilst currently a post graduate




Also has previously worked for an

international media MNC in a HR


SIE Expatriate 27 ()


Married to a British man, with three

Lecturer/ Artist


children from pre-school to primary

school age, originally from Croatia
(then Yugoslavia).

Studied drama

and Theatre Directing abroad, in

Slovakia and the UK for BA and

Since graduating, she

signed for a PhD at a UK university,

during which she became a part




drama in schools/Further Education

colleges in the UK. Has been a full
time academic in UK university
since 2006, when she submitted
her thesis.
TFE Expatriate 28 ()


A senior manager in a US-based


MNC. Currently working for the UK

branch of

this organisation.






husband who has sold his business

and is acting as a trailing spouse in





First time to live abroad, although

has been a frequent flyer to the Far
East in particular whilst working in
the States.

Has been with the

same employer for 30 years, since

the age of 20, although she had to
leave the US branch in order to be
able to go abroad as the usual
expatriate package did not apply to




SIE Expatriate 29 ()


and second degrees (in HRM and

International PR) after dropping out
of a German University course.





hospitality industry and four PR

related placements, she worked for
four months in a local UK PR




Works in UK Bank
Call Centre.

Studied in a UK university for first



months and has a job working part

time in a UK Bank call centre. Aims
to get back into PR but is hesitant
about going into small PR agencies.
Wants to develop her PR career in
the UK.


SIE Expatriate 30 ()



working holiday. Previously worked

in Summer Camps in the US and
travelled around Europe. She found
it relatively easy to move to the UK:
there is no great difference in


carrying plates.
She finds training and development




rather than national basis.


current employer targets improved

customer service partly reflecting
(she feels) the fact that it is part of
a US hotel chain.
Currently, Melissa is causal and
wants to get onto staff soon or look
for an office job. She considered
the TFE route but her Australian
employer (SOFITEL) generally not
keen. Having Dutch parents means
she was not seen as same as




whom she met in UK during a


Works casually in

Newly married to a British husband




whilst shes in the UK, she feels

more Australian.