Today it is cold, windy and wet in Dublin which makes me wish I had a little more time to appreciate the sunshine I was exposed to in San Diego last month; where PwC hosted their 2014 Global Mobility Conference.
I had the pleasure of being invited to present at this conference on the topic of the female millennial and what employers can do to achieve a more gender inclusive international assignment programme. Not too surprising given our Next generation diversity: Developing tomorrow’s female leaders report highlights that 69% of female millennials would like to work outside of their home country during their career and 63% of female millennials feel international experience is critical to furthering their career.
One thing is clear, female demand for international mobility has quite simply never been higher. Yet despite this, only 20% of current international assignees are female.
Along with my co-facilitator Joni Edwards, a tax partner based in our US firm’s Hartford, Connecticut, office we posed a number of polling questions to those attending our seminar. The questions varied in the level of commitment or complexity their implementation would require from an employer, but all were important for organisations to have front of mind if they wish to achieve an inclusive mobility culture.
One of the questions we asked was: ‘Do you role model successful female assignees?’ For me, this is one of the most simple but effective actions an organisation can adopt to support a more gender inclusive mobility programme.
Employers need to get themselves familiar with the expression ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. The 69% of female millennials who desire international experience will want to be able to look up and around them and see women who have had international experience opportunities at your organisation and seen their careers benefit as result. If this is not what they see, you may struggle to retain this talent cohort as they leave to pursue such opportunities with other employers.
And it is not just the female millennial whom will benefit; the effects of role modelling female assignees will help change mind-sets on what an international assignee looks like at your organisation. This in turn will help drive the behavioural change required during the international assignee selection process. Opportunities that may have historically been implicitly associated with male employees will now be associated with both genders at your organisation.
The good news is that 45% of organisations represented in the room already role modelled the experiences of their current and past female assignees. But for the 55% of organisations who weren’t sure or don’t currently take advantage of this opportunity and want to do so, here are some tips to help you on your way.
Do you role model successful female assignees in your organisation?
It is important to think about who you role model and that all of your female role models don’t look the same. Aim to role model women who have had international experience early in their career and when their careers are more established. Aim to role model women who have deployed to geographically diverse markets. Aim to role model women who have deployed on their own, with their partners, and with their families.
Joni my co-facilitator spoke about her experience of undertaking an international assignment to PwC Japan. She struggled to say yes to this opportunity as she found it hard to picture her family of four children living and going to school in Tokyo. In fact, she turned it down twice before she did say yes. For her the opportunity was career changing and for her whole family life changing. She also expressed that having been aware of someone who was in her shoes and had gone through a similar experience would have been hugely helpful when she was first presented with this opportunity. This is one of the reasons she is very proud to be a female role model in this light today.
From Joni’s experience it’s safe to say that it may not only be women who desire international experience whom will benefit from such activity in your organisation, but role-modelling female assignees might also convince those who are not so keen on international experience for whatever reason to take the plunge.
Stay tuned for future blogs which will share more on the other questions we posed during our seminar!