When it comes to the female millennial our research tells us one thing is clear: female demand for international mobility has quite simply never been higher. A whopping 71% of female millennials told us they want to work overseas during their career. Given international organisations are placing growing importance on the establishment of leadership teams and an employee base that is globally competent, it is no surprise that 62% of millennial women feel international experience is critical to further their career.
However the number of women undertaking these sought after international assignments is not proportionate to their representation in the workforce. In fact, despite the number of female assignees doubling in the past decade, women make up 20% of current international assignees. Research by Catalyst identifies that gaining international experience advances men’s and women’s careers further and faster, yet the best and brightest female talent are not undertaking these international opportunities at the same rates as their male peers.
Our most recent female millennial research is revealing. Female millennials are 21% less likely than their male counterparts to believe that men and women have equal opportunity to undertake international assignments at their current employer. Furthermore the more career experienced the female millennial is, the more likely she is to agree less with this statement: 60% of career starters agreed (0-3 years’ work experience) compared with 53% of career establishers (9 or more years’ work experience).
There is a plethora of research pointing out lots of gender differences just one of which is that women tend to be more risk averse with their decision making both in work and when it comes to their careers.
When I was 25, I had the opportunity to go and work in our US firm’s Boston office for six months. It was an amazing experience and, to this day, it is unparalleled for the level of accelerated personal and professional growth I gleaned from the experience. But it was hard. Yes, Boston is probably the most Irish place I could have gone on an international assignment, but believe me it was not without its challenges.
Never mind it being my first time living overseas, it was my first time living outside of my family home. I was moving into a completely new role I had no prior experience in and I did not know a single person in Boston. So yes, it was tough, but I will never forget how I felt when I got back to Dublin. The whole experience literally made me feel ‘career invincible’. Like wow, if I survived that I could survive anything my career might throw at me. Without doubt, getting that experience early in my career made me much less ‘career-risk adverse’ and was instrumental in establishing a pattern where I consistently seek out challenging opportunities that keep me inspired, motivated and engaged. Quite simply, I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today had it not been for my international assignment experience.
I’m a firm believer that getting women international experience early in their career will have a number of benefits. Firstly, it will help create the global acumen and out of comfort distinctive experience required to advance to leadership levels. Secondly, it will set women up to be less career risk averse and with that braver with their career decisions. And finally, it will support an inclusive global mobility culture in organisations with these women more likely to undertake further international assignments, recommend such experiences to female peers and sponsor more junior female talent for such experiences as they progress up the corporate ladder.
Having a global mobility programme that enables early international experience for female talent is just one of many ways to drive a more gender inclusive global mobility programme. Learn about other critical opportunities based on Australian research in PwC Australia’s recent research publication Developing Female Leaders: Addressing Gender Bias in Global Mobility
Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC International Limited with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.
She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’ and 'Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leaders' thought leadership publications.