Research shows that increasing numbers of British women are choosing to work abroad in order to fast-track their path to the top. article by Elizabeth Roberts for telegraph.co.uk
According to NatWest International, the number of female respondents to its eighth annual expat quality of life survey has shot up 116 per cent since 2011, with many in senior executive roles.
The increase in female expats working in management positions has also been noted by InterNations, the two million-strong expat networking organisation, which conducts an annual survey of its own.
When it quizzed more than 14,000 expats around the world in 2015, InterNations found that among British female expats, 17.8 per cent work in management position. That represents a four per cent rise on the year before.
Yelena Mackay, a successful businesswoman who has lived and worked in several countries, is the author of Moving Without Shaking, a guide to successful expat life aimed at women.
She said: “Back in the Eighties a typical expat was a male taking his wife and children with him. These days it’s single women under 30 or sometimes those taking their boyfriend with them.
“I think this is one of the best ways to advance women’s careers. It gives so many new options – you start learning languages, being more culturally flexible and less afraid of taking chances.
“You have to get out of your comfort zone. Once you have gone away and pursued these new opportunities then you have the chance to come back home and have a more exciting international role if you want.”
Emily Harvey, 32, the head of community management at InterNations in Munich, moved to Germany 10 years ago.
She said: “There are a lot of positives, such as personal development. You learn a huge amount in terms of understanding different business cultures – the difference between Germany and the UK is vast – and when you go back to the UK you’ll have a huge amount to offer.”
Two years ago, a survey by Expacare, an internatonal health insurance company, showed that business leaders see single women who speak a foreign language as the best candidates for international roles.
I think this is one of the best ways to advance women’s careers – it gives so many new options – you start learning languages, being more culturally flexible and less afraid of taking chances
Yelena Mackay, expat businesswoman and author
The InterNations data indicated that women who work overseas are, more often than not, single. When it comes to women of all nationalities in upper management, fewer than 50 per cent are in a relationship and fewer than four in 10 have children.
Courtney Ellis-Jones of the Forum for Expatriate Management also noted the increasing trend for young professional women to go on foreign assignments as part of their career development.
She warned: “Being an expatriate is often seen as glamorous to those who have not experienced the life, but it can often be frustrating, difficult and lonely. People who succeed in international assignments demonstrate to the business they are able to problem-solve and overcome barriers to success.”
However, Ms Ellis-Jones added: “The positives, are vast, both professionally and personally. The chance to experience a new culture is a rich and rewarding one. Broadening your horizons to the way people work and interact develops a more passionate and sympathetic employee, which leads to better management.”