Research Handbook on Women in International Management
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Research Handbook on Women in International Management

Edited by Kate Hutchings and Snejina Michailova

The Research Handbook on Women in International Management is a carefully designed collection of contributions that provides a thorough and nuanced discussion of how women engage in international management. It also offers important insights into emerging and new areas of research warranting future consideration.
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Chapter 2: Women expatriates: A research history

Susan Shortland


This chapter traces the history and provides a critical review of the extant literature on women's participation in expatriation. It begins by reviewing the literature from the 1980s, examining Nancy J. Adler's seminal work and how her three key 'myths' (relating to supply and demand, namely that women do not want international careers, organizational reluctance to send women abroad and presumed lack of host country acceptance of women expatriates) provide explanations for their minimal expatriate representation (just 3 per cent in the early 1980s) and set the scene for over three decades of female expatriate research. The following three sections examine the female expatriate literature on these themes in depth and in so doing provide analysis at the individual, organizational and societal levels. They preview: evidence concerning the individual choices that women make and the effect of family constraints upon these; organizational decision-making, particularly in relation to expatriate selection; and the effects of societal cultures (at home and abroad) on women's expatriate participation. These issues are framed theoretically, set within the global context, and within women's participation in international management, more generally. While women's expatriate representation has increased over the years, women still remain in the minority, comprising around one-fifth of the expatriate population today (Brookfield, 2012). This proportion has changed little over the last decade, suggesting that this may represent the limit of female international assignment participation.

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