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 12: Self-initiated expatriation by women: Does it help to overcome the glass ceiling?

Phyllis Tharenou


Women comprise about one-fifth of company-assigned expatriates (CAEs) (Brookfield, 2010; 2011; 2012), their underrepresentation being likely to result in less advancement to executive levels due to the importance of international experience to advancement (Forster, 1999; Insch, McIntyre, and Napier, 2008). By contrast, women form about half of self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) (cf. Tharenou's review, 2010). SIEs are professionals and managers who relocate to a country of their choice without employer support for an indefinite period of usually over a year to seek work (Andresen, Bergdolt, and Margenfeld, 2012; Suutari and Brewster, 2000; Tharenou and Caulfield, 2010). CAEs, on the other hand, are transferred by their employer to a foreign operation in a country of the employer's choice for a fixed term, usually one to five years, to meet organizational goals (Andresen, Bergdolt, and Margenfeld, 2012; Harrison, Shaffer and Bhaskar-Shrinivas, 2004; Tharenou and Caulfield, 2010). I present a framework that conceptualizes the effects of self-expatriation on the careers of women. The framework supports five stages, beginning with why women self-expatriate and ending with the effects of repatriation on their careers. The five questions examined are: (1) What are the drivers of women's self-initiated expatriation? (2) Once abroad how do women fare in their careers? (3) Are women SIEs more likely to repatriate or stay abroad? (4) What are the drivers of women SIEs' repatriation? (5) On their return, how do women fare in their careers?

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