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Handbook of Research in International Human Resource Management

Edited by Günter K. Stahl and Ingmar Björkman

In providing an insightful overview of a wide range of global human resource issues facing MNCs, this pathbreaking Handbook highlights emergent topics and new research findings that could shape the field of future IHRM research. Theoretical discussion of the variables and processes that affect IHRM policies and practices is provided by renowned contributors with widely differing academic backgrounds, paradigmatic orientations, and theoretical and methodological approaches.
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Chapter 14: Issues Facing Women on International Assignments: A Review of the Research

Hilary Harris


Hilary Harris Globalization of business has reinforced the importance of international assignments for career progression, both within an organization and across organizations. Under the ‘boundaryless career’ concept (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996; Parker & Inkson, 1999), managers increasingly view an international assignment as enhancing their internal rather than external careers (Tung, 1998). In a survey of US companies, while 65 per cent of HR executives thought an international assignment had a positive career impact, 77 per cent of expatriates felt it had a negative effect (Black et al., 1999). Despite this, managers still continue to accept offers of international assignments as they see them enhancing their internal careers through skills acquisition, personal development and career development on the open market (Stahl et al., 2002). However the numbers of women international assignees remains stubbornly low. Most recent figures for international assignments show that women represent 18 per cent of the United States (US) international assignment sample (GMAC Global Relocation Services, 2003), 9 per cent of the European international assignment sample (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2001) and 6 per cent of the Australian international assignment sample (Smith & Still, 1996). These figures stand in contrast with the numbers of women in middle management positions in the USA, Europe and Australia, where they represent between 30 and 45 per cent of the population on average. Given the low numbers of women on international assignments, an obvious explanation is that women fail as assignees. Past research, however, does not support this contention. In contrast, it shows that women are...

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