• 04-MAR-2016

  • By PwC

Female demand for international mobility at an all-time high

But PwC survey reveals disconnect between women’s aspirations and what employers offer

  • 64% of women say employers that offer mobility opportunities are more attractive
  • But many don’t believe men and women have equal opportunity to undertake international assignments at their current employer
  • Assumption that women with children don’t want to work abroad is challenged
  • Employers are using mobility to develop their future pipeline of leaders – but only 22% are actively trying to increase their female workforce mobility
  • Only 22% of mobility executives say their mobility and diversity strategies are aligned

To mark International Women’s Day (IWD) on Tuesday 8th March 2016, PwC surveyed 3,937 professionals from 40 countries to find out about their international mobility experiences and aspirations. Of these 3,937 respondents, 2,285 were women and 1,652 men. In parallel, PwC surveyed 134 executives with responsibility for global mobility to explore current mobility, talent management and diversity trends.

The report – Modern mobility: Moving women with purpose – reveals that women are 19% less likely than men to believe the opportunities for international mobility with their current employer are equal for men and women.

Yet, the opportunities for an international experience feature high on the list of desirable employer traits, with 64% of females saying this is critical to attracting and keeping them with an employer. This echoes PwC’s research in 2015 which revealed that 71% of female millennials want to work outside their home country during their career (The female millennial: A new era of talent).

Diversity disconnects

The report highlights that we are experiencing a time of unprecedented female demand for mobility, but this demand is not yet reflected in reality. More than half (57%) of global mobility executives said their female employees were underrepresented in their mobility populations.

And while 60% of multinationals are using mobility to develop their succession pipeline of future leaders, only 22% are actively trying to increase their levels of female mobility.  Furthermore, only the same low percentage of global mobility leaders said their mobility and diversity strategies are aligned.

Dennis Nally, Chairman of PwC International Ltd., says: “This PwC report highlights a number of critical diversity disconnects. CEOs must drive an agenda where women are both aware of, and provided with, the critical experiences required to progress their career, including international assignment opportunities. Global mobility, diversity and talent management strategies must be connected to support the successful realisation of international business and people strategies.”

Challenging gender stereotypes

The PwC report challenges certain assumptions and gender stereotypes, for example that women with children don’t want to work overseas or that women don’t want to move because it will put their partners’ higher income at risk. In fact, 41% of the female respondents who told us they want to undertake an international assignment are parents, compared with 40% of men. And 77% of women in a dual-career couple earn equal to or more than their partner, making the dual-career challenge a mobility factor for organisations when it comes to both male and female talent.

Agnès Hussherr, PwC Global Diversity Leader, says: “To overcome the barriers to more gender-inclusive mobility, international employers must first identify and understand the actual – not assumed – barriers confronting them. Using data analytics to gain a clear view of current mobility and wider workforce demographics will be crucial.”

A gender-inclusive mobility programme

When looking at the professional concerns women are most challenged with when considering an international assignment, three of the top four barriers relate to repatriation. Top of the list is a concern about what their return role will be at the end of the assignment (44%). In addition, the survey shows that flexibility and choice offered in assignment packages would make international mobility programmes more attractive to females (80%).

Peter Clarke, PwC Global Mobility Services Leader, says “To attract, retain and develop female talent, international employers must adopt a modern, more flexible approach to mobility. A gender-inclusive mobility programme will include a world-class repatriation programme, together with flexibility, choice and options around assignment duration and package. Organisations that get this right, will be ahead of the game when it comes to attracting, retaining and deploying female talent.”

More challenges and areas of disconnect include:

  • 74% of respondents (women and men) said the best time to complete a mobility experience is in the first six years of a career – yet 33% of organisations don’t currently offer early mobility opportunities.
  • 65% of females would like opportunities to work overseas to be more transparent at the companies they work for.
  • Less than half of women (49%) agree that their organisation has enough female role models with successful international assignment experience.
  • The preferred assignment destinations for professionals often don’t match what’s on offer. Forty-eight percent of women and 35% of men said they would never relocate to the Middle East. Meanwhile, 43% of women and 39% of men said the same about Africa.

Notes to editors

  1. To find out more about PwC’s IWD activities and to download Modern mobility: Moving women with purpose, visit pwc.com/iwd. The report is based on a survey of 3,937 professionals from 40 countries (2,285 women and 1,652 men), as well as a survey of 134 executives with responsibility for global mobility. More thoughts on diversity can also be found on PwC's Gender Agenda blog.

  2. On Monday 7 March 2016, PwC launches its fourth Women in Work Index. This index ranks 33 OECD countries on a measure that combines five key indicators of female economic empowerment: the equality of earnings with men; the proportion of women in work, both in absolute terms and relative to men; the female unemployment rate; and the proportion of women in full-time employment.

  3. On Tuesday 8 March 2016, PwC will also launch ‘PwC Next Generation Survey 2016: The Female Perspective’, a report on the perspectives of female family business executives. Based on the views of 73 women from 25 countries, the report reveals that while companies with women on the board or in leadership roles often perform better, there is still some work needed on the ground to ensure that women have the opportunities needed to reach those positions. The report states that one in five women don’t think they have the same chances of succeeding in the family business as men.

    But in terms of addressing long-term business needs, female next generations seem better poised to understand and address key issues. Specifically around digital and technological disruption: 37% of women feel that their business is vulnerable to the threat of digital disruption compared with 24% of men. Launching on March 8, 2016 at http://www.pwc.com/nextgen​.

  4. PwC is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion and has a range of programmes in place to make progress on the issue. These include Aspire to Lead: The Women's Leadership Series​, a global forum on women and leadership for students around the world. PwC has also partnered with the UN Women’s HeForShe​ campaign, which aims to mobilise one billion men and boys as advocates and agents of change in ending the persisting inequalities faced by women and girls globally.

  5. To read PwC research on the Millennials, take a look at The female millennial: a new era of talent​; Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leader​; Millennials at work​; and PwC's NextGen: A global generational study​.

  6. To read more PwC research on Global Mobility, take a look at Moving people with purpose​; and Talent Mobility 2020​.

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  • Mike Davies
    Director, Global Communications
    United Kingdom
    +44 7803 974 136
  • Aoife Flood
    +353 1 792 6459