Indra Nooyi, Marissa Mayer and Ursula Burns are examples of high profile women with very successful global careers. The chair and CEO of Pepsico, president and CEO of Yahoo, and chair and CEO of Xerox have reached the top of their game, but the route to get there can’t have been easy.
If you’re a woman who aspires to a senior position, working internationally, what challenges will you face and how can you overcome these?
Pressure on personal relationships
Last year in Argentina, career transition expert Bruno Matarazzo ran 20% of the country’s expat programmes. This helped secure roles for the partners of women who had moved to Argentina to take up positions with international companies. Although it made financial sense for couples to relocate, Matarazzo reported that partners typically struggled with their feelings of self-esteem, which proved a challenge for women when embarking on their new role.
Top tip: If you’re relocating to a new company, ask what support is available for partners or spouses. Your employer will also benefit, since as you’re likely to be more productive and engaged if you and your family are settled and happy.
Juggling family commitments
In Germany, headhunter Heiner Thorborg, writes and speaks about his organisation’s extensive experience of working with women in senior roles. He believes women are more loyal to their company than men and are used to juggling multiple commitments. He also reasons that they don’t take decisions lightly, and are swayed less by the offer of a bigger pay cheque elsewhere if it compromises a set-up that works well for them.
Top tip: Before you accept a new role, specify early on what you consider to be reasonable compromise, particularly when it comes to encroachment on your personal life (which has already been significantly disrupted by moving abroad). Although this might end with you turning down the job, you will avoid difficult negotiations later.
Working cross culturally
As a female overseas, you might be treated differently to what you are used to in the UK. Some of these experiences can be negative, especially in competitive and male-dominated business sectors.
Top tip: Use your female ‘difference’ to your advantage. Learn to make yourself heard, quickly engaging people and making valuable connections to progress your career.
Setting boundaries on your time
Working across countries and time zones makes it harder to plan regular team catch-ups and calls. As a woman taking on a global role, you must also be mindful of and adapt to local and cultural differences around working hours. For example, in some cultures Sunday is a working day.
Top tip: Embrace the local working culture – provided it doesn’t compromise your personal life and leave you struggling to communicate and work with teams based in other time zones.
Organisations are usually very aware of the pressures they are placing on employees who relocate. Remember that you have unique skills and experience which are highly sought after by international organisations, and that they have a responsibility to support and nurture talented candidates like you.
Top tip: Ask for a mentor or coach. They can help you immerse yourself in international and company culture and give advice on how best to communicate with and engage your new colleagues.