Why We Need More Women in International Business

Jennifer Florido, People and Organization Management Consultant at PwC dishes on the challenges, the solutions, and the reasons why having more women in international business could benefit the workforce overall.

Talent diversity is something employers always attribute to building to a more effective workplace. Yet, when it comes to gender equality, especially in the context of international business, why are women often so underrepresented?

According to Modern Mobility, Moving Female with Purpose—a 2016 report conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) focusing on the millennials—the relative scarcity of women in international business is not a result of lack of desire. In fact, the study indicates that 71% of female millennials want to work outside their home country, while 84% of women consider international experience as critical to furthering their careers.
According to Florido, People and Organization Management Consultant at PwC, given there is a desire on the management end for growing female representation in senior and leadership positions, coupled with aspirations for work abroad on the part of many female professionals; business leaders must focus on finding key elements to effectively advance gender equality and women’s careers.

To further expand on her thinking, Florido sat down with SACCNY and highlighted notable challenges, solutions and reasons why bridging the gender gap is absolutely essential to a high-performing workforce.

CHALLENGES
The reason why building an international career can be so difficult for women ultimately traces back to their relationship with their working companies. Without an open exchange between employers and employees, multiple issues could arise.

Lack of Trust
According to PwC’s survey, women around the world do not trust the information from their bosses—be it on promotions and pay, or what helps or hurts their careers. Therefore, said Florido, “they need greater transparency about these practical markers so employees could trust the feedback, understand where they stand, and successfully make their own case.”

Lack of strategic Support
Self-promotion is often highlighted by women as outside of their comfort zone, but when they do speak up, they get results. Women need proactive networks of leaders and peers who will reinforce their self-advocacy and develop, promote and champion them—both inside and outside the workplace. ”Women don’t need men to back away. They need dedicated sponsors and role models of both genders.”

Social Conventions
Above all else, what works against women the most is the social convention that females still carry out the majority of housework. While some employers may offer more flexibility in terms of vacation days, oftentimes, “flexibility alone is not the issue: people do not take breaks precisely because they believe it will hurt their careers,” said the PwC expert. “Fundamentally, there is a need to question and redesign the conventions of work in order to create more sustainable diversity more sustainably. Women need employers who can rethink their approach to balancing work, life, parenthood and family care plus provide organizational solutions that can truly make a difference.”

SOLUTIONS
To tackle these issues in the digital era, one must rely on data to find a solution that is fair, systematic and accurate as quickly as possible. The concrete benefits are manifold, according to Florido.

Reduce Biases
When it comes to choosing candidates for international business assignments, it is important to develop an active real-time list of employees who are available to work abroad. “Aside from safeguarding against potential gender biases, decision-makers can select based on objective and concrete data, rather than on who they think of first or know best.”

Focus on Employee Experience
Rather than letting employers choose what employees get to go where, this steers the focus on employees’ wants and needs. Imagine taking a customer-centric approach to your employees, and sell that experience—abroad or otherwise—for them to then choose the best opportunity. This is a powerful shift for employers too, as global business opportunities are one of the key factors in attracting and retaining talents today.

Increase Transparency
Access to updated information is essential to building trust among employees. By being transparent about potential international global projects and job roles, the right opportunities become accessible to the best candidates. Effectively, this could be a win-win situation for all—“employees will feel empowered to articulate their career ambitions and actively pursue those goals; while employers have an internal global labor market that facilitates growing interdisciplinary skills, flexible career paths and better talent retention.”

BIGGEST TAKEAWAY
Moving women with a purpose invigorates the workforce. It increases global visibility of top female talents and creates new expectations on the organization, new role models and a new perspective on equality in global talent.”
If you are a young female professional looking to relocate abroad, Florido said, “Go for it! I for one found great success through my international working opportunity—both in broadening horizons and in advancing my career. However, make sure that you have a good sponsor; a clear assignment and a competitive compensation package.”

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