Three decades ago, the word "relocation" conjured up one of two images for most people. Firstly, almost exclusively male executives in the final stages of their careers. Or alternatively, adventure-seeking men who would strike out on their own, as entrepreneurs or to experience another culture.
It would be an understatement to say a lot has changed in the interim. Hundreds of pages have been written about how relocation has been decoupled from assumptions about age and professional status. Part of this is the allure of being able to work from anywhere. Increasingly you don't even need an employer to move. Self-employed "digital nomads" – such as freelance web developers – now have nothing anchoring them to any particular location. All they need to do business is a laptop and a software suite.
But what about sex parity; given how implicitly male relocation has been seen – both in its corporate and private forms – have things changed for the better for women?
Women want to move overseas more
As of 2015, women make up nearly half of all relocators, but substantially less of those move for career-based reasons.Their reasons for moving are varied: some are personal, adventurous single women are now more common. Others view it as a catalyst for career development. In the case of career-based movers the expatriate job market has become significantly more egalitarian in recent years. No small achievement given how it used to look 30 years ago.
A survey conducted by PwC, with the assistance of Melbourne University, underscored a desire for relocation among a majority of women. Nearly 70% of those polled said they would like to seek overseas employment.
The book "Get Ahead By Going Abroad" also shows a strong preference for international relocation when surveying either individual relocators or corporate assignees. Again, career-driven reasons take primary – but not exclusive prominence – with 83% of those women polled advising others to do so for career-related reasons.
Unfortunately, it also suggests women are still more likely to be overlooked for overseas assignment. So while we’re seeing changes in attitude among women driving more relocation, we’re also waiting for employers to play catch up.
Working overseas as a feather in the cap
Working overseas improves a woman's career prospects on the job market. One study from Australia showed that women with international experience find their CVs fast-tracked in recruitment stages. This is important as it suggests working and living overseas is seen as desirable, even if it wasn’t necessarily part of a corporate assignment program.
Where next for female relocators?
A lack of equivalent opportunity to men remains one of the biggest obstacles to women making successful overseas moves. Even though this is changing, the pace is frustratingly slow.
Moreover, while there are many positives to be taken, these gains shouldn’t obscure the fact that women face an entirely new set of issues even when they do relocate. Sexism abroad is still a huge issue many women encounter, and cultural differences can often amplify this.
If you’re a woman thinking about moving overseas, you can get in touch with us directly to discuss anything from a quote on moving your belongings to questions about cultural acclimatization.