Expat working women tend to be young and single, research shows

by Ray Clancy on June 12, 2012

Some 36% of women already working abroad are between 21 and 30, report finds

Women working overseas tend to be young, single and childfree with only 15% of expat women aged over 40 compared to nearly 50% of men, research shows.

Some 36% of women who are already abroad are between 21 and 30, while this applies to just 17% of the men. Equally 22% of women working overseas are single, compared to just 9% of men and, while 40% of female in this sector have no children, the same is true for just 20% of the men, according to the third annual Global Professionals on the Move report from the Hydrogen Group.

Although only 23% of respondents working overseas are women, as was the case in last year’s report, women are just as, if not more, keen to relocate than men are. Some 53% of women expressed a desire to relocate compared to 49% of men.

Furthermore, for those who do move, it tends to work out well even if 59% of women who have moved overseas feel occasionally homesick compared to 40% of men, but 90% of them would repeat the experience.

‘If I’m honest I wouldn’t even consider working overseas without all the support I get from my husband and kids. We’re a team wherever we go. All I have to do is focus on the geoscience at work,’ said Dianne Weinert, a consultant geophysicist, who has spent years working in overseas including in Perth, Tripoli, Houston, Copenhagen and now Sydney.

‘I’ve moved my family four or five times internationally. Finding a house or suitable apartment, a school for my ten year old, visa and work permits, health care, getting around and getting to know the neighbours, it’s a huge process of adjustment,’ she explained.

She has 25 years’ experience as a seismic interpreter, and is highly in demand in the energy sector. However, many women with skills, experience and talent like hers lack the support her family provides and so are not available to global recruiters, the report points out.

Those that do go abroad at a later stage, often do so because they are following the career relocation of their partners. Some 14% said that they had relocated for this reason, compared to just 3% of men, which suggests that there is still strength in the traditional image of women trailing behind their spouses’ careers.

However, the report points out that half the women who have followed their partner overseas feel satisfied, whereas only a fifth of men who had followed their partner abroad were satisfied.

Overall the report highlights the career value of gaining international experience. In fact it seems that once tried, people are in no rush to return to their country of origin. It found that 90% of respondents would go abroad again and would recommend the experience to others, and one in three now consider the country where they live to be home, with only 18% of those already abroad wanting to repatriate in the near future.

Also for 50% of those working abroad, the experience has been so positive that they are planning to apply for permanent residency.

However, there are challenges to be faced. Although down from last year, 31% of those already abroad said the biggest barrier to moving was finding a job. The report shows that overall there is an increasing dominance of those aged over 30 in overseas assignments.

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