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Gender diversity in expatriation: evaluating theoretical perspectives

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to examine the range of theoretical underpinning used to explain women's participation as expatriates with a view to identifying the most promising theoretical lenses for future research. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Drawing upon theoretical explanations in the "women in management" and "women expatriates" literature, four main theoretical domains are identified that are used to understand and explain their continuing low representation as expatriates: women's choices, assignee characteristics, social and societal norms and institutional aspects. Key theories within each domain are evaluated to suggest a future theoretical research framework. Findings ‐ The most promising theoretical explanation of women's low participation as expatriates is identified as being linked to gender stereotyping reinforced within an isomorphic institutional framework. Research limitations/implications ‐ Research into women's inroads into management and into expatriation has generated considerable volumes of theorising in the literature. Thus, only representative examples have been selected here. In terms of future research, gender, identity and sex role theories potentially provide the most promising theoretical lenses set within the institutional framework of organisational policy and practice. Practical implications ‐ Organisational approaches to international assignment policy/practice supporting female corporate expatriation are mediated by how diversity and equal opportunities policies are embedded within policy implementation. Originality/value ‐ There is little evidence to date of an accepted theoretical framework to test hypotheses relating to women's participation as expatriates. This paper evaluates the options and presents those with the most promise for generating an agreed and accepted framework for future female expatriate research.

Keywords: Equal opportunities; Expatriates; Gender; Women

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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