Gender disparity highlighted by overseas assignment figures

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Wednesday 20 November 2013 — Australian businesses need to work harder to achieve a gender balance in overseas assignments EY said today as survey figures revealed that male employees take up more than 80% of international deployments.

Your Talent in Motion: Global Mobility Effectiveness Survey 2013 found that men continue to receive the overwhelmingly largest proportion of international assignments. Males made up 81% of employees on short-term assignment and 85% of those on long-term assignment. 

EY Human Capital Partner Kathy McCombie said the finding indicated there is a lot of work to do to improve the diversity and inclusiveness of organisations’ approaches to providing mobility opportunities. 

“We see this regularly in Australia where the default position is to deploy male staff members on highly sought after global assignments,” Ms McCombie said.

“Mobility has enormous potential to enhance and develop employees within an organisation. It can help to retain and develop top talent and groom high performers for future leadership roles.”

A huge majority of survey respondents (83%) believed that mobility had a positive impact on an individual’s career progression, helping to create future leaders and drive competitive advantage for their organisations.

“The fact that less than 20% of assignees are female should sound alarm bells for businesses seeking to improve their gender balance at senior levels of their organisation,” Ms McCombie said.

The causes of the underrepresentation were likely to be the same reasons behind the general lack of opportunities for women in leadership roles.

“Women often have a career interruption during the period beginning in their late 20s. They pay an excessive price for this and can be sidelined from leadership positions to the detriment of the organisation and Australia’s productivity potential,” Ms McCombie said.

“Organisational leaders should seek to take a more flexible approach to offering international deployments to address the gender imbalance in senior leadership positions that we see across all roles and industries.”

Other findings from the survey included that 78% of those interviewed reported that their mobility function did not measure return on investment. Most organizations also come up short in tracking what happens after an assignment ends – such as employee retention, performance rating and career progression – with 16% of assignees leaving the company within the first two years after repatriation. 

“Mobility is a tool that provides tremendous opportunities to enhance an organisation’s talent pool,” Ms McCombie said.

“It should not be seen as an easy way to fill a vacancy without a strategic vision to improve the retention and development of top talent and potential future leadership.

“This strategic approach requires close collaboration between the mobility function and the talent management team to combine their specialist skill sets to benefit the employees and the organisation.”

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Contact details:

Mac Dalton
EY Australia
03 9288 8108 / 0415 835 634