Women's self-initiated expatriation as a career option and its ethical issues

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115 Citations (Scopus)


Women are underrepresented in managerial positions and company international assignments, in part due to gender discrimination. There is a lack of fair and just treatment of women in selection, assignment and promotion processes, as well as a lack of virtue shown by business leaders in not upholding the principle of assigning comparable women and men equally to positions in management and postings abroad. Female professionals, however, initiate their own expatriation more often than they are assigned abroad by their company, and usually as often as men self-expatriate. What causes women to self-initiate expatriation? Women's proactivity, in part an attempt to redress the disadvantage they face in managerial career advancement, appears influential, as are career and family motivations. Indeed, during expatriation, women fare well in their career and they repatriate only at the same rate as men. Compared with men, however, women repatriate less often for career than for family reasons. On their return, despite their international experience, women do not gain as much of a financial return on their investment in self-expatriation as do men, suggesting that women may suffer unfair, non-meritorious treatment at home. Overall, self-initiated expatriation provides a new, gendered, social context for researching women's career advancement. The ethical issues associated with women's self-expatriation - a lack of fairness and justice in selection, assignment and promotion decisions, and a lack of virtue shown by business leaders in upholding fair and just human resource decisions by gender - suggest practical avenues to resolve these issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-88
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • business leaders
  • career advancement
  • discrimination
  • ethical theory
  • gender
  • justice
  • self-initiated expatriate
  • self-repatriation


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