Closing the Gender Gap and Talent Mobility’s Role

Only three percent of CEOs in the Fortune 100 are female. With women making up at least 40 percent of the workforce across the world, this statistic calls into stark reality the long road ahead to reach gender equality in the global workforce.

A clue to this disparity lies in the current talent mobility landscape. The 2017 Talent Mobility Trends Survey (2017 TMTS) provides compelling evidence to support talent mobility’s rising importance. Sixty-three percent of respondents say employee mobility is high on their organizations’ senior leadership agenda. In addition, 27 percent of respondents say having international working experience is now a prerequisite to joining their companies’ global leadership team. Talent mobility is also important to employees. According to the 2016 Global Mobility Trends Survey (2016 GMTS), 43 percent of respondents agree that individuals who have gone on an international assignment are more likely to be future leaders at the company.

Against this backdrop of the increasing power of talent mobility, far fewer women go on assignment than men. According to the 2017 TMTS, companies report that only 27 percent of international assignees are women. If being globally mobile can put individuals on a career path for future leadership, women seem to be at a disadvantage for future career opportunities.

Respondents to the 2016 GMTS agree, compared to their male counterparts, women face greater obstacles to accepting international assignments. Moreover, respondents agree this low assignee acceptance rate is adversely impacting having a gender-balanced senior management team. Increasing the number of women on assignment is critical to achieving lasting gender equality at senior leadership levels and in the c-suite.

So, what can talent mobility leaders do? Making a concerted effort to recruit and invest in more globally mobile women is a significant, yet worthy, undertaking. Interestingly, data from the 2016 TMTS shows that simply promoting the impact of international assignments on individuals’ careers may have a net positive effect. Sixty-one percent of companies surveyed indicate they formally communicate the importance of assignments to employees’ careers throughout their organizations. And of those, 43 percent see an increased consideration of assignments by female employees as a direct result of that targeted communication. A strong first step toward increasing the number of women in leadership positions is two-fold:

    1. Increase communication around the short-term and long-term benefits of assignments.
    2. Ensure the opportunities for assignments are visible at all levels.

Nevertheless, the gender balance in the talent mobility landscape is shifting, albeit slowly. The 2017 TMTS reported 27 percent of assignees are female; this is the highest representation in the report’s 22-year history. This figure is up two percent from the amount reported in the previous year (25 percent). More significant, this is 170% percent higher than the number of female assignees reported by companies at the survey’s inception more than two decades ago (10 percent). Certain industries, such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals and consumer products, among others, have also seen higher percentages of female assignees than average.

Despite heading in the right direction, there is still more to accomplish to create gender balance at the top. Talent mobility leaders should assess their mobility program’s gender profile to determine where they fall on the spectrum and identify opportunities to increase the number of women taking advantage of what talent mobility has to offer.

For more information surrounding talent mobility and the current landscape, visit the 2017 TMTS and the 2016 GMTS microsites.