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Women's expatriate careers: losing trust in organisational equality and diversity policy implementation?

Susan Shortland (Westminster Business School, University of Westminster, London, UK)
Stephen J. Perkins (Guildhall School of Business and Law, London Metropolitan University, London, UK)

Journal of Global Mobility

ISSN: 2049-8799

Article publication date: 2 July 2020

Issue publication date: 25 August 2020




The purpose of this paper is to examine how female expatriates interpret the effectiveness of practical implementation of equality/diversity policies, trusting this to support their expatriate careers.


A cross-sectional, qualitative research approach draws upon in-depth semi-structured interviews with 14 human resources equality/diversity policy implementers and 26 current female expatriates in two oil and gas firms.


Early-career stage female expatriates believe that equality/diversity policy implementation will support their international careers. At the most senior levels, women expatriates highlight unequal treatment breaching their trust in delivery of equality/diversity principles to support their expatriate career progression.

Research limitations/implications

Longitudinal research is needed to assess how early-career women expatriates' willingness to trust in organisational equality/diversity principles alters as their careers progress, and the effects of any changing trust relations on their contributions to organisational strategic objectives. Larger senior female expatriate samples are needed to research links between trust relations and turnover.

Practical implications

Organisations must weigh up benefits from using transparent expatriate selection processes versus less formal mechanisms, if informal processes are not to undermine espoused equality interventions. Unconscious bias training should form part of wide-ranging programmes to tackle discrimination. Senior managerial action with embedded accountability is needed.


Exploring the rhetoric and reality of equality/diversity policy implementation on women comprising a minority expatriate group, this research demonstrates women expatriates' early-career trust in gender equality falls away as they first recognise and then accept diminishing female expatriate senior grade representation and the implications for their expatriate careers. Should turnover result, this could detrimentally affect organisational expatriate gender diversity objectives.



The authors wish to thank Laura Baker for her assistance in the design of Figure 1.Funding: There is no funding and no conflict of interest to disclose.


Shortland, S. and Perkins, S.J. (2020), "Women's expatriate careers: losing trust in organisational equality and diversity policy implementation?", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 183-208.



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