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Women on the move: the self-initiated expatriate in China

Melinda Muir (Southern Cross Business School, Southern Cross University, Australia)
Michelle Wallace (Southern Cross Business School, Southern Cross University, Australia)
Don McMurray (Southern Cross Business School, Southern Cross University, Australia)

Journal of Global Mobility

ISSN: 2049-8799

Article publication date: 2 September 2014




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the under-researched phenomenon of women, who of their own volition, are choosing to live and work in another country, as self-initiated expatriates (SIEs).


Drawing from a career constructivist position, the qualitative framework relied on primary data gathering through semi-structured interviews with 25 western professional SIE women living and working in Beijing.


The findings suggest that the SIE women's motivations for mobility and their career types and patterns are complex and varied. As an initial and tentative step towards developing a framework of female SIEs’ careers the authors introduce a typology of four career patterns.

Research limitations/implications

As an exploratory piece of research there is limited generalisability since the findings are presented from the perspective of a particular cohort of women's narratives.

Practical implications

There is a need to recognise the potential value of SIEs to MNCs particularly in light of the well-documented concerns regarding human capital. Companies risk losing this potentially valuable employee if the career opportunities, as well as compensation packages, benefits and support on offer, do not match the plans and expectations of the individuals concerned.


The study provides new insights into the nature and dynamics of the different career modes and configurations of SIE women. This is an important and appropriate research agenda for several reasons. First, there remains a paucity of research on female SIEs. Second, little is known about their career-related behaviours and expectations and the relationship between mobility and career. Thus, it is hoped that a study such as this will add to the emerging body of knowledge about an under researched yet growing number of the some of the most mobile human capital in the world.



Muir, M., Wallace, M. and McMurray, D. (2014), "Women on the move: the self-initiated expatriate in China", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 234-254.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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