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Chapter 1 Theoretical Perspectives on Expatriate Gender Diversity

The Role of Expatriates in MNCs Knowledge Mobilization

ISBN: 978-1-78052-112-1, eISBN: 978-1-78052-113-8

Publication date: 10 October 2011


Purpose –– This chapter examines theories and models that could be used to explain female expatriate participation with a view to identifying the most promising theoretical lenses for future research. It takes as its basis, issues, evidence and explanations from both ‘women in management’ and ‘women expatriates’ literature to identify four main theoretical domains: family issues, assignee characteristics, host and home country norms, and institutional factors. Key theories and models within each of these four domains are highlighted and discussed and their potential contribution to understanding and explaining female expatriation evaluated.

Methodology/approach –– A Delphi study and advanced library database search were used to generate data for conceptual analysis.

Findings –– The most promising explanations of women's low expatriate participation are identified as being linked to occupational gender stereotyping and sex roles in employment, women's reduced social capital and patriarchal attitudes towards their identity and homemaker roles. These are reinforced by institutional isomorphic behaviour through which organisations mimic each other's human resource practices.

Research limitations/implications –– The research drew upon English language sources only in data collection and analysis.

Practical implications –– Scrutiny of organisational policies and practices applied to expatriate assignments is required to increase gender diversity in expatriation.

Social implications –– Further research using theoretical underpinning is required both to understand gender diversity within corporate international mobility and to prevent women's current low representation from continuing in future.

Originality/value of chapter –– There is little evidence to date of an accepted theoretical framework to test hypotheses relating to women's low expatriate participation. This chapter addresses this gap, identifying potentially helpful theoretical lenses for future female expatriate research.



Shortland, S. (2011), "Chapter 1 Theoretical Perspectives on Expatriate Gender Diversity", Mariano, S., Mohamed, M. and Mohiuddin, Q. (Ed.) The Role of Expatriates in MNCs Knowledge Mobilization (International Business and Management, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 3-24.



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