The Push for Rainbow Talent in Global Mobility – Part 2

Rainbow Talent

In our last post, we explained why we need to push for more Female and Minority Talent in Global Mobility and how we include a number of people under this rainbow umbrella. We even coined #RainbowTalent. Why is this worth talking about? Picture this scenario: a leading multinational company must select somebody with the right skills to establish its first overseas division and have two equally strong candidates. Alice just got married and, in their best intentions but without consulting her, leadership decides that she would not like to go on assignment as she is likely to be starting a family. The opportunity is therefore offered to George.  What do Alice and George think twelve months later? 

Alice versus George

Alice and her husband wanted to get the wedding out of the way so that she could pursue her dream of going on an international assignment. She was shocked about not even being consulted. But it all worked out for her: she works overseas for one of their competitors and is very happy. The company’s decision came at the worst time for George. He and his wife were about to announce their first pregnancy to their families.  But he still said “yes” to the opportunity and eventually convinced his wife to try it. It was, however, very tough on her: She was sick throughout the pregnancy, and when the baby was born, she had no support network. This situation also impacted George’s performance which was disappointing compared to his pre-assignment performance. For this reason, the company decided to bring him back. 

Wrong Assumptions and Stereotypes hold Rainbow Talent Back

Wrong assumptions and stereotypes are, in fact, one of the reasons why women continue to be highly under-represented in Global Mobility. The 2020 Worldwide Survey of International Assignment Policies and Practices states that an average of 20% of the global expatriate workforce is female (Huntridge, 2021).

We shall keep in mind that some favorable variations don’t influence the overall conclusions: we are still decades away from seeing the percentage of female assignees rise to 50%. In the best-case scenario, the predictions estimate this will be reached only around 2050 (Mercer, 2017).

It’s time to make opportunities accessible to all, including female and minority talent.

1 – Formulate the Strategy with Metrics for Rainbow Talent

Like most international organizations, you need to align Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with Global Mobility. Most of all, you should have metrics and goals to ensure that you have enough representation of all groups:

  • Women of all skin colors,
  • BIPOC: The acronym BIPOC refers to black, indigenous, and other people of color and aims to emphasize the historical oppression of black and indigenous people.
  • LGBTQIA+: LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, and other sexual identities and genders.
  • Religious and cultural minorities in your home and host countries,
  • People with disabilities 
  • People with a broad range on the mental health spectrum.

You should work on solving this crucial issue as soon as possible. When goals and data are discussed with Senior Management, Global Mobility Managers must have a seat at the table. 

2 – Rewrite the Policy for Rainbow Talent

Many Global Mobility policies were initially developed for male assignees with children and a “trailing” spouse. Ensure your policy addresses the issues of women and new types of families – single parents, for example (the vast majority of them female), or same-sex couples. Review the meaning of “Family” in your guideline and choose a more inclusive approach there.

3 – Allow a Self-Nomination Process based on Performance and Potential

There still needs to be more transparency over who is assigned and why. Companies often don’t have a clear overview of their employees’ willingness to be internationally mobile. And like in Alice’s and George’s stories, unconscious bias still plays a considerable (yet invisible) role in the selection of the candidates. Because of the prevalence of stereotypes that associate women with family, female employees are usually not even asked, even if they are willing to consider an assignment abroad. I’ve been there too. 

4 –  Select Women for Non-Diverse Host Locations 

This is probably not a big issue (apart from a few critical war zones and dangerous locations). The problem is instead the assumption that expat women won’t be accepted in their new role abroad because of the fixed gender roles men and women have in the host location. Expat women in India automatically have a higher status than local women. In some Muslim cultures, as long as you wear a ring implying that you are married, you can be seen as highly respectable and will be treated accordingly. 

5 – Ensure better Representation in the Global Mobility Teams too

While Global Mobility Managers are often female, women don’t benefit from the same representation rate at the upper levels. This means that Senior Leaders and Executives in Global Mobility are mainly men. As a consequence, lack of awareness at the Senior Management level is an issue, and this is especially true in traditionally conservative countries.

6  –  Bring Back the Human Touch 

The lack of Human Touch and previous bad Expat Experiences might stop women from actively seeking opportunities for international exposure. HR and Global Mobility teams are often too busy focusing on the many operational aspects of the mobility program and fail to design a human-centric Global Mobility program for their expat population. If you haven’t started yet, do it now. Talk openly about diversity in your policies and encourage internal discussion.

Do you need more support for a breakthrough in your career? You can contact me for a first conversation by filling out the contact form. Sign up here for more.




Gender equality: is the tide turning for female expats? (2016). FIDI GLOBAL ALLIANCE.

Gurchiek, K. (2022). Report: Most Companies Are “Going Through the Motions” of DE&I. SHRM. 

Huntridge, S. (2021). BTR: Stress-Free International Relocation and Move Management. BTR International.

KPMG. (2018). Inclusion and Diversity in Global Mobility. KPMG.

Meier, O. (2019). The path to diversity. Mercer.

PwC. (2011). 14th Annual Global CEO Survey. PwC.

PwC. (2015). Female millennials in financial services: Strategies for a new era of talent. PwC.

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