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| 1 minute read

Can mobility help women leaders break through?

At the start of 2021, only about 8 percent of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies were held by women.

There are two ways to look at this stat: On the one hand, it’s encouraging to note that this percentage is actually up from 6 percent at the end of 2019, and it’s expected to increase to 15 percent by 2025.

Of course, the less rosy view is that even with these recent gains, there are simply not enough women in corporate boardrooms — and we have a long ways to go until we reach a more equal playing field.

This is certainly going to be hard work, and as the article below highlights, a big part of the process will be identifying biases and ensuring they don’t get in the way of women receiving leadership opportunities.

Here’s what this often looks like: A male business executive subconsciously prefers to promote a man to a leadership role, so he subtly dissuades female candidates from applying while subtly persuading men to apply. It’s not outright discrimination, because the female candidate is still technically welcome to apply, but it has a similar effect if she’s “talked out of” the opportunity.

In mobility, we can help break this cycle, but we have a long ways to go as well. For example, we know that international assignments are often a great development tool, allowing prospective leaders the opportunity to see more parts of a business and showcase their skills leading multinational teams. However, only about 20 percent of international assignees are women, and this figure hasn’t changed much in the past decade.

This is where the rubber meets the road. While mobility teams might not be tasked with hiring decisions at an organization, we can help develop female leaders if we commit to making relocation and assignment opportunities truly available to women. At the same time, we also need to be intentional in offering the type of support that female relocating employees need.

It’s a big challenge, and it’s going to take time, but it’s the right thing to do — and it’ll help our bottom lines, too.

(T)he reality is that women are still underrepresented in private-sector leadership positions. There are likely multiple drivers of this. Outright discrimination — denying women jobs on the basis of their gender rather than their skill sets — is certainly one. But another, harder-to-detect factor can contribute to the leadership gap: the tendency of some organizational decision makers to subtly dissuade women from pursuing leadership roles.


women in business, women, women expatriates, women in leadership, mobility, mobility program, international assignments, ceos, biases, diversity, equity, inclusion, business development, business strategy, business leaders