While it would be nice if the challenges of “going global” were solved with unified advice and guidance, working internationally is different for different folks – both the hardships and the joys. For example, I continue to field questions from women that are unique to the needs of men. My experience is that women grapple with questions about quality of life and collaboration across cultures. Men are more concerned with status and the impact on their careers.
Because this week I’ve been working with female leaders at global company, below, I’ve packed some advice into a neat little “carry-on” for those women whose itinerary includes working and leading globally.
Women WEAR the other’s shoes
As I wrote in this post, recruiters are now focusing more on the behavioral aspects of agility and empathy. They ask questions like, “Can this person be flexible? Does this person have a global mindset? Can they adapt their styles in highly diverse environments?”
While I am always the first to teach the premise that agility and empathy are not exclusive to either gender, it is hard to ignore the research. An in-depth white paper by Caliper states:
Women leaders also were found to be more empathetic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts. “These qualities combine to create a leadership style that is inclusive, open, consensus building, collaborative and collegial,” according to Herb Greenberg, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Caliper.
Empathy and agility are seen as crucial to success in the global business world. When women work abroad, they can leverage these innate qualities.
Plan a look & see trip
If you’ve been offered an assignment abroad, negotiate what companies call a “look & see trip”. Go experience the company’s office culture, meet colleagues, but more importantly have a look at the city or town, talk to locals, and even look at real estate. You’ll get a sense of the society’s attitudes towards women, safety and comfort.
(Often realtors have a good sense of the place you’re traveling to and can function as a guide as well as a helpful resource for finding you the perfect living quarters.)
It’s a man’s world, or is it?
Study up on gender equality in the regions of the world you’re doing business in today. For example, Sweden is high on the gender equality index so working with men should be a pretty effortless experience. It’s also a very safe country and relatively comfortable for women to freely walk the streets day or night.
Hold a conversation with colleagues from the country you’re visiting. Ask about dress, appearance, and expectations in communication style. You don’t need to adapt your personality entirely, but learn what the major faux pas’ are and more importantly how decision-making happens. Influencing men in a less equal society may take a different approach than you’re used to.
As a woman working and leading globally, you will have special considerations. However, do your homework, get answers, and go into your global working arrangement with curiosity, interest, and even a sense of humor. You’ll be winning in no time.