No room at the top?

Maria Bastida and Luisa Pinto are regular attendees at CYGNA meetings. They are also thoroughly nice and accomplished academics, who really care about making an impact with their research. Therefore, when they asked me to join in on an article on gender issues I happily said yes. 

The whole collaboration was an absolute delight, combining the best of relationship-oriented and scholarly-professional rationales (see On academic life: collaborations and active engagement). They will be blogging about the article's content in a more accessible format soon, but I just wanted to share the abstract and full reference here.

  • Bastida, M.; Pinto, L.H.; Harzing, A. W. (2021) No room at the top? A system dynamics view of the recursive consequences of women’s underrepresentation in international assignments, Journal of Global Mobility, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 361-381. Available online... - Publisher's version - Related blog post


Purpose: The expatriation literature has developed an insightful body of research on the reasons why women are not assigned abroad as frequently as men. However, we know very little about the systemic and recursive consequences of women’s underrepresentation in international assignments (IAs), which are examined in this conceptual paper.

Design/methodology/approach: Drawing upon expatriation research and a system dynamics perspective, we propose a conceptual model to explain both women’s underrepresentation in IAs and its recursive consequences.

Findings: We highlight how women’s underrepresentation in IAs results from a complex system of recursive effects that jeopardizes women’s professional development and undermines both their own career progression to top management and firms’ competitive advantage and international growth. We argue that organizations make decisions that contravene their own interest in a competitive global environment. First, because they are limiting their talent pool by not considering female candidates. Second, because they are missing the opportunity to use IAs to advance women’s careers.

Research implications/limitations: Our model provides a solid grounding for future research on selecting the most effective organizational actions and designing supportive measures to disrupt the persistent dynamics contributing to women’s underrepresentation in IAs. Future research could also expand our study by incorporating individual differences and the proactive role that women may take.

Managerial implications: Our model points to specific managerial interventions (e.g., increased access to job-training and specific training ahead of the assignment, dual-career support, women’s mentoring, and affirmative action) which have the potential to reduce women’s underrepresentation in IAs and in top management.

Originality: Our system dynamics approach enables a broader understanding of why women are underrepresented in IAs, how this underrepresentation further exacerbates gender segregation in international business, and how these recursive outcomes can be averted to the advantage of firms’ sustainable growth.

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