>The Indian culture is ripe for women from Europe and America to work, to exploit and to enjoy. Employment experts are now looking at women to send to exotic places like India because in many respects they are more adaptable and better than men.
THE INDIAN TALENT CHALLENGE
More opportunities for female executives
By Professor Anand Narasimhan and Research Associate Aparna Mohan Dogra – August, 2008
Companies operating in India report critical shortages of all kinds of talent. As a result, many Indian companies are now looking outside the country for their staffing needs. And with India’s booming economy, more and more multinational companies are expanding eastward and sending their executives there. As Professor Anand Narasimhan and Research Associate Aparna Mohan Dogra describe in Chapter 5 of ”The OWP Book 2008” (to be published in September 2008), this may open up many more opportunities in India for female expatriate executives.
Women: better suited to international assignments?
Historically, companies have mostly sent technically competent male executives on international assignments. It was assumed that women were not interested or were less suitable. Companies feared that the host country might be prejudiced against women thus rendering female executives ineffective in their role, or that expat women would have more difficulty achieving success than men.
However, recent research has challenged these assumptions. Not only do male and female MBA graduates from American and European schools show an equal desire for international assignments, but women may even have an advantage in such assignments.
Companies have learned that technical competence is not the only factor behind a successful expatriate executive. Flexibility – the ability to adjust to different cultural and business environments – is equally important.
Successful expats usually have a high drive to communicate and an enthusiastic interest in learning more about the culture of their host country. Those who move outside the comfort zone of expat communities and expand their social networks adjust better to their new surroundings. By respecting local customs and practices, picking up the local language and experimenting with the local cuisine, these executives enjoy the time spent away from the familiar environs of their home countries.
Women are generally more sensitive, interpersonally aware, empathetic and sociable than men. Women are also motivated by challenging expatriate postings that involve personal development. In addition, they tend to make the work environment more fulfilling for everyone involved in the business. Overall, this implies that female executives should be better suited to cross-cultural situations than male executives, and hence be more appropriate candidates for international assignments.
Key success factors for female expats headed for India
India is an exciting destination for business executives who want to learn about operating successfully in emerging economies. Given the talent challenge, expatriation of female executives will become a rising priority for Western multinational companies.
To help define parameters that companies should use when choosing female expat managers for assignments in India, we brought together a panel of 20 female experts from multinationals, high-tech companies, professional services, financial services and the not-for-profit sector. The top five factors identified were:
Relative importance of interpersonal traits and cultural adjustment characteristics vs. technical competence
Research on expatriation has repeatedly shown that interpersonal abilities are more important than technical competence: executives who are more open and interpersonally flexible tend to do better in international assignments. It is therefore important for companies to consider psychometric and assessment center data for these characteristics. As one expert noted, “The ability to communicate, coordinate and build consensus is extremely important to the success of the assignment. Soft skills are more critical than hard, technical skills.”