Coaching Women Managers in Multinational Companies

Authored by: Katrina Burrus

The Routledge Companion to International Business Coaching

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  December  2008

Print ISBN: 9780415458757
eBook ISBN: 9780203886793
Adobe ISBN: 9781134047154


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The way to the top in multinationals is clearly built abroad; overseas assignments provide rich learning and a definitive proving ground in both operational and intercultural experience (Bennis 1989; Caligiuri and DiSanto 2001; Schein 2003; Weber 1996). Yet, women comprise only 14 per cent of the expatriate population (Koretz 1999). Why? Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chief executive officer of Nestlé SA, one of the 50 largest companies in the world (see Forbes 2006), told me:

This is the reason why it is more difficult to find women in top-management positions. Women are as competent as men. However, if you want to have a career at Nestlé, you must be open to relocate frequently. You cannot judge from here what is really happening there. It is necessary to be exposed to and have lived in those countries. This means that during your career you have to live in one or several of those areas. Up to now, it has been easier to find men willing to move frequently. Whether this will continue to be the case in the future, who knows? This is perhaps the one aspect which makes an international career more difficult for women.

(Quoted in Burrus-Barbey 2000: 498) Every woman in business has experience with the glass ceiling, the illusive barrier to C-suite success (Acker 2006; Bible and Hill 2007; Eagly and Carli 2007; Noble and Moore 2006; Valian 1998). But how does the gender barrier play out in international business? What is the experience of women in multinationals, particularly those in or vying for the coveted expatriate spots? How do leadership perspectives and styles, family roles and responsiblities, and cultural and gender prejudices impact the woman working abroad, and her opportunities to even get or succeed in such a job? This chapter identifies the myths, paradoxes, and facts about international businesswomen; the issues of women in international posts; and strategies for coaching these women on navigating the complex multicultural environment of global organizational life.

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