Domestic Relocations - Leadership Opportunity or Family Pitfall?

Business woman with suitcaseIf you've been following my blog for a while you know that I mainly work with expats - executive assignees and their accompanying spouses. We engage in personality-type based coaching using tools like the MBTI, and of course cross-cultural trainings. Over the past few weeks I've become more focused on women leaders. According to the 2012 Brookfield Global Relocation Study, women make up only 20 % of international assignees. And according to the 2009 Worldwide Employee Relocation Council on domestic relocation assistance (within the USA), which I'm interested in for this post, 32 % of domestic assignees are female.

First of all, let's look at the bright side: women assignees' numbers have been steadily rising from 13 % in 1986 to 31 % in 2003, holding at about 32 % ever since. Still:

Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2006) estimates that half of all workers in management, professional and related occupations are female, only one-third of transferees are women.

Why aren't more women moving for their careers, even across the country?

WERC's research suggests that

Women tend to be more reluctant than men to relocate if they believe a move may be disruptive to their children’s education and/or lives.

That may be a fair assessment. I'd also wonder if women are "leaning back", not applying for jobs they don't feel they're 100 % prepared for.

Ladies - everything we want is on the other side of awkward! I know how hard it can be to let go of "perfect", I'm still trying to work through Brené Brown's 10 Guideposts every day. I just invite you to remember that it's ok for the new assignment to challenge you a bit! After all, you want to learn something new, too, right? Helps with motivation, doesn't it?

As for all the other viable concerns like the housing market, not wanting to lose out on your mortgage, worrying about access to good schools for your children, or lacking career opportunities for the assignee's partners: These are all reasons for male assignees to turn down national and international opportunities, too, so I don't see why that would be different for women.

Domestic relocations are leadership opportunities, and don't have to be relationship or family pitfalls. With the right support, you can get the most talented and qualified person for that position across the country. When the company offers relocation assistance, job-finding support for the relocating spouse, flights back home to take care of e.g. elderly parents, or when questions like housing allowance or home-sales can be openly discussed, chances of coming to a mutually satisfactory agreement are good to great. Communication and dialogue - you should try them sometime, they're really wonderful things. And if you're a first-time relocator, give that WERC report a read, it may spark some ideas about what to ask for in your next relo meeting.

The best example for leaning in I've seen on TV recently is CJ Cregg on the West Wing. Never mind "leaning in", her character was asked to jump off a cliff (aka be Chief of Staff), and she did! Love this show.