Globalisation has led to an increase in the number and importance of expatriate assignments,
however, high rates of expatriate failure are reported worldwide. In light of the importance of
expatriate assignments in international business, it is interesting to note that multinational
enterprises (MNEs) have shown a resistance to assigning females in expatriate positions. This
underrepresentation of female expatriates forms the central theme of this research, with a
literature review drawing partly on the work of Adler (1984), regarded as the principal author in
female expatriate research.
This study analysed the reasons for the underrepresentation of female expatriates, with reference
to South African MNEs. It focused specifically on elements of the willingness of female
employees to accept international assignments; corporate resistance in female expatriate
selection; foreign prejudice towards female expatriates; and career mobility after exposure to international assignments. The study pursued a qualitative design, utilising in-depth case-study
analysis of twelve South African MNEs drawn from six industries. Personal interviews were
conducted with the expatriate managers of the twelve enterprises.
Some findings of this study confirmed those of existing literature, in that almost all expatriates
assigned by South African MNEs are male; and that international experience is valued by South
African MNE and can advance your career within the MNE. Some findings of this study,
however, differed from the existing literature in that it was found that female employees were
less interested in pursuing expatriate careers than their male counterparts; that there was almost
no perceived foreign prejudice towards female employees; and that corporate resistance to
female expatriate selection was not a reason for the small number of female expatriates in South
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2015.