The study aimed to extend knowledge of women’s self-initiated expatriation. Self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) take responsibility for their own careers, and such expatriation is often advocated as an alternative, boundaryless career option for women. However, little has previously been published about the experiences of SIE women or the role of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) in the cross-cultural adjustment of SIE women.
The research focused on the following questions:
What linkages can be identified between the individual adjustment factors and processes perceived and experienced by SIE women?
What insights can be gained about CQ as a facilitator of the adjustment of SIE women? An Interactive Qualitative Analysis (IQA) approach was used in the research. Two IQA focus groups were hosted in the Netherlands in April and June 2010. A total of 12 SIE women participated in Focus Group 1, and nine SIE women participated in Focus Group 2. The Systems Influence Diagrams (SIDs) representing the realities of the two groups were compared and were subsequently integrated into a combined new conceptual model represented by a final combined SID. The metaphor of Alice in Wonderland’s journey of choice and chance was used to describe the final combined SID, which starts with the decision to expatriate and ends with personal/professional development.
The main outcomes are the following:
Contribution to knowledge – The study expands on the existing adjustment knowledge about SIE women, illustrating the facilitative role of CQ in the adjustment of SIE women. Experiential learning processes related to CQ were highlighted, and a new conceptual model for understanding the role of CQ in career development was proposed. In addition, key dilemmas faced by SIE women during the adjustment process were identified.
Contribution to professional practice – The study provides new insights to international HR departments and policy-makers into the challenges SIE women face, together with possible themes for supporting them through training, coaching, mentoring and adjustments to recruitment practices.
Contribution to paradigms of inquiry – No studies applying the IQA as a process to the exploration of expatriate adjustment have previously been published. This study explored the use of IQA as a methodological approach in this context.