Reasons for women’s underrepresentation in international assignments include stereotypical assumptions within organizations about their ability to adjust abroad and more broadly a lack of trust from the corporate headquarters. Female expatriates’ adjustment may strongly vary depending on the host country and on host-country nationals’ attitudes towards them. Yet up until today, very few studies have examined female expatriate adjustment in a single and non-Asian host country. This present study aims at addressing this gap by comparing the cross cultural adjustment of male and female expatriates in Switzerland.
This study replicates Selmer & Leung’s (2003a) study design in order to compare adjustment of male and female expatriates working in multinational companies in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Based on 152 valid questionnaires collected, we performed a multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) and further analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) to compare male and female expatriate adjustment.
We find that female expatriates have significantly higher interaction and work adjustment levels than their male counterparts, while no significant differences between men and women were observed in terms of general adjustment. These findings in a European context are consistent with those of Selmer and Leung in an Asian context.
Very few studies to date have examined the adjustment of female expatriates in a Western host-country context, despite the fact that host-country cultural norms might strongly influence women’s experiences. Our research brings new empirical evidence about cross-cultural adjustment of female and male expatriates in a Western location. Contrary to persistent stereotypical assumptions, results emphasize again that women are able to adjust better or at least as well as their male counterparts.