The 4 types of Female Expats
How differently do women approach the concept of a career abroad? What traits can be assigned to the various international CVs? I spoke with 30 female breadwinners who have made it abroad and identified 4 types that have emerged time and again. In this article, I discuss each type and show what you can learn from them.
A qualitative study of 30 role models around the world
I interviewed 30 amazing women working abroad and asked them about:
– What was your motivation to go abroad?
– Can you have it all? A successful career and a family?
– How do you deal with the opinions of friends and family back home?
– What makes you thrive in your career?
Are there diferent types of female expats?
When I had the opportunity to interview 30 women, all of whom had made a career abroad, as part of my study on “The thriving Female Expat,” I quickly realized that there were exciting and recurring patterns. After I transcribed the very personal interviews, coded them and analyzed them with the software MAXQDA, 4 different types became recognizable. I once described the essence of these different types in a chapter within the study (feel free to download the study for free here) and summarize the findings here in this blog post. Each of these types has had a different motivation to go abroad, has weighted their career differently and also found a different way to let family happiness and fulfillment coexist in the job.
The percentage of each persona within the sample
The Adventure Seeker
The brave and curious woman who has a desire for global adventures
The Adventure Seeker is a curious and culturally interested woman always looking for the next adventure. She feels an intrinsic motivation to break out of the usual norms and dare something new. Despite her desire for discovery, she usually ends up in steady relationships with a more traditional concept of work-life balance. Adventure Seekers often experience cultural differences due to their gender and feel the need to work more to compensate for that. Her career is more about making her global life possible. There is less emphasis on continuity or recognition. Career changes are used to lead the desired private life abroad. The Adventure Seekers is very courageous and self-confident in her communication style and takes opinions from the outside less to heart.
The Career Woman
The ambitious woman who pushes her career to the max
The Career Woman subordinates her life to her career. Usually, it is a professional promotion or the absolute desire to advance her career that motivated her to move abroad in the first place. She often chooses her career over having a family, and in case she has children, she is keen on making it work no matter what. Recognition, financial independence, and the pleasure of working give her energy. Her work is a priority and a large part of her identity. In periods when she is not working, she feels disoriented and struggles with her destiny. Cultural challenges do not occupy her immensely. And if cultural differences threaten to interfere with her work, she rises to the challenge and addresses the problem directly. However, she purposely works harder to make up for the perceived glass ceiling. She is very self-confident in her appearance and demands thatwomen be more courageous and not hide behind the gender debate.
The resourceful, energetic woman who uses the global lifestyle as a facilitator
The Changemaker could not create the life she had in mind in her home country, so she took matters into her own hand. She did not find her local tribe encouraging and was seeking new inputs. Whether her career was stagnating or she couldn‘t access efficient daycare for her children, or wanted to improve her living conditions, the Changemaker takes her future into her own hands and doesn‘t wait for someone to do it for her. The fact that she is a woman is not perceived as a disadvantage in her daily life. She often pursues a straightforward, ambitious career and uses her profession as a facilitator to improve her life. Financial independence and recognition are fueling her career ambitions. She doesn‘t let opinions get to her, and she communicates very confidently and shows a lot of perseverance.
Expat by Chance
The cautious woman who happened to find herself abroad and turning it into an opportunity
The expat by chance didn‘t particularly long for the time abroad, but it just happened. Whether due to a relationship or fortunate circumstances, suddenly, she finds herself abroad. While gender is not a disadvantage for her, she finds it challenging to balance work and children. She doesn‘t feel completely free in her decisions and relies heavily on the support of her partner. While one part of this expat type finds happiness abroad, another part decides to return or at least to choose between work and family.
The manifold lifestyles of the Female Expat
Of course, 4 personas alone cannot fully represent the broad spectrum of different attitudes toward family and career planning preferences among expat women. To visually illustrate what became visible during the 30 interviews: Each woman found her very own solution and has her own motivations and challenges. What united them all was that they seemed very self-determined and did not question their own path, let alone defend it against the outside world. The vast majority of the participants seemed at peace with themselves. The aim of portraying their thoughts and attitudes here in this study in such great detail is to show the range of possibilities. Not every Female Expat is a career woman, and not every woman has seen foreign countries as an adventure. Each dot represents a female participant and her attitude towards family and career planning in the chart below. Thus, it can be seen at one glance that there are trends but no universal positioning. It also became apparent that attitudes often shift over life experience and preferences change. Female Expats do think differently about what should be prioritized in life. The family was a much more significant part of their lives for some, while others were more driven by their career.
What do I want to tell you with this article? Well, it’s helpful to get a picture of how others go about their business. Many women can serve as a role model for you on how you can approach something or serve as a role model on how you don’t want to do it. (PS: You can find great role models for example in my Role Model section)
At the end of the day, however, you had to find a life model for yourself that is tailored to your needs and your concept of a successful life. Often you lack clarity about what this life could look like. In my coaching sessions, I therefore work strongly with the topics of clarity and identity formation in order to then develop an individual roadmap in the next step. If you want to learn more about this, please send me a message (firstname.lastname@example.org), arrange a free meeting, or have a look at my coaching package.
It is important for you to determine which circle you want to be in the above diagram. Which type corresponds best to your character and your view of life? Feel free to let me know! I am curious if you recognize yourself in one of the expat types.