'Balls in the Air’: Exploring Women’s Careers Internationally
Crowley-Henry, Marian (2012) 'Balls in the Air’: Exploring Women’s Careers Internationally. In: Work and Family Researchers Network Conference (WFRN), 14-16 June, 2012, New York City.
There have been calls for the pluralization of research and publications on international assignees beyond the widely described organization-assigned expatriate. Equally it has been noted that females are under-represented in the organization-assigned expatriation pool. This paper presents an under-explored category of self-initiated international assignees: highly educated, non-French, Western (first world) females who have moved to the South of France while attempting to maintain their paid working careers. A qualitative research study was undertaken, where the career-related experiences of a sample of twenty females (from a wider study of thirty-seven individuals) were collected through in-depth interviews conducted over a three-year period. The core findings from those career narratives are shared in this paper. The findings highlight both the personal nature of careers and the permeable career/life boundary, described by one of the respondents as juggling several ‘balls in the air’ at the same time. The study shows how the females ‘morph’ their careers over time, as circumstances dictate and opportunities facilitate, taking particularly subjective career concerns into consideration. The phenomenon of ‘morphing careers’ is identified in the literature as the protean career concept. Specific elements from the work/life trajectory influence women’s career choices at varying points in their life and career stage, with dual careers (trailing spouse) and children responsibilities most pertinent. The particular challenges for the females in the sample, of maintaining a career in a host country, are interpreted in the findings. The discussion encourages debate on the content and potential of female international careers in an era where following a career internationally is less atypical.
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