Steps to Increasing Minority Participation in Expatriate Assignments

In this month’s issue of Mobility magazine, Dr. Arup Varma and Dr. Tanjia Coleman of Loyola University Chicago discuss the why and how of increasing minority participation in expatriate assignments.

Over the past year, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic coupled with racial reckonings, particularly in the U.S., have positioned diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives at the front of business priorities. In this month’s issue of Mobility magazine, Dr. Arup Varma, professor of management at the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago, and Dr. Tanjia Coleman, faculty at the DEI Institute, Loyola University Chicago, and president of Reimagine Organization Development, explore the why and the how of increasing minority participation in expatriate assignments.

“With social unrest and demands for justice happening simultaneously, long-overdue conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion have been prioritized and amplified,” they write. “Indeed, all manner of organizations have rushed to hire diversity and inclusion officers and conduct diversity and inclusion training for their employees.” These professionals are not only tasked with understanding the history of discrimination, but also their lasting impacts.

This includes the history of selecting expatriates. Varma and Coleman write, “According to the Society for Human Resource Management, only 22% of expatriates are women, and other scholars tag it at about 15%. While there are no definitive numbers for minorities, estimates are 3% to 5%.” So how are multinational corporations (MNCs) to ensure that minorities are included in expatriate assignments? Consider these tips:

MNCs must fix their overall staffing policies, strategies, and practices. – A diverse workforce will ensure that there are qualified women or minorities to be chosen for expatriate assignments.

MNCs must review and make sure that minorities are not simply token minorities hired into the DE&I positions – “A good test would be to see if they are interspersed throughout the organization at various levels in various functions,” write Varma and Coleman.

MNCs must ensure that all opportunities for international expatriate assignments are publicized widely – In addition, women and minorities should be actively targeted for qualified positions.

Qualified women and minority candidates should be assigned a mentor – These mentors can “guide them throughout their stay with the organization, including the application process for the expatriate assignment as well as the expectations and potential experiences at the host location,” they write.

In addition to a mentor, MNCs should sign an expatriate coach – “This is a professional with deep knowledge of the specific assignment country who has the ability to answer questions related to tax, career, and family implications for the expatriate, as well as guiding him or her on living and working in the new location,” they write.

MNC’s must support minority expatriates throughout the assignment lifecycle – To demonstrate that women and minorities are supported pre-assignment, on assignment, and post-assignment, this requires providing the candidate all the relevant information, training, and support before they leave for the assignment; making sure that they are fully supported while on assignment; and having a clear, robust, post-return career plan for them.

These steps can ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives are wide-reaching and support the overall success of under-represented groups in expatriate assignments. To learn more about strategies for increasing DE&I across the organization, enhancing employee experience, and strengthening business performance, subscribe and read this month’s issue of Mobility magazine!

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