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Women and Their Role in International Human Resource Management

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Managing in the Global Workforce

Women and Their Role in International Human Resource Management

In today's business world, organizations need to be innovative to get ahead of their competition. It has been quite sometime since different organizations had to compete only in their local market. As time has progressed, organizations have had to go abroad and become more and more global in order to compete. "As Global competition continues to intensify, firms are evolving transnational strategies. Such strategies simultaneously require the local responsiveness demanded by global strategies, along with an increased emphasis on organizational learning and innovation" (Bartlett and Ghoshal, 1989). Corporations need to implement different practices that integrate themselves into the strategic objectives of the organization. One of these practices is to allow more female managers into the organization's international theater.

Female Managers in Multinational Corporations

One way companies have been innovative is by hiring the best personnel, from both men and women alike. This factor has given more and more women the chance to excel in multinational corporations away from their local branch, since in years past men would be the chosen ones. Their impact overseas has been primarily positive as stated by anecdotal evidence in BHP Billiton, Singapore. By searching through their entire personnel, corporations can allocate international positions to their best people. On the other hand, as stated above, in the past these same corporations would restrict themselves by just searching in their male personnel pool. Needless to say, they were missing the edge to hire a top manager just because of gender. As time has progressed, international organizations have been obliged to select the very best people available. "The best reason for believing that more women will be in charge before long is that in a ferociously competitive global economy, no company can afford to waste valuable brainpower simply because it's wearing a skirt", (Fisher, 1992). Statistics make this process more clear, if one selects from a larger population of managers, then better international managers will be selected through their meritocracy. Meritocracy - letting talent rise to the top regardless of where it is found and whether it is male or female . . . [is becoming] essential to business success (Kanter, 1994: 89).

Let's look at what women can contribute: Tarr-Whelan (2009) identifies five benefits organizations realize from having more women in senior jobs:

* Higher profits, more risk awareness, less hypercompetitive and a greater ability to survive financial downturns.

* Policies that contribute to individual and societal health - education, families, entrepreneurship.

* A stronger integration of work and family leading to higher productivity and quality of life.

* Increased commitment to both personal and corporate responsibility 
and broader and more long-term planning.

* Management that reflects the twenty-first century -teamwork, participative decision making.

Of the forty-seven women who have served in their country's highest political leadership position - as either president or prime minister - more than two-thirds have come into office in just the last decade, and all but seven are the first woman their country has ever selected (Adler, 1998a). Another way transnational corporations include women in their workforce is by not adhering to the normal accepted local norms for manager selection. The norm is that a local corporation must follow the normative to hire women according to that specific country. However, multinational organizations do not follow these norms, attaining greater flexibility in defining selection and promotion criteria that best fits the firm's needs rather than those which most closely mimic the historic patterns of a particular country (Adler, 1994). For example, American companies like Accenture have often selected local female talent when local corporations would not do so. American firms have led the way in hiring excellent Japanese women, while Japanese firms are still extremely reticent to hire them (Steinhoff, 1993). The more multinational corporations which select women for their workforce, the more that other local indigenous companies will try to follow suit with such practices. The outstanding success of these female expatriate managers in all geographies is encouraging firms both to continue sending women abroad and to begin to promote more local women into management (Jelinek, 1988). As stated in the beginning, innovation is paramount to get an edge in business and well-managed diversity is great innovation for any multinational corporation.

Essential Assumptions, Yet Different Approaches

There are certain assumptions that HR has when it comes to females in management positions. Due to insufficient female managers in multinational companies, HR departments can analyze two different approaches for a manager's potential. HR departments can either increase the amount of female managers selected or they can boost these managers' contribution to the organization. However, history shows that multinational corporations have not used both approaches, but they have chosen to use one or the other. The table below shows us how corporations have made one assumption about the ideal role of females in management. The first one states an equity approach based on assumed similarity. The second describes a complementary contribution approach based on assumed difference. The first one focuses on increasing the representation of women managers, while the second focuses on increasing their utilization at all levels of the corporation (Adler, 1994)

In the Equity Approach, organizations assume that female managers are equal professionals to their male counterparts. Thus, females can contribute



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