Publication Date

1998

Abstract

This paper examines the cross cultural adjustments of PIM 55 women who worked overseas while single. The existing literature addresses issues specific to single career couples and the traditional expatriate spouse, dud career couples, and families. There is little mention of single women as a group with specific shared experiences of adjustment.

Recognizing the fact that people who live overseas experience cross cultural adjustment, single working women as a group have been overlooked in specific research. This paper examines whether single women who work overseas share enough common experiences to be considered a group with valid and unique adjustment issues.

A 50 question survey was sent to 40 women in the Program for International and

Intercultural Management at the School for International Training who were enrolled in1995/96. Sixteen surveys were analyzed using the following four questions:

• What are the motivational factors of single women who work overseas?

• What do they find challenging in the adjustment process?

• How do women form their support network?

• To what extent is safety an issue?

The results showed that there was enough common response for conclusions to be drawn on single expatriate women working overseas to quantify their experience as a group. While they did not have identical experiences, many of their feelings and experiences were similar. Having available information on experiences of a group to which one belongs helps an expatriate prepare for an overseas experience with a clearer set of expectations. This group has valid experiences which should not be overlooked in future research.

While businesswomen may be a totally new phenomena overseas, women have been working overseas, starting with missionaries over 100 years ago. However, as gender roles are slow to change, there are fewer females than their male counterparts. Although they represent a small minority, women in the field of education are better represented. According to Jodi Thurston, training coordinator of World Teach, 80% of their volunteers are women, and their program is representative of others like it, in terms of numbers of female volunteers.

At the suggestion of my advisor, I decided to direct my focus for this paper to the

experiences of my PIM 55 classmates, specifically single women with overseas work experience. In doing so, I found no substantial research in the available literature which tells single women as a group what to expect and what life will be like overseas. They can obtain valid information from a number of books on international living, but rarely, if ever, mention single women and what will be encountered specific to their gender and marital status. Most research on expatriates has been broken down to include not only the traditional male expatriate, but also dependent spouses who may or may not work, dual career couples, and families all of whom live overseas. However, single women, who also live overseas, have been overlooked.

Nancy Adler acknowledges single women as a group when she writes that more than half of the female expatriates are single (Adler 298), but does not address this group elsewhere. She does, however, discuss specific adjustment issues for other groups: dual career couples, the traditional expatriate's wife of single career couples, and discusses at length the issues which are holding women professionals back from full participation in international business She does not explore the adjustment of the women already active in international business, on their own.

In this paper I will do the following:

• state the problem

• explain the theoretical framework and research question

• define terms of adjustment

• review the literature

• ask key focus questions

• explain my research tool and criteria for respondents

• show the data results

• analyze the data according to the focus questions,

• discuss the conclusions of the study

Disciplines

Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Psychology

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