Support for Dual-career Couples can Ease Women’s Concerns on Mobility


These days, the typical accelerated leadership career path often requires international mobility. However, one common organisational challenge that ensues from this trend is that women are excluded from the leadership pipeline given their reluctance to move for a bigger role.

So, why are leadership opportunities involving relocation unattractive mainly to women? According to the 2012 Global Labour Market Data Survey by CLC Human Resources, the reason is due to high perceived cost of international relocation - particularly around their partners’ or spouses’ inability to find roles in the new country. In fact, women surveyed say they often avoid relocation due to the potential of losing the income from their partner’s careers.  As a result of this perception, the survey reports that high-performing, mid-level men are 16 per cent more likely to be willing to relocate abroad to advance their career than women.

This significant difference across genders excludes many women from critical development required for advancement to senior leadership and inadvertently, leads to an under representation of women in leadership positions in many global organisations.

To combat this worrying trend, like-minded organisations like Nestlé, Philip Morris International, Ernst & Young, L’Oréal and Cargill have teamed up to provide employees in dual-income families dual career support through a self-sustaining network of partners. Named the International Dual Career Network (IDCN), it is a six-year-old network with over 70 member corporations supporting some 2,000 relocated partners is now present in 10 cities worldwide.

Any organisation with a minimum amount of international assignees or an interest to recruit is welcomed to join as a member in the non-profit association. For spouses of mobile employees in a company that is registered as a member, they can join as an individual if they fit the eligibility criteria.



With dual-career couples fast becoming the norm, how can organisation ensure they provide appropriate support networks for the spouses of their globally mobile talents in order to attract, develop and retain them?

#1 Provide local job market guidance & networking to reduce the risks for dual-career couples

According to the IDCN, the top three key barriers to entry for relocated spouses looking for jobs in a new country are: they are often are not native speakers of the local language; they do not know where to start when it comes to finding a job in the local market; and they lack the visibility with local employers to secure a job.

To maximise the tangible benefits of attending networking sessions, spouses of relocated talents are invited to attend sessions that provide local job market guidance and valuable face time with peer spouses, HR practitioners from multinational corporations as well as local recruiters. IDCN estimates that for every 30 organisations with relocating talent, there will typically be between 150 to 250 spouses who attend each session.

#2 Extend relocation support to partners

According to the 2012 Allied Workforce Mobility Survey, only two per cent of respondent companies offer help with spousal employment. This result is startlingly low, particularly when investing in spousal support not only helps employees and their partners, it also helps the company retain its globally mobile talents. In fact, statistically, families’ inability to adapt to the new environment is the biggest cause of assignment failure.

Some ways companies have extended support to relocated partners include:

  • informal networking groups and mentor programs for partners or spouses
  • host-family support programs
  • company-organised social activities for partners to network socially
  • internal social media sites or collaborative tools to help connect new families to other assignees and local families in the local community
  • including spouse/partner and family satisfaction into the company’s global mobility program’s success measures, with family focus as one of the critical design requirements for their overall program

#3 Collaborating with other organisations to create self-sustaining employment networks for partners

To transition from merely creating informal networking platforms for spouses, IDCN proactively partners organisations like local Chamber of Commerce to form strong and scalable employment networks comprising other multinational corporations with operations in the area. These networks are run by Partner Committees which provide career support for peer partners in network. When volunteers on the Partner Committee find employment, they are then responsible for identifying and transitioning their own successors to ensure the sustainability of the network.

Job openings available in these organisations are then made available to IDCN member partners or spouses first with them reporting a significant improvement in their job search. Positive word-of-mouth feedback in turn, creates increased interest in network from other relocated partners and MNCs. The success of this model is reflected in IDCN’s key achievement of securing jobs for over 90 partners in 2014 via this networking platform alone.  

You can read more about global talent trends at this link.


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