Women in the International Workforce

Globalization across different cultures: An MNE’s ultimate success often hinges on its skill fitting into the social fabric created by another country’s values and culture. It is especially important for managers who must motivate and lead employees from different cultures with varying concepts of formality and courtesy even different ideas about when a 10:00 am meeting should start.

Managers and Prejudice:

Dealing with employees from other countries often forces managers to confront their own prejudice. Three primary attitudes are identified among the managers of international companies: ethnocentric, polycentric and geocentric. Ethnocentric managers see foreign countries and their people as inferior to those of their country. These managers believe that the practices of the home country can be exported along with its goods and service. A polycentric manager sees all countries as different and as hard to understand. Such managers tend to leave their foreign offices alone, believing local managers are most likely to understand their own needs. Geocentric managers recognize similarities as well as differences among countries. Such managers attempt to draw on the most effective techniques and practices, wherever they originate.

Firms with foreign interest are likely to have managers with each of these perspectives. It is believed that geocentric attitudes are the most suitable kind for managers of multinational companies, but they are also the hardest to learn and accept.

Since the 1950s, the United States has witnessed profound changes in women’s prospects at work and in society. Once our culture identified men predominately with public or work life and linked women to private and home life. Gradually, the patriarchal society and women themselves began to change their attitudes and values about the roles of women in society. The women’s movement, economic necessity and the greater avenues opened up by court cases and legislation enabled women to seek education and employment in great numbers. Women began to redefine their roles in society, and society was forced to adjust – though not without resistance on the part of traditional women and men. How far women have actually come is debatable, given their virtual absence from the upper echelons of management but few would disagree that Americans have many more options today than they did 40 years ago.

Yet in International management, women frequently encounter stifling reminders of a more patriarchal past. Dealing directly with Asian and Middle Eastern firms can be quite awkward or women executives. In these cultures, women are traditionally excluded from though competent to hold positions of authority outside the home. In some cases, Asian and Middle Eastern businessmen have been reluctant to work with American businesswomen. Yet, in many other situations local businessmen work quite well with foreign businesswomen, seeming to make an exception for foreign women that they are not yet ready to make for their own wives and daughters.

At the 1975 United Nations International Women’s Year Conference inn Mexico city, it was promoted out that women performed more than 65 percent of the world’s work, but earned only 10 percent of the income and owned less than 1 percent of the property. Michaela Walsh, who was attending as an observer for the Rock feller Brothers Fund, met with a group of delegates to discuss how they could help women overcome the legal, financial and cultural hurdles that prevent them from achieving economic self sufficiency. They resolved to establish an organization that would support women who had entrepreneurial skills but lacked start up capital and management skills to build fruitful businesses.

The organization they envisioned Women’s World Banking was incorporated in 1979 under Dutch law (to confirm its international identity) to advance and promote the full participation of women and their families in local and global economies. Walsh got grants of $250,000 each from the United Nations and the US government to cover start up costs and secured $10 million in capital from individual contributors.