Migration & Gender: The trailing spouse

In the field of international human resource management and international careers, the dual career ‘issue’ continues to be a deterrent to couples to embark on an organization-assigned expatriation work abroad experience OR to embark on self-initiated international work experiences. The trailing spouse is that person in the relationship that puts their own career on hold, or positions it as secondary to their partner, and follows their partner who embarks on the international work experience abroad.

This causes problems in a relationship, which, before the move may have been more equal in terms of career focus, to one where one partner in the relationship can avail of a career advancement due to their move internationally, while the career of the other partner in the relationship suffers for the period of the internatinal assignment, or at the very least, is ‘put on hold’.

This has gender implications, since the trailing spouse is usually female. One suggested reason for this is given the pay differentials between males and females where males tend to earn more and so in relationships have the ‘primary’ career focus.

However, this creates a vicious circle where, if the male career is prioritised (due to pay differentials), and the female career is secondary, this perpetuates the issue as females focus less on their career advancement which then results in the females not being given promotional positions and not receiving the larger pay packet… What do you think? How can this cycle be broken?

Interesting study/slideshare on relocation: