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WOMAN NATURALLY SUITED FOR FOREIGN BUSINESS ASSIGNMENTS -TEST DATA SHOWS

Women managers tend to have the right priorities to become successful international business leaders, even if they haven't worked abroad, according to a new study, reported this week in Personnel Today .

 

The study, based on over 3000 profiles of managers and professionals, shows that the qualities most valued by women who have never worked outside their own country are almost identical to those seen as vital by people – both men and women - who are highly experienced in working abroad.

 

These strengths include building rapport, accepting and welcoming people from unfamiliar cultures and gathering information.

The data has been compiled by the international management consultancy WorldWork from responses to its International Profiler online questionnaire tool. The questionnaire assesses people's strengths and weaknesses among the main qualities needed for working with people from other countries and cultures.

 

The 22 qualities assessed are those that have been found to be important in international work, including such skills as ‘active listening', ‘flexible judgement', ‘inner purpose' and rapport'. Together they make up the ‘International Competency Set'.

 

The quality given the highest priority across all responses is ‘Active listening' - or checking and clarifying what people say by paraphrasing what others say, ‘playing it back' to ensure they have understood.

 

The specific qualities that were particularly prioritised by women - and also by those who have lived abroad - included:

 

•  ‘spirit of adventure' – being keen to seek out variety and happy to put oneself into uncomfortable or unpredictable situations;
•  ‘valuing differences' – enjoying working with people from diverse backgrounds;
•  ‘welcoming strangers – being keen to make contact with new people, taking an interest in those from unfamiliar cultures;
•  being ‘attuned', or sensitive to the non-verbal aspects of communications.

 

Men emphasise ‘clarity of communication' – essentially clear oral communications. They also stress identifying centres of power to get things done (‘sensitivity to context') and maintaining focus on achieving specific goals, regardless of pressure to compromise.

 

WorldWork Director Julian Clover added: “The higher score for ‘spirit of adventure' suggests that women relish the challenge of working in a new environment more than men. Men score higher on ‘new thinking' which involves blending familiar ideas with new ones.

 

“It's important not to oversimplify the findings or create stereotypes. Just because many women give priority to listening it doesn't mean they are not goal-oriented. Equally, many men value the ‘pull' or ‘outside-in' qualities. However, in general, the findings are a challenge to any organisation where the number of women taking on international assignments is low compared to that of men.”

 

National differences

 

The WorldWork database also shows up contrasts between people of different nationalities. It contains responses from over 500 people from both the UK and Germany , over 300 from Italy , over 200 from the USA , over 100 from France and Mexico and around 50 from India .

 

The British rank learning languages lower than anyone else, perhaps reflecting the fact that English is so widely used in business. However, they score highly on ‘spirit of adventure' and the data refutes the idea that the British have a ‘stiff upper lip'. Compared with other European groups, the British set great store by skills relating to influencing others – such as building rapport and being attuned to non-verbal cues.

 

The German group focus strongly on making contacts with new people – ‘welcoming strangers' and also show more flexible judgement than the UK and US groups. But German respondents give less attention to the skills of influencing than the British group.

 

The responses show that Americans emphasise ‘inner purpose' more than any other group, apart from Indians. This means having strong personal values and beliefs that provide consistency when dealing with the unfamiliar.

 

French respondents gave a very high score to ‘exposing intentions' which in WorldWork's experience springs from the way that French business culture values having a very clear rationale for all decisions and requests.

 

Italian respondents show strong tendencies towards flexibility in behaviour and judgements and a relatively high willingness to learn languages.

 

Meanwhile the Indian group gave a lot of attention to ‘flexible behaviour' and ‘reflected awareness', suggesting a strong tendency to understand how their own behaviour is perceived and a keenness to fit in with new colleagues and partners.

 

Further details from the data and the ‘International Competency Set' of qualities assessed can be found here or are available from the contacts below:

Julian Clover, 07887 680734; David Vigar 07734 102708

 

 

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