November 3, 2021

Global Mobility for (Crash Test) Dummies

Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion should be part of a thoughtful global mobility and talent management framework.

In her book - Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men - Caroline Criado Perez describes the gender data gap and how much information collected is based on male lifestyle patterns and male bodies. Criado Perez describes how a woman involved in a car crash is 47% more likely to be seriously injured than a man, and 17% more likely to die. These grim statistics are the result of assuming a male crash test dummy as the driver of the vehicle without taking into consideration the physical differences between genders.

While global mobility professionals are far removed from the complexities of automobile safety design, this, among the many examples Criado Perez uses, highlights the prevalence and serious consequences of unconscious bias in society, and along with recent geopolitical events, underscores the need for impactful diversity, equity and inclusion approaches to talent management in organizations.

crash test dummy in driver seat of vehicle

There is strong evidence to suggest that organizations are gaining an understanding of all aspects of Environmental Social Governance (ESG), including DE&I, and are investing accordingly:

    • Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent Trends report indicated that two thirds of respondents are making ESG a crucial focus in 2021, and that 74% of respondents to a 2020 poll issued by the same company indicated an increased focus on DEI, which forms one of the pillars under the ‘governance’ aspect of ESG.
    • Deloitte 2021 Millennial and Gen Z report shows that 49% of Gen Z (those born mid-to-late 1990s through the early 2010s) made choices over the type of work they are prepared to do or organizations they'd work for based on personal ethics over the last two years (compared with 44% of Millennials). The talent of the future is clearly engaged in an organization’s ESG or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reputations and are actively making employer choices on this basis.
    • S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Quantamental Research team looked at companies from the end of 2002 through May 2019 and found that those with female CFOs experienced bigger stock price returns relative to firms with male CFOs during the executives' first 24 months in the role.

Despite these facts, women continue to be underrepresented in senior management/executive roles, and several industry surveys have revealed an unsurprising statistic that fewer than 25% of international assignees are female. Fortunately, a recent AIRINC report showed positive indicators towards change, with 61% of respondents indicating they will make some modifications to their mobility program to align with the company’s DE&I initiatives over the next 1-3 years, and 19% reporting that their mobility program will be specifically designed to align with the company’s DE&I initiatives.

DE&I initiatives often focus on other aspects of unintentional gender discrimination. We have seen several companies that disseminate information aimed at expatriate assignees, such as World Trade Resource (WTR), Sterling Lexicon’s partner, enhance their website contents with data dedicated to the global LGBTQ+ community. The national legal frameworks regarding LGBTQ+ challenges all around the world, for example, are included with other useful information to help individuals make informed decisions about assignment locations.

These are challenging issues for mobility to grapple with and there are limitations to how mobility can ensure the mistakes of using a “one-size-fits-all” crash test dummy approach does not govern talent mobility decisions with respect to DE&I and ESG efforts. Worldwide ERC outlined some ways in which multinational corporations can increase DE&I through global mobility, including:

    • Internal review of personnel to ensure minorities are interspersed in different functions and at different levels throughout the organization
    • Publicize international work opportunities widely via the company’s intranet
    • Ensure policy language remains neutral
    • Consider assigning a mentor to qualified women and underrepresented candidates
    • Provide an expatriate coach to those offered an international assignment
    • Create an “Adaptation Budget” at the corporate HR level that can be used to address individual needs, i.e., single parent provided with additional financial support for childcare, or allowing grandparents to be considered accompanying family members

The extent to which global mobility can influence the end-to-end process, both directly and indirectly, will undoubtedly contribute to greater gains in this area. Candidate selection and the culture around candidate selection is a subject worthy of consideration as more corporations make an international assignment a pre-requisite for advancement. Recognizing the various ways in which DE&I strategies can address different employee populations and their collective as well as individual needs, will help propel your organization’s ESG efforts on a worldwide basis.

Interested in learning more about gender bias and how mobility teams can play a role in contributing to organizational DE&I efforts?

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Stuart Jackson

Stuart Jackson

As Account Director at Sterling Lexicon, Stuart focuses on working with clients to optimize their global mobility solutions. Stuart has worked in global mobility for 19 years. His broad experience of working with different program sizes across a variety of industry sectors helps to bring success to clients' programs and wider business strategies. If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article or learn more about Sterling Lexicon, please do not hesitate to contact Stuart Jackson at

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