The JGM BitBlog: Under-explored and under-supported – why aren’t minority expatriates on the radar of scholars and global HR practitioners?

Journal of Global Mobility

Kate Hutchings, Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Australia

Are HR practitioners sufficiently aware of the diversity of people that are currently globally mobile? Has the commitment to supporting diversity and inclusion by increasing numbers of organisations in a domestic context translated into developing and supporting diverse staff for working across national borders? Are organisations reticent to select people from minority groups for global assignments in locations where they may experience discrimination? Do some global organisations lack the required resources to support minority expatriates? Have scholars adequately considered all aspects of expatriate diversity when they undertake global mobility research?

Since the 1970s there have been many studies of women expatriates. While women remain in the minority amongst expatriates generally, they are over-represented within the lower-paid expatriate population and in women-dominated occupations, and we know women continue to experience barriers to, and challenges during, global mobility. However, there is much less research on minority expatriates of diverse genders, sexualities, ages, disabilities, and in a vast array of relationships/family situations encompassing, amongst others, blended families, multi-generational families, single parent families, and geographically separated families. Research published between 2010-2020 examining these minority expatriates did address some of the questions posed above. Some of this research found that people in various minorities are not selected for international positions and when working globally they do not receive sufficient support from organisations. However, the studies tended to examine small cohorts and therefore we do not have complete insight into where minority expatriates work, the type of roles they undertake, and their differing experiences in smaller and larger business organisations, not-for-profit organisations, government, and non-government organisations, and in varying national socio-cultural contexts. Moreover, much of the extant research has focused on one aspect of minority expatriates’ diversity and/or identity, thus, we have limited knowledge about how global mobility plays out in relation to individuals’ intersectionality (age, disability, ethnicity, gender, sexuality).

Some research highlights trends in global mobility suggesting more diversity in selection practices can result in expatriates who are culturally flexible and adaptive, but the work undertaken by, and support needs of, minority expatriates are not yet sufficiently understood. Excepting women and some religious groups, people that fit into the category of minority expatriates are also in the minority amongst domestic employees in many countries. Yet, minority expatriates do not form part of the discussion of diversity and inclusion in the general HRM and management literature. More domestic HR practitioners are linking HRM policies and difference-focused practices as drivers for diversity and inclusion. Hence, there is need to better support minority expatriates not just in their global mobility but also in general HRM policy and practice which affects opportunities to expatriate. Further, that people in minority groups are not being considered for international assignments or being provided with requisite support when they are globally mobile, should be a concern for any organisation that asserts a commitment to social responsibility across its global operations. 

There are many areas in which more research and analysis of practice is needed about minority expatriates, including, albeit not limited to: what are the experiences of minority expatriates with health conditions or disabilities?; how are minority expatriates affected when they change work locations or repatriate?; what is the experience of minority expatriates who affirm their gender or sexuality within or across an assignment/s?; do minority expatriate families experience global mobility differently than traditional expatriate families?; how should organisations support minority expatriates in locations with limited social infrastructure or in which they may encounter social stigma/discrimination?

These are important questions for reflection for both researchers and global HR practitioners to ensure minority expatriates are on their radar.

To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:

Hutchings, K. (2022), "Why we need to know more about diversity among the globally mobile: a systematic literature review of non-traditional expatriate research and future research agenda for minority expatriates", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 127-161.