Research investigating the position of women in management has, largely, been confined within national boundaries. Over the last fifteen years, empirical studies of women in international management have been undertaken, predominantly in North America. In this research field, many questions remain unanswered or have been only partially addressed. The particular focus of this study is on the senior female international managerial career move in Europe — a relatively unexplored area. Fifty senior female expatriate managers were interviewed, representing a wide range of industry and service sectors. The study, for the first time, assesses an exclusively senior sample of female managers who have made at least one international career move. This study of senior females in international management makes a theoretical contribution, not only to the analysis of gender and international human resource management, but also to wider debates within the contemporary women in management and career theory literatures. The aims of the study were to develop an understanding of the senior female international career move in a European context in order to more fully understand both the covert and overt barriers that may limit women’s international career opportunities.
The results of the study show that the senior international career move has largely been developed along a linear male model of career progression, a development which, taken together with gender disparity both in organisations and family responsibilities, frequently prevents women employees from reaching senior managerial positions. The study proposes a model of the senior female international managerial career move, thereby contributing primarily to the international human resource management literature. The implications of the study for research literatures in women in management and career theory are also explored and a future research agenda developed.