What follows is not a scientific reflection, or perhaps it is an appeal for one. Having been a member of the Board of Directors of SIETAR (The Society for Intercultural Education Training and Research) on multiple occasions, both in SIETAR Europa and SIETAR France, I observed that the membership of this organization seemed to hover, give or take, at about 80% female. I asked myself why this is the case. I could only theorize, and I came up with the following potential, perhaps partial answers:
- Intercultural work for a long time was seen as a sort of “soft science” (if the science at all) and therefore like many posts in HR and helping professions, the more female then male domain.
- Many women entered the field as a result of being trailing spouses in expatriation assignments abroad. In many cases, without working permits, they found themselves in volunteer assignments, often with a more significant local interface than that of their husbands.
- Besides learning the local language, some of these spouses discovered that they could be freelance teachers and coaches of the native language they brought with them. The soon discovered that teaching language without understanding the culture that it bespoke was incomplete, and so immersed themselves in greater cultural exploration, becoming both fascinated with this dimension of experience and increasingly professional. The growing availability of courses and workshops about intercultural managers transformed them into professionals in the field. For quite a few of these women raising children abroad were compelled to observe and actively participate in the transfer and clarification of the role of culture in their lives.
Of course each person’s career trajectory will have its own defining moments and it is perhaps a combination of factors, perhaps those that I have mentioned, but also others that will be at play.
It would be interesting to hear more of these career stories from those who would like to share them.