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Why You Should Hire Women For Your Internationally-Focused Roles

  • New research reveals women are more likely to collaborate internationally than men
  • Research also finds that patriotism can hinder international collaborations
  • Findings spark call for greater inclusion of women in international affairs roles

It’s next to impossible to do business without going global – from the production of a product, right through to the distribution to the customer, it is highly likely that you have worked with a company from outside your home country. Whether it is the idea of your product being invented in Tel Aviv, the manufacturing parts for the good being imported from Shanghai, the production taking place in Bangalore, the product being marketed by a firm in London, or it being sold to customers in the United States – its likely the end product has clocked-up more air miles and seen more of the world than most of it’s customers will ever accomplish.

It goes without saying that there are huge benefits for companies who choose to operate internationally, from boosting their customer bases and profits, to their capacity for innovation and new product development, enabling them to grow further still… And, beyond business success, there are other, wider benefits that can be gained from well-conducted international collaborations too, such as the potential to better tackle the many significant environmental or societal or humanitarian challenges our world faces. Good collaboration is vital for progress.

But whilst there is much to be gained, and may tools at at our disposal to help smooth the way to international partnerships, there are of course new numerous challenges that make establishing such partnerships tricky – whether navigating unfamiliar legal frameworks or overcoming cultural differences and working practices. Like a ship in a storm, a business attempting to sail international waterns needs a steady captain at the helm.

Are there certain characteristics that make people more or less prone to making international ties, and making them work? This is exactly what Jason Shachat, a Professor of Experimental Economics at Durham University Business School, looked into, alongside colleagues from Chapman University, USA, and Wuhan University, China.

The researchers wanted to understand whether people’s attributes , such as the country they come from, their attitudes towards their own and other countries, and their gender had an influence on how likely they were to collaborate internationally.

To do this, the researchers tested out the opinions of international collaboration with both American and Chinese students, using the Prisoner’s Dilemma – a popular scenario used in game theory to determine why two rational people may not co-operate, even if it is in their best interests to do so – on an international scale. Using a dataset of 321 participants from the United States and 306 from China, players engaged in the Prisoners Dilemma, and were only informed whether or not their counterpart was someone from their own country, or someone from the other country.

After participating, the researchers asked participants to complete two further tasks; assess the likelihood of whether their counterpart would choose to cooperate, and fill out a survey that asked questions on their attitudes towards their home country, their overseas partner’s country and their own personal characteristics.

From these explorations the researchers found that women in general were much more likely to be open to international collaborations than men. This was the case for both American and Chinese counterparts, where, in the simulation, the women chose interacted and worked with their foreign colleagues at a higher level in than men did.

Secondly, the researchers also found that a high opinion of a participant’s home country made them less likely to cooperate internationally. This clearly shows that patriotism was a barrier to international collaboration, with those who saw their country as superior being less likely to engage with those from other cultures. Interestingly, the researchers also found that American participants in general were also slightly more likely to internationally cooperate than their Chinese counterparts.

“Technological advances, globalisation, and increasing worldwide prosperity all contribute to growing international interactions and joint participation in projects. The success of these relies upon individuals’ abilities to engage cooperatively without formal institutional enforcements.” says Professor Shachat. “With China’s unique culture and recent ascension to the world’s second- largest economy and the United States’ long-standing hegemony, there will be an ever-growing incidence of such multi-person efforts between individuals from these two cultures.”.

The researchers state that their results support the call for more women to hold international affairs roles, given their increased openness to collaboration. Efforts to be more inclusive of women by appointing them to such roles could lead to greater success in international cooperation.

Whilst with regards to nationalist attitudes hindering international collaboration, the researchers say that we have to predispose those in international roles to want to cooperate. And in the long term, the researchers say companies should look to out-group biases stemming from patriotism. Interventions involving pleasant and cooperative activities have long been known to successfully mitigate cross cultural prejudices. By improving collaborations, we can solve many global problems.

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