Families matter. Yours, mine – the families that make up our society – they all matter.
In the world of corporate global mobility families are often seen from a problem perspective.
The 2015 Brookfield Global Mobility Survey reported, “‘Family concerns’ was the single most noted reason for assignment refusal. In addition, respondents cited it as the top reason for early assignment return and the third most commonly noted reason for assignment failure.”
This isn’t news; their latest report echoes similar results from previous years.
None of this comes as a surprise to the presenters and attendees at the recent Families in Global Transition Conference in the Netherlands.
Yet at this vibrant, thought provoking event, while problems were acknowledged and discussed and best practices for support were shared, there was also an appreciation for the benefits gained from a globally mobile life. Benefits of cultural understanding and global mindsets, of languages and empathy gained, of experiences and challenges mastered, of stories owned and shared.
There were inspiring examples of partners who have built careers that transcend visa restrictions and non-transferable qualifications, instead leveraging the power of both digital connections and real life supportive communities to build new employment paths. There were stories of entrepreneurs creating a number of those communities, and those helping others to think beyond the limitations of traditional careers they might have considered back home.
The real-world challenges facing globally mobile families were also highlighted.
Rachel Yates of Expat LifeLine challenged expat partners not to fall into 50s style gender inequality mindsets, relying on a partner for income, future savings, and fulfillment. Instead she encouraged expat women to build independent resources, strength and security, and take ownership of the messages that they see, hear and send.
It echoed the timely advice offered by Lucy Greenwood, Partner at The International Family Law Group, who dispelled many of the legal myths about divorce overseas. (The most common one? Believing you’re protected by the law of the country you got married in. You’re not.)
Conference attendees were challenged to lift our thinking beyond our current sectors (corporate, educational, diplomatic etc.), see the broader picture of those impacted by transitions and consider how our skills, experience and empathy can assist the growing refugee communities in the world.
Families matter. They aren’t a problem – they are an opportunity for support and belonging on global journeys.
PS I've just seen this great article published by another of the wonderful people I met at FIGT Veronica Lysaght. Read it to learn more about the issues of expat partners.