Balancing an international career with having a family - can it be done?

katy friedman in red shirt and black jacket standing in front of blurry brick wall

The opportunity to work in another country and experience a different culture is hugely appealing to many professional women. However, it is also a common concern that an international career cannot go hand-in-hand with a happy family life.

Increasingly, young professional women are coming to regard a successful career and raising a family as mutually exclusive. It is vital to challenge this myth and show that, in fact, having a fulfilling personal and family life can yield benefits for your career.

Katy Friedman, Group Talent Director, Robert Walters, comments, “International experience can be extremely rewarding for both your career and your family life, offering you a global perspective on your employer and giving your children the opportunity to experience a range of cultures growing up. The key is to find an employer who will support both aspects of your life and building a relationship with them where you can rely on their advice and support.”

If you plan to pursue an international career, it is also worth considering a number of factors when considering where you may want to work:

  • Does the country you are considering moving to have maternity policies to support working parents? While there is an assumption that more economically developed countries will offer better maternity policies, this is not necessarily the case.
  • Norway offers 49 weeks of maternity leave compared to just 12 unpaid weeks in the United States. Women working in Vietnam are entitled to 24 weeks of maternity leave, while those working in the UAE receive just 45 days of statutory maternity leave.
  • If your career is likely to take you to parts of the world where help for working parents is not ensured by the government, research your employer’s private policies. 
  • Speak to your HR department to find out exactly what support you will be entitled to.
  • Seek advice from colleagues who have had similar experiences of raising a family while pursuing an international career.

Katy goes on to say, “There are certainly challenges that come with balancing an international career and raising a family, but it is far from impossible. What’s more, it can offer unique opportunities for you and your family.”

Katy Friedman is Group Talent Director at Robert Walters. Since joining the company in 2001, she herself has moved internationally many times - starting her career as an Associate Consultant in Tokyo’s banking division - before moving to New York in 2007 to head up the sales and marketing division. She currently oversees the Group’s talent acquisition functions, and is based in our London office. Katy is married and is currently expecting her second child.

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