Husband finds job… wife follows. Right?

Expats come and go. They don’t integrate, don’t learn Dutch. But they do live in our houses. Oh yeah… And, they’re arrogant. An anthology of what you might hear at a birthday party. As you may have sensed: this isn’t the whole truth of the matter. If it were, your average expat would strongly resemble your Uncle Bob.

The husband finds a job, the wife and kids follow after him… For decades, this has been the stereotype of the expat family. But is this in fact the case?

In a word: yes. In most cases, it is a husband or male partner who is recruited as first hire to our Brainport region. Their wife or female partner joins him here later, with any children. However. And there is a big BUT: the women are not passive in this transition. These women are not the kind to sit at home longingly for their men to return from a day’s work. Far from it.

So what has caused the traditional roles to change? Expat Spouses Initiative (ESI)* (credit to Kavitha) has written a great article about this, some of which I paraphrase below.

Among millennials, the ‘I work / study, you raise the kids’ tenet no longer washes. The trend is far more towards responsibilities being shared equally, without any preconceptions as to who ‘should’ do what.

It is more and more common for both partners in a couple to be earning. When considering a move overseas, these couples will carefully weigh up whose career prospects are the greatest. The role each of them will carry out within the family ensues from the answer to that first question. Simple as.

Another key factor is how employers structure their recruitment process. Diversity is high on the agenda, and in order to redress the workforce balance, there are examples of projects in which women are given priority under the recruitment policy. One such example is the Irene Curie Fellowship at the TU/e. This fellowship specifically targets female scientists. The direct consequence of this is that the number of male spouses in our region has increased. Action-reaction in action!

Then there are the Female Tech Heroes of pioneers Ingelou Stol and Hilde de Vocht at High Tech Campus Eindhoven. Here too, diversity is paramount. And while the name of the project suggests a female-only workforce, this is not the case. as the correct spelling is Fe+male Tech Heroes.*** Diversity leads to more innovative solutions! Projects like these show employers that diversity works. and that our region welcomes all talent, irrespective of gender.

One challenge that ESI highlights, is the difficulty male spouses experience adjusting to their situation once they arrive in the Netherlands. They focus primarily on finding a job, following the example of their wives. Less attention is paid to what are generally considered more female endeavours, such as finding a school for the children or preparing the home. Clearly, there is some way to go still before men break free from deep-rooted gender roles and take on these types of tasks.

The notion of a man following a woman may be hard for some old-fashioned purists to swallow. But it is not so much a matter of the man following the woman, it’s about following a shared strategy. A family strategy whereby the couple makes certain choices for the family, shares responsibilities and accepts the consequences of those choices.

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