Self-initiated expatriation and older women: composing a further life

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Purpose: Research into self-initiated expatriation (SIE) has increased exponentially, although the focus of these investigations has been on professional workers, and little has been gender specific. The purpose of this research therefore is to explore the career and personal motivations for SIE through the novel lens of older women. In this exploratory study, SIE and socio-emotional selectivity motivation theories (SSTs) are used, in addition to the Kaleidoscope Career Model (KCM), to understand the reasons these women have taken this path. Design/methodology/approach: The paper employs a qualitative methodology, drawing on in-depth life story interviews with 21 women aged 50 or more who had taken a SIE. A five-step narrative process using a story-telling approach was the method of analysis. Findings: The findings show important contradictions to the extant literature. Career dissatisfaction and escape are key motivations for these women. Further, contrary to SST, these women were seeking novelty–new places and new experiences. These women were also seeking authenticity as suggested by KCM, but also challenge was to the fore–not in the career domain, but in the personal domain. Their motivations for SIE extend beyond the current evidence base and understanding of the phenomena. Originality/value: The contributions include new insights into the motivational drivers for SIE for these older women and the importance of timing as facilitators of SIE. The SIE nomenclature is broadened through the inclusion of older women and beyond professional spheres. An initial framework of a more integrated model is developed from this exploratory study and presented as a basis for beginning to understand the phenomenon of older women undertaking SIE.
Gender, Qualitative, Self-initiated expatriation, Life course, Older women