According to a study conducted by professors at Oregon State University’s College of Business, women executives are more than twice as likely as men to leave their jobs. This is the case despite the fact that women now dominate the number of university graduates across almost all fields, and that most women, before the age of 30, are not only experiencing more success than their male counterparts, but the amount of money they are making is higher as well. The study found that:
- 7.2% of women executives left their jobs, compared to 3.8 percent of men.
- Both voluntary rates: 4.3% for women versus 2.8% for men, and involuntary rates: 2.9% versus 0.9 percent were higher for women executives.
- Regardless of systemic evidence that women are more likely to leave their positions, the researchers did not find one driving factor that accounts for the numbers.
Why the Exodus?
While the study doesn’t point to one primary reason why women are twice as likely as men to leave before reaching the upper echelon of management and the C-Suite, being the primary caregiver is a traditional role that remains a major factor. When flexibility isn’t offered, women are often forced into stop-start career situations that often interfere with their ability to advance within the corporate setting.
Jennifer Allyn, Managing Director of Diversity for PricewaterhouseCoopers understands that: “Though there are more women in the U.S. workforce than ever before, women are still the primary caretakers in families. While men usually never need to step off their career tracks, women often need to dial down or slow down their careers to accommodate personal goals such as having a family and ascending to a position at the executive level is more difficult with start-stop careers. Workplace flexibility has become increasingly important over the past two decades, driven in large measure due to the prevalence of two-income families, and the growing number of working mothers in the work force. Another primary reason that women leave their jobs has to do with a lack of strategy for developing women leaders within their organization. Despite employers’ efforts to achieve diversity within their workforce, 70% lack a clearly defined strategy for the development of women into leadership roles.”
How to Stem the Flow
Companies use a variety of approaches for retaining talented women. In a recent post by Tina Vasquez in The Glass Hammer, she points to PricewaterhouseCoopers, where more than half of the firm’s new hires each year are women, and the number of partner-level positions women are achieving continues to steadily increase. They point to the firm’s recognition that the number of hours people are willing – or able – to work changes over time. Consequently, they offer:
- Generous parental leave policies for new parents
- Flexible work programs
- Family sick days
- Women Up Front initiative – a virtual community designed to connect women across the firm, regardless of where they work or reside
- Full Circle – a flexible work program that enables female and male professionals the ability to take up to five years away from the firm to focus on full-time parenting
In Vasquez’s post, she quotes PricewaterhouseCooper’s Allyn: “Talent is talent. We always want to be focused on our highest performers, making sure they stay with us; it’s a long term game. According to Allyn: “Women may not have as many role models as their male colleagues do. This can instill the belief in women that they are not compatible with competitive corporate culture. Our ambition initiative at PwC is about being purposeful and specific regarding recognition. We acknowledge that flexibility is important and over a career it can change. We have to make sure that we’re recognizing both our men and our women, encouraging their talents, and making sure they stay with us.”
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
What motivates you to remain in your current job? Or are you considering leaving your job – and why? Please take a few minutes and join the conversation by leaving your comments here on my blog.