Why do women leave the workplace? In this article, to mark International Women's Day 2023, Anova's Jenny Winspear reviews the current research on women in the workplace, their drivers, and their barriers. This article has been created in collaboration with Alt Collective.
Female leaders and middle managers are leaving their jobs at a higher rate than ever. This is resulting in huge amounts of lost profit, opportunity, and diversity.
To add to this, there are 32% fewer women in mid-management roles after having children than before having children, and a 44% increase in women in admin and entry level roles after children, which is a missed opportunity of 10% increase in GDP for the UK economy and highlights lost potential and skill.
Why are female managers quitting?
The stats tell us that a proportion of women are leaving their management roles for lower skilled jobs after children, but there are a number of other reasons causing women to leave their jobs too:
1. They spend more time on wellbeing and DEI initiatives, and it often goes unrewarded.
Female leaders are doing more to support employee wellbeing and foster inclusion, but it is spreading them thin and going mostly unrewarded.
40% of female leaders say their DEI work isn’t acknowledged at all in performance reviews
Female leaders are 2x as likely as male leaders to spend substantial time on DEI work
Young women place a higher premium on working in an equitable, supportive, and inclusive workplace, and when they see this going unrewarded, they too may decide to leave, impacting the pipeline of future female leaders.
2. They are facing adversity
Women want to advance but research suggests they receive more signals in the workplace than their counterparts that it will be hard to advance. For example,
Female leaders are 2x more likely than male leaders to be mistaken for someone more junior
37% of female leaders have had a co-worker get credit for their idea, compared to 27% of male leaders
If they are in a male dominated field, women can face the “only woman bias” where their judgement is more likely to be questioned due to the notion that their gender has played a role in them getting their position.
3. They look for more flexibility
Women are leaving current managerial positions for roles or workplaces that offer more flexibility, so they can balance their work and home life.
98% of mothers do want to work but despite this, 85% of women leave the full-time workforce within three years of having children
49% of female leaders say flexibility is one of the top three things they consider when deciding whether to join or stay with a company
Two-thirds of women under 30 say they would be more interested in advancing if they saw senior leaders with the work-life balance they desire.
We asked the transformational coaches at Jersey company Alt Collective to share their reflections on why women might be leaving their jobs:
“Over the collective 20 years we’ve worked with organisations and helped women navigate their careers, we have been able to see first-hand the challenges faced by female leaders and the barriers preventing women rising to the top. As mentioned, these include flexibility, adversity, being overlooked and undervalued in the workplace.
Along with these barriers, women are also facing a confidence crisis in the workplace, with 75% of female executives reporting they have experienced imposter syndrome . This self-doubt and questioning of their skills, talents, and accomplishments can cause women to hold themselves back in the workplace, limiting their professional development and potential.” Claudia Sutton, Co-Founder, Alt Collective.
Ways to Retain Female Middle Managers
If women are leaving their jobs because of the elements outlined above, then addressing them is essential. In order to maximise the potential of the workforce and economic benefits, here are some areas to focus on:
1. Reward Time Spent on Wellbeing and Inclusion
It is important to ensure that efforts in this space are recognised and celebrated. Promotions, bonuses, public recognition, and opportunities for leadership development are all ways to demonstrate that time spent on improving culture is valued.
2. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements
Organisations need to recognise that many middle managers have caregiving responsibilities and offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work and agile schedules. This can help to reduce stress and increase work-life balance, leading to higher job satisfaction and retention rates.
3. Develop an Inclusive Work Culture and Put Supportive Resources in Place
Leaders should lead by example and be proactive in addressing discrimination and microaggressions in the workplace. Developing employee resource groups and providing mentoring and coaching programmes for middle managers can also help to create a supportive work environment. The coaches at Alt Collective said:
“Supporting women’s growth through learning and development initiatives such as training, coaching, mentoring and sponsorship have been evidenced to play a key role in retaining and developing female leaders. What is clear is that while advancements have been made, businesses have to continue to prioritise female leadership development in the workplace. We have ambitious and talented women with overlooked and untapped potential who, with the right support, can be nurtured and encouraged to step into leadership roles and drive business innovation and development.” Sophie Clyde-Smith, Co-Founder, Alt Collective.
In conclusion, retaining female managers requires a multifaceted approach that rewards time spent on improving employee wellbeing and inclusion, provides flexible work arrangements, and fosters a supportive and inclusive workplace culture. Organisations that prioritise gender diversity and equity, and actively work towards creating a level playing field for all employees, will reap the benefits of a more engaged and productive workforce.
NB. Unless stated otherwise, statistics in this report are from Career’s After Babies: The Uncomfortable Truth 2023. Whilst the research referenced focuses on male / female, and therefore is reflected in this article for IWD, the authors acknowledge that it does not provide the full picture of gender diversity in the workplace.
Anova focuses on making the world of work a better place. If you wish to talk about workplace wellbeing measurement, programmes and services, visit www.myanova.com or contact Jenny at email@example.com
Alt Collective helps unlock human potential – in the workplace and beyond. For information on individual or group coaching programmes, please visit www.alt-collective.co.uk or contact Sophie and Claudia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please don’t leave us… why do women leave?