According to the latest Women in the Workplace study sponsored by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, women leaders are leaving corporate America at the highest rate in years. In fact, the gap between women and men leaving is the largest it’s ever been. It’s called by some as the “Great Breakup,” and it refers to a trend where women are more likely to leave their jobs to get their needs met.
It’s important to note that these ambitious women aren’t leaving the workforce. Instead, they are walking away from their companies in search of better opportunities. Because they are reevaluating their values and priorities, some are even switching industries or becoming entrepreneurs.
The economic and personal pressure is higher on women than ever before. Here are some primary reasons why they are leaving their jobs at record rates.
A Pew Research Center analysis confirmed that in 2022 women earned approximately 82% of what men did. One explanation is that even though women have increased their presence in the C-suite, they are still overrepresented in lower-paying roles relative to their share of the workforce. Gender discrimination and unconscious gender bias may also contribute to the wage discrepancy. Not surprisingly, many of these women are deciding to start their own businesses. Because while entrepreneurship carries risk, it also has the potential to reap greater rewards over time.
Stress and burnout
Work-related stress is taking a physical and mental toll on female leaders. According to the Deloitte report, Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook, women are experiencing dangerously high levels of burnout. The situation is so severe that 53% of respondents say their stress levels are higher than a year ago, with almost half feeling exhausted. As a result, nearly 40% of those women looking for new employment cited burnout as the main reason.
Harassment and microaggressions
Microaggressions can be around gender or race and include the use of sexist language or subtle comments that are disrespectful and sometimes toxic. One example is when a female employee shares an idea in a meeting, but then a male co-worker receives credit for it when he repeats it. According to the McKinsey data, women in leadership are also far more likely than men to have colleagues who imply that they aren’t qualified for their jobs. And finally, women leaders are twice as likely as their male colleagues to be mistaken for someone more junior.
Lack of flexibility
To keep women leaders engaged, organizations must offer flexible options like remote/hybrid work, flexible hours and a four-day workweek. In fact, the McKinsey survey confirmed that almost half of women leaders say flexibility is one of the top three considerations in job mobility. Yet, while many companies claim to embrace flexibility, only 33% of the women in the Deloitte study say their employers offer flexible work policies. What is worse, a whopping 94% of respondents believe that requesting flexible options will negatively impact their chance for promotion.
Limited advancement opportunities
While women are just as likely to want to move up in the organization, it is more difficult for them to advance. In research from MIT Sloan, although women received higher performance ratings than their male colleagues, they received 8.3% lower ratings for potential than men. Potential scores are subjective and reflect how much their managers believed they would develop in the future. Because those ratings strongly predict promotions, female employees were 14% less likely to be promoted than male ones.
It’s about time women start making bold choices. They want more from work and are taking action. If companies want to retain valuable talent, they need to create an equitable workplace where women can thrive. Otherwise, it’s clear that women leaders won’t hesitate to get their needs met elsewhere.