Women leaders are leaving companies at the highest rate ever

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For women in management, there’s never been a better time to quit.

Women leaders are leaving their companies at the highest rate on record, and the gap between women and men in leadership positions leaving their jobs is the widest on record, according to new data from LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company, who have started tracking these numbers. in 2015.

In its “Women in the Workplace” report, which surveyed 22,000 women and 18,000 men, Lean In and McKinsey & Co. found that it is increasingly important for women to work for companies that prioritize career advancement, flexibility and employee well-being. as diversity, equity and inclusion — and they are leaving their companies in unprecedented numbers when those needs are not being met.

Lean In and McKinsey & Co. call this mass exodus “The Great Break”.

Companies are also at huge risk of losing young women for the same reasons that drive female leaders to quit, as these issues are even greater for women under 30.

“Let’s be clear: women aren’t saying they don’t want to work,” Lareina Yee, senior partner at McKinsey & Co., told CNBC Make It.

“They’re breaking up with companies because they’re convinced they’ll have the opportunity to advance elsewhere, which we’ve never seen before…it really shows that loyalty has its limits.”

Women don’t want to go back to “business as usual”

Two and a half years into the coronavirus pandemic, new research from the National Women’s Law Center shows that women have recovered all of their job losses since February 2020.

Yet as more and more women return to the workforce, LeanIn.org co-founder and CEO Rachel Thomas says their patience is running out for companies pushing to get back to “business as usual,” requiring more time in the office and leaving conversations about employee mental health. health and diversity, equity and inclusion are left out after promising to prioritize these issues in 2020.

Working women in the United States are among the most stressed employees in the world, according to new research from Gallup. And as they continue to take on more responsibilities at home and at work, they experience burnout and exhaustion at higher rates than men.

According to Thomas, the change that drives more women bosses to give their two weeks notice is that these women have seen what is possible when companies “really commit to something”, whether it’s offering more flexible work arrangements or doubling down on fair hiring practices — and “they don’t want to let up on the gas,” she adds.

Thomas continues, “They want to work for organizations that stay committed to what they value and drive positive change.”

Women still struggle to climb the corporate ladder

More than half (58%) of women under 30 say career advancement has become more important to them in the past two years, compared to 31% of women leaders. Gen Z and Millennials place more importance on career development opportunities than other generations, according to numerous studies, and it consistently ranks as a top priority for younger generations when choosing a new employer.

This is especially true for women under 30, adds Yee, who understand that “having a seat at the table is important and are more willing to ask for it.”

But while women aspire to senior leadership positions as much as their male colleagues, the report found they are far more likely to experience microaggressions that undermine their authority and discourage their ability to progress within a company. company.

Despite modest gains in representation in leadership positions, only 1 in 4 C-Suite leaders are women, the report notes. Far fewer women than men are promoted to leadership positions: for every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level to leadership, only 87 women and 82 women of color are promoted.

Additionally, female leaders are twice as likely as male leaders to be mistaken for someone younger – and 37% of female leaders have seen a colleague receive credit for their idea, compared to 27% of male leaders. .

“It’s a dire situation…you’re not promoting enough women into the leadership ranks, and now you have more women leaving leadership positions,” Thomas says. “In a world where women remain dramatically underrepresented in senior leadership, these two issues together create a pretty terrible punch for companies trying to retain female leaders.”

The extra work women do ‘goes unnoticed’

Compared to men in similar positions, women managers spend more time on work that promotes employee well-being and promotes diversity, equity and inclusion that fall outside of their formal job responsibilities, including helping team members manage their workloads and recruiting employees from underrepresented groups.

Although these contributions boost employee retention and satisfaction, Lean In and McKinsey & Co. found that women are rarely recognized for this work in their performance reviews – another trend driving women out of their jobs.

“Companies will say that employee well-being and DEI efforts are top business priorities, but all the important extra work that women managers do in these areas goes unnoticed,” says Thomas.

How companies can make work a better place for women

Building an equitable workplace where women can thrive starts with fixing the “broken bar,” Yee says: making sure women and men are considered for promotions at the same rate, and evaluating the promotion process to make sure it’s fair.

Flexibility can also help improve gender parity: women who have the option to work remotely at least part-time, particularly women of color and women with disabilities, experience fewer microaggressions and higher levels of higher psychological safety, according to the report.

Finally, Thomas encourages companies to include people management and DEI-related metrics in their performance reviews, and to offer more formal career development and mentorship programs specifically for women.

“Women are very ambitious,” she says. “And successful companies will get the most out of having so many women at the top of their organization – better collaboration, more diverse problem-solving, the list goes on – and propel their companies into the future.”

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