Exit Stage Left: Women Execs Twice as Likely to Leave a Job Then Men

by Evelyn Kalinosky on December 13, 2010

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A recent article in The Glass Hammer looks at why women executives are twice as likely as men to leave a job:

According to a recent 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? To find out what factors are most important to you, I created the following survey: Should I Stay or Should I Go? Career Satisfaction Among Professional Women. To take part in the survey, please click on the link and answer each of the 11 questions – feel free to add your comments, especially if your input is something that’s not included in the multiple choice answers.

Results of this survey will be published in a future blog post and the Sacred Success for Women Executives newsletter. Please take a few minutes and join the conversation. Your input is key:  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XPX3H5L

Evelyn is a catalyst and mentor for business women in midlife transition. She specializes in working with women age 40 forward who are ready to claim – or reclaim – their Sacred Capital. Her passion is to create a new paradigm in how we think about aging, specifically, how we think about women aging.

Her award-winning Inner Affluence Blog received top honors in 2011 and 2012 as “Best Coaching Blog” by the School of Coaching Mastery, and she was named “1 of 101 Women Bloggers to Watch in 2011″ by WE Magazine for Women. In addition to being a coach and mentor, Evelyn is a speaker and published poet.

You’re welcome to use this article on your website, blog or in your ezine if you include the entire post without modification and link it back to www.InnerAffluence.com. If you liked this article, you’ll want to visit www.InnerAffluence.com and sign up for Evelyn’s bi-weekly ezine to receive more comprehensive information, strategies, and resources for the midlife business woman.

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  • http://www.palaisprofessionalorganizer.com Jennifer

    Hi Evelyn,

    This was an especially interesting article to me as I just interviewed at a company that I was really looking forward to working at. I thought I had a good chance and this was the second interview. But now I’m thinking how do women even get in a company in order to exit?

    What about interview techniques aimed at women? The way I was interviewed today was more like an interrogation. This technique might signal a man to stand up and fight – to put on his gloves and get in the ring. I was thrown and confused by the behavior. I don’t know about other women but it signals to me that I am not welcome. I am interested in your thoughts. I wonder if you or others will say “toughen up.”

    I feel like there is tough (which I have in spades), which I define as is doing whatever needs to be done to get the work done. And then there is dismissive and rude. But I feel like this is a gender divide…I honestly don’t think he understood what he was doing. Any thoughts?

    I wonder what your thoughts are on this.

  • http://www.evelynkalinosky.com Evelyn


    I’m sorry your recent interview experience was a negative one for you. You may well be right that it’s a gender divide, but it may also be that the person who interviewed you has an abrasive personality and lacks the warm fuzzies we’d all like to be surrounded by instead. You make a good point about the different ways men and women may respond in interview situations. Depending on the job and the company seeking the right applicant, they may feel the need to challenge, to push in order to see how the person reacts. For me the question I’d be asking myself is “do I want to work for a company that chooses these kind of interviewing techniques?” This could be a red flag for you that the values and culture of the company is not a good fit for you.

    You’re also right that “tough” is about fortitude and hanging in there to get the job done. That’s a gender neutral quality that all employers are looking for when they hire someone. Let me know how things turn out if you’re comfortable doing so.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!


  • http://www.palaisprofessionalorganizer.com Jennifer

    Great points all around. They may indeed need someone who is comfortable with being challenged often. I thought about that later and that is valid for them. I am taking in all that you say and will let you know how it turns out. I can use this time to continue preparing myself for all different kinds of interviewing situations and will be considering what culture would make me most happy. Thank you for the input.

  • http://www.evelynkalinosky.com Evelyn Kalinosky

    You’re most welcome – I’m happy that my input has some value for you, Jennifer.

    Would you consider doing me a favor and completing the survey that’s part of this post? It’s only 10 questions and it will be a big help to me in making sure I’m meeting the needs and concerns of my clients and prospective clients.

    Thanks so much and happy holidays to you and yours!


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