Why do senior women really leave their jobs?

Published: 07/09/2014

I came across this article recently. The results are based on a survey carried out by Citi alone involving 500 people.Very interesting and I am sure that there is a lot of truth in the findings but can we really extrapolate and say that this is applicable to other companies and other sectors?

I do believe there is a lot to this and that if companies take those results into consideration and apply them, they very probably will be increasing female employee retention. These findings have been “corroborated” in different forms: interviews of senior female leaders in past few years and similar research reports all tend to hint in that direction.

As a working mother, I relate to all of them.


 30 July 2014 

The global bank Citi prides itself on being supportive of females in senior ranks. So when it became apparent that the rate of attrition among senior females was greater than among senior males, the company decided to investigate. Writing for UK website Womanthology Womanthology, Carolanne Minashi, who is the Head of Diversity, Employee Relations and Employee Engagement at Citi, said the statistic was troubling for a company that invests heavily in the retention of females.

To find out more, this year Citi surveyed 500 men and women from around the globe who had voluntarily left the organisation in the previous 24 months. The findings from the research were telling and Minashi believes their application extends beyond Citi in understanding and countering the exodus of female talent.

These are a few of the discoveries that debunk some of the popular myths that explain why senior women had left their jobs.

  1. Women are loyal. Compared to the men who had left the women had worked with the organisation for longer and many took a lot longer to decide to leave.”There seems to be a loyalty dynamic at play with our senior women that is more prevalent than our male cohort,” Minashi writes.
  2. Women talk to their bosses and HR. While fewer men had discussed their plans with their bosses or HR, 90% of women talked with their manager ahead of time and 50% of women spoke with their HR partner. “I believe this represents a huge opportunity for organisations in that we can raise manager capability to hold meaningful career conversations and encourage greater connectedness in terms of talent and mobility discussions,” Minashi writes.
  3. Flexibility or work life balance is not the problem. Most women surveyed strongly disagreed that flexibility or work life balance challenges had anything to do with their decision to leave. “The message came back loud and clear – “we are here to work, we want large, complex, exciting leadership challenges. Let me worry about what is going on at home”,” Minashi writes.
  4. Family is rarely the reason women leave their jobs. The global study showed just 4% of females who left did so to stay at home. Sixty-three percent went to other corporate roles in the financial services sector – exactly the same as the percentage of men – and 22% started their own businesses.
  5. Female breadwinners are on the rise. Two-thirds of the women in the study reported that they were their family’s main breadwinner. “The mortgage, kids’ education, pensions and financial planning are being funded and supported by senior women as much as the traditional male breadwinner ever was. Promotions, pay and career path are all as equally important,” Minashi writes.
  6. Tipping point. “Female attrition seems to be led by an accumulation of micro disappointments rather than one significant event. It wasn’t the promotion people missed out on, or the change in business model but rather the growing frustration that career pace and trajectory were not aligned with expectations,” Minashi writes.

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