The Great Exodus: Why Women are Leaving the Workforce and How to Keep Them

Women are leaving the workforce more than their male counterparts, resulting in the underrepresentation of women in the workplace. Different industries can present specific challenges, and many women are leaving due to the roadblocks they encounter. Women in the workforce often lack the same encouragement, opportunities, and resources that are available to their male counterparts.

The Challenges

Women often have fewer opportunities than men at work, particularly in male-dominated industries, such as technology. Additionally, women who do progress often have a more challenging experience.

The way women are treated at work also influences whether they stay or go. Unpleasant or hostile environments are not uncommon, and many women are still dealing with sexism, discriminatory practices, misogyny, and harassment. Moreover, women are often outnumbered by male workers in many industries, their knowledge is questioned, and their roles are overlooked.

Women have high aspirations in their professional lives, but the journey to the top is riddled with obstacles Women are more likely to seek higher-level roles but only average about 38% of top management roles. Women leaders find that they do not receive the same encouragement and acknowledgment as men when expressing their goals to their bosses.

As women strive to move up the corporate ladder, many express the belief that women in their organizations are given fewer opportunities to progress than men. Female managers also feel less included in business affairs and events within their professional networks than male managers.

Internal job openings tend to present male workers with a greater advantage than women. Research shows that women are 8% less likely to be promoted internally than men and 8% less likely to claim that their teams have been sufficiently informed of a new opening.

Disruptions in the professional landscape also tend to affect women more significantly than men. For example, the recent COVID-19 pandemic altered the way we live, learn, and work. When it comes to managers who had to juggle caregiving responsibilities, only 26% of men in management experienced pandemic-related career setbacks compared to 35% of women in management.

Furthermore, senior leaders in the workplace don’t always promote diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership in equal numbers. Only 52% of HR professionals feel that the leaders of their organization are held accountable for ensuring gender equality at work. Women contend with being harassed, not taken seriously at work, and presented with less equitable access to advancement opportunities they’re qualified for.

The Impact

It’s incredibly challenging to progress when the odds are stacked against you. Many women are exhausted and fed up with the obvious differences between their efforts and those of men in the workplace. Working twice as hard for half the credit, respect, and recognition is frustrating. Instead of suffering quietly, many professional women are taking action, and leaving organizations that fail to provide them with the opportunities they deserve.

The Solution

It’s time to reevaluate what no longer works. To better support women professionals, organizations can:

  1. Implement Inclusive Hiring and Promoting: By hiring more qualified women for roles in your organization and promoting women internally, you can better avoid gender inequality. And having more women in leadership will only benefit the organization. Studies continuously show that having women in leadership roles increases productivity and profitability, collaboration and flexibility, and even organizational loyalty.
  2. Implement Accountability: Create safe spaces for women to work. Do not wave off a complaint or minimize harassment. Take the time to ask what challenges the women in your organization are facing, and really listen to the feedback. Call out negative behavior. Address it, manage it, and ensure that it’s corrected so all your employees can feel safe at work.
  3. Enhance Career Planning: Conduct regular career planning sessions and make these opportunities well-known. Women tend to get overlooked in the office – these career planning sessions will not only keep the women on your team visible to leadership but also give them an encouraging space to discuss their professional goals.
  4. Offer Parent Resources: Moreso than men, women are expected to work and provide childcare without resources, help, or time off from either of these obligations. By providing childcare resources such as daycare options or referrals to high-quality sitters, employers may be able to help reduce some of the strain.
  5. Reduce Unpaid Labor: In offices that allow work-from-home options or keep office hours relatively open, many women feel pressured or expected to complete more work than their male counterparts in order to make positive impressions. Discourage over-dedication, and structure policies to ensure employees do not exhaust themselves working through personal time.

Addressing the challenges that women face in the workplace is crucial for promoting gender equality and creating a more diverse and inclusive environment. Creating safe and equitable work environments is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. When women are able to pursue the opportunities they have struggled to approach in the past, they can bring their unique perspectives, skills, and experiences to the table, which can lead to innovation, growth, and improved performance. Creating a workplace culture that values and supports women is a win for everyone.