Women are leaving their companies in droves. We need to talk about why this is happening and what organizations can do to retain female talent.

Women in the workplace today continue to face inequitable opportunities for career advancement. In fact, as we shared in our Women and Diversity in the Workplace report, more than half (54%) of the women we surveyed reported being passed over for promotions they’d applied for.

Research recently released by McKinsey reveals the risks businesses face today due to statistics such as the ones we reported in our survey: Women in corporate America — especially women leaders — are leaving their companies in droves.

who needs a glass ceiling when you’ve got a “broken rung”?

The problem is compounded by the fact that there aren’t that many women in senior management positions to begin with. The “why” is simple: the “broken rung” effect that results from the promotion inequities women face at the lower management level.

As the McKinsey report demonstrates, women in entry-level positions are simply not being promoted into management as often as men. The result? The number of women in lower management positions starts off small — which means fewer women are available for promotion to senior leadership levels.

why are women leaders leaving their companies?

The numbers are stark, especially when compounded by the broken rung effect. So what’s causing women leaders to leave their companies at higher rates than ever before?

microaggressions as barriers

Like male leaders, women leaders want to advance. But compared to men, they face more barriers to promotion. For example, coworkers are more likely to imply a woman leader isn’t qualified for her job.

lack of recognition for DEI work

Women leaders tend to put in more work in support of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives, but 40 percent say the additional burden they’re shouldering isn’t recognized in their performance reviews. And this extra work often means they’re more likely to face burnout as well.

desire for flexibility and a commitment to DEI

More and more women leaders are seeking a different kind of culture — one that values employee well-being and DEI and affords its people the flexibility to choose a remote or hybrid work arrangement.

Women leaders across the country are demonstrating that they’re willing to switch jobs to take positions at companies with women-friendly cultures that align with their work needs and values.

what can businesses do to retain women in the workforce?

According to the McKinsey report, businesses can adopt a number of practices to retain female talent, including:

  • evaluating the promotion process to eliminate the broken rung effect that’s preventing their female employees from advancing
  • providing managers with the training they need to better support team members opting for remote or hybrid work options
  • offering employee benefits that meet the needs of women in the workplace, such as emergency childcare and extended caregiver and parental leaves

Despite the strides made toward gender equality in the workforce, there’s still a long way to go. Research like our Women and Diversity in the Workplace survey and the McKinsey report demonstrates that women in today’s workplaces are taking action: They’re leaving companies with less desirable cultures for businesses that provide them with the work environments they need to thrive and succeed.