The Great Break Up - Women leaders leave their positions

Women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rates we’ve ever seen—and at higher rates than men in leadership. It's been called "The Great Breakup." The recent Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey and shows that 10.5 % of women leaders (9% of men) left their positions in 2021 compared to roughly 8.25% of women leaders in 2017 (8% of men). It also showed that only one in four C-suite leaders is a woman, and only one in 20 is a woman of color.


For the eighth consecutive year, a broken rung at the first step up to manager is holding women back. For every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted


Women are more likely to experience belittling microaggressions, such as having their judgment questioned or being mistaken for someone more junior. They’re doing more to support employee well-being and foster inclusion, but it’s spreading them thin and going mostly unrewarded. And finally, women leaders want to work for companies that prioritize flexibility, employee well-being, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.


For every woman at the director level who gets promoted to the next level, two women directors are choosing to leave their company. Forty-three percent of women leaders are burned out, compared with only 31 percent of men at their level.


Only 7 percent of companies plan to pull back on remote and hybrid work in the next year, and 32 percent say these options are likely to expand.


Young women care deeply about advancement. More than two-thirds of women under 30 want to be senior leaders. Young women are also more likely than current women leaders to say they’re increasingly prioritizing flexibility and company commitment to well-being and DEI.


Only one in ten women wants to work mostly on-site, and many women point to remote- and hybrid-work options as one of their top reasons for joining or staying with an organization. These preferences are about more than flexibility.


Seventy-one percent of HR leaders say remote work has helped their organizations hire and retain more employees from diverse backgrounds. However, a majority of companies are concerned that employees who work remotely feel less connected to their teams and say that remote and hybrid work are placing additional demands on managers. It’s also possible that employees who work primarily from home—who are more likely to be women—will get fewer opportunities for recognition and advancement.


Remote and hybrid work can offer a reprieve from bias, but it’s not a substitute for systemic change. On one hand, it’s positive that women who work remotely are experiencing fewer microaggressions. On the other hand, it’s deeply problematic. Regardless of where they work, all women deserve to feel valued and included. Companies cannot rely on remote and hybrid work as a solution; they need to invest in creating a truly inclusive culture.


Expectations of managers have risen over the past two years: the shift to remote and hybrid work has made management more challenging, and a majority of HR leaders say their company now expects managers to do more to promote inclusion and support employees’ career development and well-being. But relatively few companies are training managers adequately to meet these new demands.


Only about half of women say their manager regularly encourages respectful behavior on their team, and less than half say their manager shows interest in their career and helps them manage their workload.


Women are ambitious and hardworking. They’re more inclusive and empathetic leaders. And they want to work for companies that are prioritizing the cultural changes that are improving work. Companies that rise to the moment will attract and retain the women leaders—which will lead to a better workplace for everyone.


What are your thoughts on how can we help support women leaders in the workplace?


For mindful executive presence tips on how to negotiate for flexibility, advacement and your well-being here’s a link to my free report: 31 Ways for Leaders to Be More Valued & Advance in the High Stakes Corporate World


Listen to my Still Space Podcast where you learn to be respected, advance at the executive level with greater flexibility, and prioritize well-being without being so overworked you don't connect with the people who matter. We shallenge habitual assumptions that hold you back with enlightened truths that boost your genius. We transform drama, resentment, doubt, unmet expectations, and self-sabotage to executive presence, self-control, deep sleep, healthy choices, and more connection with the people who matter while it still matters. It’s time. Listen here


Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and 19-year corporate CEO who helps leaders be respected, advance at the executive level with greater flexibility, and prioritize well-being without being so overworked they don't connect with the people who matter. Get her free career advacnement publications at

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