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We know that women and men are essentially recruited in the same amounts out of college, or in entry level jobs, yet only 6.6% of women are Fortune 500 CEO’s (as of 2019).
Employers complain that women leave before they can be promoted, taking the employers’ investment in recruiting, training and developing their talent with them.
Why are women leaving? It’s well, complicated.
Most employers blame women leaving to stay home with their kids, and while there is some of that, many of these women say they tell their employers that because it’s “a socially acceptable” answer, when in fact, they go to another job or start their own company (which often requires even more hours than their regular job).
Diversity and inclusion experts have been wrestling with this issue for years, trying a range of women’s initiatives and trainings, unconscious bias training, and various tweaks to performance reviews and compensation programs of executives to encourage these executives to promote more women (and minorities) into leadership roles.
But, it’s not that simple.
A new study released by diversity training firm Mine The Gap and management consulting firm FTI Consulting sheds new light on this seemingly insurmountable problem – at least for the 4,765 women and 1,030 men in energy, tech, law firms and other professional services they interviewed.
Screen shot of Mine The Gap research website
The Enthusiasm Gap
“We didn’t go into this looking for an enthusiasm gap. We were just looking at these different policies and procedures and asking women what would really make a different for you in terms of whether you went to a company, whether you stayed in a company, whether you leave a company,” Kristin Haffert, Co-founder of Mine The Gap told me on my podcast recently. “The enthusiasm gap surprised us.”
They define the enthusiasm gap as, “the difference between those who are active, vocal and passionate supporters of an effort and those who may be supporters but might not be motivated to take action….the intensity of sentiment…(which is what) will translate into actual results.”
Essentially, MTG/FTI found that when women feel better about their employers’ policies and how they are being treated, then they have more “enthusiasm” for staying put. Many of the women they surveyed did not even know about some of the policies.
Yes, compensation matters, but there’s more
The top reasons professional women are leaving their current workplace include some you may expect and some you may not expect, or even think about. Yes, women say they feel unable to maintain work-life balance (not surprising to me for women at law firms, for example), but there’s more.
Kristin Haffert, Mine The Gap cofounder
One reason women gave in this survey for why they leave their current jobs is that their “compensation is below the industry average” or “not aligned with salaries of their peers doing the same work.” As a result, women said they are leaving to go to another employer that offers a higher salary and more responsibility.
Another important reason women are leaving, according to this study, is “lack of effective communication with management.” You may think you’re giving them good feedback, but, saying “good job” is not enough. These women want “specific and constructive feedback,” Haffert told me, adding “they need to know what they need to change.” These women also want to know “why they are not being promoted and what they can do about it,” and why some guy who is less qualified than them got the promotion instead of them.
And then there are the microaggressions, like being asked to take notes in a meeting or to get coffee, or do other office housekeeping duties.
These women do not feel that they are able to use all of what they know or can do, much less stretch at their current jobs, it seems, so after a while of this dissatisfaction – of this lack of enthusiasm – they leave. “There’s a tension between, I’m being expected to fit in and….I have a whole toolbox they (the employer) doesn’t even know about.”
“What we’re talking about here is…”
“What we’re talking about here, Joan, is culture change,” Haffert explained. “It’s not one thing, it’s not two things, it’s a number of things. We need a perfect storm of flexibility, pay, communication, so that women want to stay in the workplace, and that requires much more than putting a policy in place. It requires more than implementing a policy.”
Listen to the full interview on my podcast, Green Connections Radio, here, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.