We've heard the saying "if women were in charge of this it'd be so much better" and laughed it off as just our own gender bias speaking. Yet some recent studies show that there may be some fact to this statement. And, that is reason to give companies pause as they face an increased risk of these valuable women leaving their jobs.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett writes an excellent article called "Are Your Best Female Employees a Flight Risk?" at the Harvard Business Review. It seems women are more than twice as likely as men to be seriously thinking about jumping ship:
In researching my forthcoming book, Top Talent: Keeping Performance Up When Business Is Down, we found that in the wake of last year's financial crash, high-powered women were more than twice as likely as men — 84 percent compared with 40 percent — to be seriously thinking jumping ship. And when the head and heart are out the door, the rest of the body is sure to follow.
Women are falling victim to two types of attrition: they're being disproportionately let go and they're disproportionately quitting. Yet whether they're jumping or being pushed, figures show that a female exodus is bad for business.
We already know that women-owned businesses have been growing. In fact according to the SCORE Small Business statistics, "The number of women-owned firms continues to grow at twice the rate of all U.S. firms (23 percent vs. 9 percent). There are an estimated 10 million women-owned, privately-held U.S. businesses."
That's a lot and many of those talented women came from the ranks of companies large and small. Their departures can have real bottom line impact as well (and not on the upside). In the Harvard Business Review article, several studies are cited that drive home the facts that smart women equal stronger companies. You can read some of the studies for yourself at Catalyst, McKinsey, and Ceram. It's really great to see actual hard numbers associated with what many of us already knew intuitively: women having a place at the table makes for better business.
Women often need greater flexibility in the workplace, yet that same flexibility is being axed just as people need it most. This could account for one more reason why talented women decide they are not going to take it any more and become their own boss. In the New York Times Parenting Blogs, "Flexible Work in a Recession" throws some meat behind this hunch.
The American Society of Human Resource Managers found that while the number of companies offering things like flextime, part-time and telecommuting schedules had been increasing steadily leading up to the down-turn, the latest measure showed a drop of five percent.
A while ago I wrote a review on Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It and so many of these same annoyances may be the very tipping point that is showing itself now with the top talent exodus, particularly women. Attrition is poorly thought out and those left behind have had their chains pulled one time too many.
Sean Silverthorne gave his article a decidedly male spin in "Why Are Women So Unhappy At Work?" . I think the thoughtful question he poses at the end of his post along with the comments discussion are worth considering:
If you were creating a company from the ground up with an explicit goal of attracting, rewarding and best utilizing the talents of female employees, how would that company look different than today’s traditional firm?
I think it is a good question because when we toss around generalities even with statistics attached, it doesn't do much to create a solution to the problem. Of course part of the challenge with designing a solution is that women don't have one general set of needs. As a group we're as diverse as they come. What is one woman's dream perk is another woman's nightmare. That being said, what is your take on this conversation? How would you answer this question? Love to hear what you have to say in the comments...
Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, offers life and business coaching for women to help you gain the clarity, confidence, and courage you need to succeed on your own terms. Get the free eCourse "5 Steps to Move from Fear to Freedom" at her website
More from living