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Lean In reports women leaders leaving at unprecedented rate

Lean In reports women leaders leaving at unprecedented rate

 October 19, 2022

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Companies are experiencing a rollback in gender equality advancements.

Women in leadership are leaving their jobs at the highest rate ever seen. The reasons, according to the Women in the Workplace 2022 report from Lean In and McKinsey & Co., are due to employers not meeting the expectations of women leaders. These expectations include a workplace focus on flexibility, employee well-being, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Women leaders, despite their ambitions, are also struggling to advance more than men due to microaggressions. Added to that, the pressures of being overworked but under-rewarded, including financially. All of these dynamics are even more pronounced for women of color.

Lean In and McKinsey & Co.'s report is calling this mass exodus The Great Breakup, the next installment of The Great Resignation.   

“Women are not breaking up with work,” comments Lean In Co-founder & CEO, Rachel Thomas, who co-authored the report. “They’re breaking up with their companies if they’re not delivering the work experience, and some of the cultural elements of work that are critically important to them.”

An intersectional insight into biases and barriers to career success

Lean In workplace report

Women in the Workplace is the largest study on the state of women in corporate America. Lean In and McKinsey & Company have published this report annually since 2015 to give companies the information they need to advance women and improve gender diversity. 

The 2022 report is based on data from 333 companies employing more than 12 million people. The report surveyed more than 40,000 employees and conducted interviews with women of diverse identities - including women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities - to get an intersectional look at biases and barriers.

The report reveals that:

  • Companies are struggling to retain the relatively few women in their leadership teams.
  • Women leaders aspire to promotion and senior-level roles, but find progress difficult due to workplace microaggressions.
  • Women leaders are overworked and under-recognized.
  • Women leaders want a shift in workplace culture, including a focus on flexibility, well-being and inclusion. 
  • Companies are at risk of losing young women.
  • Women with traditionally marginalized identities continue to have worse experiences.
  • The majority of women prefer remote or hybrid work to fully on-site work, both due to increased flexibility and fewer microaggressions.
  • There's a growing gap between what's expected of managers, and how they're trained and rewarded.

Meanwhile, key findings from the report find that: 

  • Women are still dramatically underrepresented in leadership: only 1 in 4 C-suite executives is a woman, and only 1 in 20 is a woman of color.
  • Among employees who switched jobs in the past two years, 48% of women leaders say they did so because they wanted more opportunity to advance.
  • Women leaders are about 1.5X as likely as men leaders to have switched jobs because their workload was unmanageable.
  • 49% of women leaders say flexibility is one of the top three things they consider when deciding whether to join or stay with a company, compared to 34% of men leaders.
  • Only 1 in 10 women want 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.

Helping companies retain female talent

The Women in the Workplace report provides recommendations on how companies can stop The Great Breakup from having serious implications on their current business and the future of work.

The study found that flexibility is key to retaining women, so companies must allow employees to work in a way that's best for them. Yet, with this flexibility comes a company's responsibility to ensure remote workers are evaluated and promoted equally to in-person colleagues.

Finally, companies must invest in career and skills development for employees, including mentorship. Without these changes, companies risk losing women leaders - and future talent - to better opportunities elsewhere.

Download Lean In and McKinsey & Co.'s Women in the Workplace report here.

Challenge gender bias in the workplace

Additionally, Lean In's 50 Ways to Fight Bias helps companies combat bias in hiring and promotions and empowers employees to challenge bias when they see it. The card-based activity highlights 50 specific examples of gender bias in the workplace and offers research-backed recommendations for what to do. 

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