The reason female execs leave is not glass ceiling

by 18 Jun 2012

The reason female execs leave is not glass ceilingRetention of senior female executives is a major battleground for HR, and new research has revealed that while the glass ceiling remains intact, a more insidious reason females leave corporate jobs is that they become fed up with toxic work cultures.

According to the opinions of more than 300 female entrepreneurs, almost a quarter (23%) cited that culture and values misalignment was the main reason they have left their corporate jobs. Less than 1% of those surveyed by Corporate Crossovers said the glass ceiling, including factors such as the pay disparity, was their reason for leaving.

Some 68% of the women who participated in the survey now earn less than when they were in corporate employment, yet almost two thirds said they would never go back to corporate life despite being unhappy with their current income level. The finding highlights the need for greater workplace flexibility, and the degree to which women value their personal time and work environment over cash.

The survey was analysed by Wendy Kerr, a business expert specialising in advising women who leave the corporate world to run their own business. According to Kerr, many women get sick of macho corporate environments. “They are tired of putting up with the toxic culture and they start to disengage, valuing their time and autonomy above their salary and job. This is the catalyst for them to leave and set up their own enterprises,” Kerr said.

One survey participant who now manages her own consultancy firm said that after a successful corporate career she decided to leave and set up her own business because she was fed up and disappointed with management not 'walking the talk'. “When it came to managing people and truly honouring the values that they regularly spoke about, [management] didn't necessarily live and breathe those values on a day-to-day basis,” Trisha Proud said.

Other survey participants echoed this theme. “There was a disconnect between my values and the corporate world's values,” one participant said. Another added, “I got tired of wasting time on political activity versus actually doing the job”.

Stay tuned to HC Online, tomorrow we investigate part 2 in toxic work cultures  ‘How HR can impact what’s really going on downstairs’.


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  • by Peter Macdonald 18/06/2012 2:17:31 PM

    In my 30 year working experience one of the main reasons I have seen women give up the corporate world never gets a mention as it is a taboo subject when trying to promote gender equality. But I will say it regardless! Many women give up the corporate world in order to have children, Once most people (both male and female) have a child their priorities in life change drastically. For many women this results in a lack of desire to return to the workforce in the same capacity as before and therefore they dont.

  • by Bernie Althofer 18/06/2012 2:32:42 PM

    There seems to be this culture whereby males think that they have to stay and put up with a toxic culture, when their female counterparts do as indicated in the article.

    Having spoken to both males and females over the years in relation to bullying, and what many have described as 'toxic workplaces' and even workplaces where there are significant gaps between Codes of Conduct and what actually happens on the ground, it appears to me that many are concerned about future employment. Too many see staying as the only option and end up being further impacted by the effects of what they believe to be toxic workplaces. However, from time to time, some do highlight that there are some brilliant managers who create little rays of hope in what are otherwise fairly obnoxious and toxic workplaces.

    Like many other issues, it might be the really deep seated belief that some men have that they are the 'bread winners' so are duty bound to stay. In reality, it might be fear of change that drives them to stay. It does seem that respect and dignity, although espoused in Codes of Conduct etc, are in reality non-existent in some workplaces.

    Workplaces really do need to be concerned about the rise and rise of the toxic leaders, especially the psychopaths and psychopathic behaviours in the workplace, along with The Narcissism Epidemic. If recent comments made in several forums are any indication of future workplaces issues, it might be necessary to have some really difficult workpace discussions about these topics in the context of toxic cultures.

  • by Anonymous 19/06/2012 7:20:07 AM

    In regards to Peter's comment, as a mother who recently left a corporate job for the exact reasons described in this article, toxic environment, bullying, incompetent management, I can speak from experience that while being a mother changed me, it did not make me dislike my job or want to work less, in fact, being a mother made my job seem like an extravagant luxury that I was lucky to have. Having children did not make me anymore aware that spending any of my time in a toxic environment is not good for me, and would never lead me to fulfill my full potential.

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