If you thought that women leaving the workplace was just a pandemic problem, think again: Women are still quitting. In fact, a recent Deloitte study found that more women worldwide left their jobs in the last 12 months than in 2021 and 2020 combined. McKinsey also reports that women are still quitting at unprecedented numbers. It’s a phenomenon McKinsey calls the “Great Breakup.” This includes women leaders switching jobs at record levels but also encompasses women leaving the workforce altogether. These firms and others are pouring resources into examining the phenomenon. Here’s what they’ve learned:
A Lack of Mental Health Resources
Deloitte’s 2023 Women @ Work: A Global Outlook report highlights a disturbing mental health trend as a primary reason women are still quitting at remarkable rates. In 2022, “burnout” was the top concern for women at work, with 46% being highly affected. That number dropped to 30% in 2023, which you might assume is good news, but let’s dig deeper: Chronic mental health issues are, instead, on the rise.
“The report found that 35% of respondents rated their mental well-being as poor/very poor, which is similar to the 2022 number; [but] around half reported their stress levels as being higher than last year,” notes HR Drive. And it doesn’t stop there. “Fewer women also reported that they could get adequate mental health support from their employers. In 2022, 43% of women felt comfortable talking about mental health at work. In 2023, that number dropped to 25%. And only 25% feel comfortable taking time off to take care of their mental health, also down from 39% in 2022.”
Flexibility Continues to Be a Factor
Flexibility plays an enormous role in Deloitte’s findings: “Less than a quarter of women surveyed say they have a high degree of flexibility over where and when they work, and lack of flexibility around working hours is one of the top three reasons cited by women who left an employer in the past year,” the firm states.
The correlation between flexibility and why women are still quitting is very high. Two-thirds of women in highly flexible work arrangements say they plan to stay with their company for over three years. Less than one-fourth of women who have no flexibility say the same. However, it’s not enough to offer flexibility. Your work culture and management must embrace it. Here’s why:
- 97% of Deloitte’s respondents believe that requesting or taking advantage of flexible working would affect their likelihood of promotion.
- 95% believe it is unlikely their workload would be adjusted if they moved to a flexible working arrangement.
- One-third say that while they technically have a hybrid arrangement, there’s a lack of predictability in working hours and insufficient flexibility in their working pattern.
- 37% report that they have experienced exclusion while hybrid working in the past year.
- Nearly a third say they haven’t had enough exposure to senior leaders with their flexible arrangement.
Fixing the Problem
Walk the walk when it comes to supporting your female employees. Don’t just assume that your mental health resources and your flexible or hybrid work policies are having the impact you intended. It may be time to ask your employees themselves if they truly feel supported and heard in those areas. This can be done effectively through employee satisfaction surveys and other strategic tools.
Offering better pay can help, too. Recent studies show that the gender pay gap widens significantly for women in their 30s. In 2022, women between the ages of 25 and 34 earned about 92% as much as the men in their same age group, while women ages 35 to 44 earned just 83% as much as their male cohorts. This coincides with when workers start families and have young children at home, which is the primary reason women outnumber men in requiring a flexible work arrangement. The phenomenon has even been called the “motherhood penalty.” Being aware of it and even taking steps to counteract that pay gap creep with your female employees can go a long way to winning their loyalty and making it more affordable for them to stay on board.
Women are still quitting because their needs aren’t being met, plain and simple. Don’t assume the problem will correct itself. Instead, take a proactive approach that genuinely, holistically supports them. You’ll be amazed how it will improve the work culture for everyone.