One reason oft cited as to why there are so few women in senior positions, is that women opt out before they get to a sufficient level of seniority.
Firms who are finding it difficult to retain women and who have few women in senior posts, say women leave often because of ‘caring’ responsibilities.
While this may be true of some women I think it’s only a small part of the picture. Recently I’ve been talking to several large firms about women in their organisation. When women are presented with a survey or form asking them to say why they are leaving, many, it seems, will tick the ‘personal commitments’ type box.
However, a different story emerges when they are asked to comment anonymously, or have exit interviews which ask pertinent questions. Then the answer is (to paraphrase):
“I don’t like what I see above me. I do not want to be part of a culture that values being in work all hours (preseneteeism) and expects me to have no home life.”
Many of these women go on to set up their own small businesses and arrange a working life to suit them.
What a huge loss to the world of business. We women need to be more vocal and as honest as we can about what we want to see at work. Businesses of all shapes and sizes need to look to their laurels and introduce some different flexible working practices which are used by and benefit everyone. Loads of men want to have a reasonable life work balance, too, but are trapped by the macho nature of their workplace. True gender equality benefits everyone with better working practices, a happier workforce, (read this) and, all the evidence shows, a more profitable bottom line!
Speak Up, for women who want to be seen and heard at work!