What Keeps High Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions
This perspective places women as “victims” of the system that does not support their lives as mothers and caretakers. Is this true—are those that jump off the corporate ladder leaving because they feel they are forced to choose family commitments over work? Or is it possible that they are self-selecting, making conscious choices to do something else? Maybe they are just giving up, unable to play by the current rules or feel frustrated with their companies’ unwillingness to honor their values and needs. To better understand the factors that are affecting the retention of women in today’s workplace, we have to better understand their needs, values and drives. (Wagner & Wodak, 2006)
Generally, it is assumed that women are either pulled or pushed off the career ladder. (Hewlett, Luce, Shiller & Southwell, 2005) They are pulled off due to family demands that include raising children, caring for elderly parents and managing a household. Or they are pushed off due to a lack of promotions or high-profile job assignments.
However, Hewlett, Luce, Shiller and Southwell (2005) also found some of the women leaped off on their own accord. In 2004, they worked with Harris Interactive to survey a nationally representative group of 2,443 working women with graduate or professional degrees or a high-honors undergraduate degree to see how many had taken a voluntary sabbatical from their career since graduation. They found 37% of the women had opted out, with 43% of the women with children taking a break from work. However, only 44% of those who took a break gave family time as the reason for leaving. Twenty-three percent of those who took a break left to further their education and 16% to reposition themselves for a career change. More significantly, 17% said they found that their work was no longer enjoyable or satisfying. This included feeling understimulated and lacking in a sense of purpose. Simply, they outgrew their jobs.