Why Women Are Leaving Their Jobs (Your First Guess Is Wrong)

November 5, 2015

The number of women in the workforce is the lowest it has been since 1988 and most people think they know why: Women are leaving work because they want better work/life balance and more time for their families.

Well, it turns out that this theory isn’t completely true.

We surveyed over 4,000 women who are on LinkedIn and recently changed companies, and none of their top 3 reasons had anything to do with work/life balance.

Women leave companies because of a “concern for the lack of advancement opportunity,” followed by their “dissatisfaction with senior leadership” and their “dissatisfaction with the work environment/culture.”

Men also list advancement opportunity and senior leadership as the top reasons to leave, but culture is less important to them (their 3rd reason is because they want more challenging work).

  • why women change jobs

Age does not influence why women switch companies

Looking at this list, you might think to yourself: Well - perhaps there’s a difference in age (e.g. working moms might want different things than younger women). While the majority of these female job changers were millennials (ages 18-35), the top 3 reasons women leave does not vary significantly by age.

Millennial women list advancement opportunity as their #1 reason to leave, while dissatisfaction with senior leadership is #1 for Gen X and Baby Boomer women. But none of these generations listed “I was unsatisfied with the work/life balance” as the #1 reason to leave.

Industry also does not affect why women change 

We also hypothesized there might be differences based on the industry women leave. Turns out, there’s not much of a difference for why women leave the financial services, retail CPG, or even professional services/consulting industries. The top reasons to leave an industry (wanting more opportunity and better leadership) are the same for all women.

The only difference worth noting is that women who left the tech industry were more likely to leave because they wanted more challenging work, compared to women who left other industries (financial services, media/entertainment).

So, what can you do to get women to stay?

First off, help women at your company navigate their career path and advance by surfacing unique opportunities they should consider. It’s important to ensure that career conversations are happening in your workplace and that the paths to opportunities are evident.

Mentorship and development programs are a great way to help high potential talent get senior sponsorship, coaching on what different paths are possible, and general help with career advancement through training, interest groups, etc. The key is to really invest in this as a priority. Build out programs that help women develop professionally and connect them with role models for inspiration.

For example, GoDaddy holds bi-quarterly events for their female employees that feature inspirational women or highlight women’s rights issues. The company holds these events to reinforce it's committment to women in the workforce, while also providing an inspirational and entertaining session for all employees. 

Think about events like this and programs that could work at your organization, in addition to the career support you offer your female employees. It's these things that can making the difference between women staying at your company and moving on.

Download the full report on Why and How People Change Jobs - to make more informed decisions to retain your employees!

Methodology: We surveyed 10K+ professionals who changed companies between December 2014 and March 2015, as self reported on their LinkedIn profiles and confirmed in the survey. 4,216 women and 6,231 men reported their gender in the survey. We invited LinkedIn members to participate in this survey through an email invite sent in March 2015. We offered the survey in English only, without incentives. We surveyed global members through the lens of the LinkedIn platform. As such, the sample of job changers is influenced by how members chose to use the site, which can vary based on professional, social, and regional culture, as well as overall site availability and accessibility. These variances were not accounted for in the analysis and we did not weight the global survey data.