Inside the Great Breakup

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Women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rates ever seen, and ambitious young women are prepared to do the same. What’s driving this wave of change?

The past year have seen several trends come to the fore, all with their own catchy names. We’ve heard of “The Next Normal”, “Quiet Quitting”, “The Great Resignation”, and more. And now, there’s one more to add to the popular lexicon; “The Great Breakup”.

What is The Great Breakup?

The pandemic demanded a lot of us on the work and personal front, but perhaps more of the women in our lives. With the duality of these demands taking its toll on women, the pendulum has swung back to women demanding more from their workplaces, leaving companies en masse and switching jobs in unprecedented numbers. Cue the origin of The Great Breakup.

When compared to men, women leaders are swapping jobs at a far greater rate, in a move that could have serious ramifications for companies. Historically, the broken rung has held women back as they sought to climb up the corporate ladder, and that continues to be the case. Consequently, the number of women available to promote to senior leadership positions are too few, leading to the misrepresentation seen at the board level. And now, with companies unable to hold onto the senior women leaders in their ranks, this only exacerbates the issue.

According to a McKinsey study, women leaders are more committed to supporting and ensuring employee well-being and fostering DEI, but 40% of women leaders surveyed said their DEI work wasn’t acknowledged at all in performance reviews. Throwing their weight behind a cause that doesn’t gain enough recognition stifles the progress of women leaders, and what makes it worse is the extra effort meant 43% of women leaders are burned out, compared with only 31% of men at their level, with many noting a lack of manager support.

Over the course of the last two years, this has become more important than ever for women in the workforce, and particularly so for emerging, younger leaders. Little wonder they are more than 1.5 times as likely as men at their level to leave a job for an organisation with greater commitment to DEI. Failing to acknowledge this fundamental truth could see companies lose out on prime talent that values this facet of organisational culture.

What can be done to remedy this?

Companies need to go beyond simple table stakes if they are to make meaningful progress towards achieving gender equality.

By offering specific goals and training and holding leaders accountable in a measurable manner, companies can make strides towards retaining and attracting women leaders. Managers need to be trained to offer better support to their teams; gaps in the talent pipeline that are letting women slip through need to be identified and plugged; and where men are promoted in large numbers, companies must closely monitor outcomes and ensure equitability, else they are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past and lose a crop of leaders that can show the way to a brighter future.


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