New Study Says Women Leave Their Jobs Because Their Jobs Suck, Not Because They’re Having Babies
A new report on millennial women at work claims that one of the researchers’ big surprises was that “Women around age 30 rank pay, lack of learning and development, and a shortage of meaningful work as the primary reasons why they leave organizations.” And, wow, I’m just shocked to hear that, aren’t you? So surprise. Such unexpected.
Forgive my sarcasm. The report says that the researchers expected motherhood and work-life integration to be the reasons that women in their thirties would be leaving their jobs — or, in other words, the researchers entered their research with gender stereotypes about motherhood and “having it all” firmly in hand. The great thing about believing that the reason women leave their jobs is their choices about parenting and their choices about their work-life balance is that it places zero responsibility on their employers for poor retention.
But this study upends that notion. Women in their 30s are leaving their jobs because their employers don’t pay them enough, their employers don’t manage them well, and because their employers don’t provide the opportunity to do meaningful work. Anyone would leave a job in that situation.
It reminds me of my orientation at Whole Foods, when I started working there in 2010. Someone in my orientation group asked our HR person why it was that the entire Midwest regional board of executives was men. “In my experience,” she told us, “women tend to opt out, usually because they have kids.” After three years of doing more work and having more responsibility with no title change and only tiny pay increases, all the while watching other people get promoted over me, though, I left the job in no small part because it was a dead end. Whole Foods tends to promote from within, so if you stick around and do a good job, chances are you can get some managerial experience under your belt — or at least that’s what they tell you. In truth, the higher the managerial level is in the stores, the more the ratio skews toward men, in my experience, at least.
I don’t doubt that other female-bodied people, and women, have the same experiences regardless of their employer or field. It’s a cozy but lazy notion for employers to believe that the reason they lose women in the prime of their professional lives not because they could have extended more effort as an employer, but because those women just wanted to have babies. The truth is that pay commensurate with any employee’s experience and talent and investment in that employee’s talent benefits both employers and their workforce — and, apparently, especially the women in their workforce.