Why Women Really Quit Their Jobs

by Tracy Saunders
JGI/Tom Grill / Getty

This might make me sound like a feminist, so be it. But my entire feed is blowing up about the survey “Why People Really Quit Their Jobs” conducted by some pretty amazing people at Harvard Business Review.

There’s so much to love about this article, and the idea of job creation makes me swoon, especially as I work to help so many women sort through cookie-cutter job descriptions and battle their own imposter syndrome.

And to another point, I always tell candidates how much you love your job will not be from the company you land, but will instead depend on the boss you work for. I’ve had some incredible bosses, and those bonds lift you and last a lifetime.

It’s true when I was at Google, many moons ago, I was amazed that they gave employees paid time to pursue their hobbies and interests. Those projects were paving the way for a better world — no exaggeration. And even still, not enough room is truly being made for so many of us to pursue our passions while we’re working — especially for moms and caregivers whose free time is not really theirs after all.

But I believe the lead was buried a bit here, and it’s true I am biased.

Why aren’t we being more gender specific? Why aren’t we saying women leave for this reason and men leave for this reason?

What’s really troubling about the recycled headlines and the distribution of this article as the “one reason I quit” is that it lacks any type of gender differentiation, and I want to raise this as a problem as we work to shift work cultures.

I think we need to look more closely when we discuss not only why women leave, but also how to attract more women into the workforce.

So a few of the headlines are right …

The reason “people leave” is not what I’d expect. What I’d expect is what I know to be true from the hundreds of women I know and am connected with through the Women’s Job Search Network and our forums.

The real reason women leave the workforce is that they either have to care for an elderly family member or child or…

They are overwhelmed by trying to balance it all.

This is the real reason women leave.

One of my friends at a high-tech firm stayed home to care for her 18 month-old, who was very ill, and she was required to take personal time-off. However, she was always required to log in and run meetings at the request of her male manager who had no clue there was any problem with this.

And that’s the problem.

So, while the article has good points about the massive amounts of time we spend at work, women who are caregivers can’t just bring in a sick parent or child like a male counterpart would bring in their baseball collection or a guitar. It’s clearly not the same.

Women need support, and the exit interview shouldn’t be the only time you cite the injustices.

It’s not just leaning in. It’s making your voice stronger.

One area that can help is having intercessors or female advisors who understand your specific needs versus that of your male counterparts. And this is where I agree with the article about having a mentor to communicate with.

In order to have powerful women in positions of authority, they need to be empowered to not just do their work, but receive help for better life-work balances. When a woman feels confident in her employers, she can balance what’s on her plate at work and home, she’s decreasing the stress in her life, she’s a stronger contributor, and it reduces the need for that exit interview about what “didn’t work.” Right?

Now let’s talk salary restructuring.