3 Reasons Why Women Walk Away From Leadership Positions

One of the many societal changes sparked by the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and ‘70s was a shift in gender role ideology. The new way of thinking was especially empowering to working women, as it opened doors for them to take on and succeed in high-level positions.

This progressive energy in the workplace continued to grow throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s until just after the turn of the century, when it reached a plateau. According to a 2014 report from the Center for American Progress, less than 9% of women in the U.S hold top management positions and the amount of women on all corporate boards has been stuck in the 12% range over the past decade.

And the small number of women in high-level careers aren’t staying in their positions.

Why is that?

There are a number of reasons, but they all seem to share a common issue — women executives don’t have as many opportunities to advance their careers as men do.

Data from workplace ratings website InHerSight surrounding this issue is consistent with similar national statistics. The site compared ratings from senior and executive women who left their job to those who stayed. The data showed there were three specific areas with which women who quit were markedly dissatisfied.

1. Lack of opportunities for women

InHerSight defines this to include opportunities like promotions, leadership roles, salary increases and incentive programs.

One major opportunity women are less likely to receive is access to “hot jobs,” according to a Catalyst analysis. This means women get fewer mission-focused roles and the type of travel opportunities that can advance their careers. Men, the report found, get more of the opportunities that can advance a career, including leading projects with big budgets and large teams, and some involve receiving international assignments.

One woman, rating her employer on InHerSight, demonstrates the frustration:

As a supervisor in a female heavy department, the ability to move up is impossible. The same role in another department allows for key-holder status which is a step up into lower management. Trying to gain key-holder status in my position was like pulling teeth, and therefore impossible to move up. I left after over a year because I felt like no one wanted or cared if I could continue my career here.

2. Poor female representation in leadership

This disparity is in part a direct result of this lack of advancement opportunities. What’s important to recognize are the obstacles in the way of that advancement.

For instance, survey data from Pew Research Center says that respondents frequently cited two reasons women aren’t holding leadership roles:

  1. They’re held to higher standards than men
  2. There’s a lack of readiness for companies to hire women for top executive positions.

Interestingly, the study shows that workers are aware of this problem.

Respondents across four generations (silent to millennial) and three political parties (Republican, Democrat and Independent) agree that it’s easier for men to land top executive positions than women.

Senior women leave, in part, because they look around and don’t see anyone like them.

3. Inflexible work hours

A 2014 survey of nonworking adults between 25 and 54 names family responsibilities as a reason why 61% of women weren’t working, in contrast to the 37% of men citing the same reason. This is perhaps because women take on childcare duties far more often than do men.

Among those surveyed in a McKinsey & Company study, most men said they were primary breadwinners but not primary caregivers, while about half of the women said that they were both primary breadwinners and primary caregivers.

In an economy where women’s paychecks account for nearly 40% of a typical family’s total earnings, women are forced to take on both roles.

To make things easier, women often leave their careers open to “increase predictability and lessen travel,” the McKinsey study says. But this can be difficult when full-time jobs are the only option, which is frequently the case.

Three percent of managers (men and women) and less than 1% of more senior executives work part-time.

100 years to C-suite equality

While the above factors help explain why women, much more often than men, leave high level careers, they also help explain why so few women are in those jobs in the first place.

The McKinsey study found that at the entry and midlevel, the percentage of women and men who aspire to advance is not far apart — 69% of women vs. 74% of men. But twice the percentage of men (36%) want to reach the CEO versus only 18% of women. One way to change that, notes the report, is for companies to “build on women’s short-term aspirations to motivate them and help them grow into directors and vice presidents; each step builds confidence for taking the next.”

However, says another McKinsey report (in conjunction with, at the current rate of advancement it will take 25 years before women reach equality at the senior VP level and over 100 years in the C-suite.

There are ways to change this, but they start with companies getting involved in the issue. If you’d like to find out what women are saying about your company, check out InHerSight.

A version of this was first posted on

7 Companies Committed to Having Women at the Top

Here’s a list of companies that get high scores for female representation in management from the women working directly at the companies.

Equal gender representation in top management is crucial for working women. In fact, a lack of female representation in management is a big reason why only less than nine percent of women in the U.S. hold top management positions. It’s also why the small number of women in high-level careers aren’t staying in their positions.

That said, there are companies working to shift the status quo when it comes to female inclusiveness on executive teams.

Here are seven companies from InHerSight’s database with at least 14 ratings and 4.0 or higher for female representation.

Greenhouse Software

4.4 in Female Representation in Top Leadership| More ratings

This NYC-headquartered tech company houses about 200 employees. Of those, about 30 percent of the most senior-level positions are held by women. This includes jobs in the realms of marketing, design, customer success, talent acquisition, demand generation, legal and some SDR team positions.

Earlier this year, InHerSight did a company spotlight on GreenHouse Software and talked to Content Marketing Manager Melissa Suzuno about its culture and opportunities for female employees. One takeaway from the Q&A is that the company makes sure its hiring and promotion of employees is fair.

For example, it discourages the wage gap between men and women by disallowing salary negotiations. Instead, the company uses market data to lead with strong and fair offerings to its employees.

Greenhouse also has a generous parental leave and perks program, which is based on extensive research about ways to meet the needs of employees, as well as the company itself.

InHerSight reviewers give the company a 4.4/5.0 in the “Female Representation in Top Leadership” category.

“Amazing place to work—especially early in my professional career,” one reviewer expresses. “There are so many strong female leaders for me to engage with and learn from, with plenty of opportunities to do so.”


4.9 in Female Representation in Top Leadership| More ratings

Nearly half of the total 500 employees at this online events planning company are women. Eventbrite made it to Fortune’s annual “100 Best Workplaces for Women” list last year, boasting that approximately 40 percent of management and executive positions are held by women.

This year, it’s one of 50 companies on Glassdoor’s list of the 50 “Best Small and Medium Companies to Work For.”

According to Eventbrite’s website, these accolades are the works of Co-Founder and CEO Julia Hartz, who in the past has appeared on Fortune’s “40 Under 40” business leaders (2015) and “Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs” (2013) lists.

The company gets a 4.9/5.0 star rating in InHerSight’s “Female Representation in Top Leadership” category.

One reviewer says the company’s dedication to equality is seen in other levels as well: “Having worked at a number of tech companies in the Bay Area, Eventbrite is the first that has a 50/50 gender split. Women are well represented throughout the company at every leadership level … Our Co-Founder and CEO is female and has always put emphasis on mentorship and highlighting the female leaders we have at Eventbrite.”

Johnson & Johnson

4.0 in Female Representation in Top Leadership| More ratings

This company advocates and encourages the success of women across all career levels, especially with its programs like the Women’s Leadership Initiative.

Those programs are led by awesome women in top management like Beth McCombs, Catherine Owen, and Colleen Flesher. The trio won awards at this year’s MAKERS@ program for their accomplishments in advocating for the professional advancement of fellow women workers.

In InHerSight’s “Female Representation in Top Leadership” category, reviewers give the company 4.0/5.0 stars.

Fidelity Investments

4.2 in Female Representation in Top Leadership| More ratings

This financial services company takes female representation to a whole new level. It offers employees company culture programs like The Women’s Leadership Group, which gives women at Fidelity opportunities to thrive in the domains of networking, leadership and volunteering through forums, mentoring and onboarding, events and community outreach.

The leadership at Fidelity is committed to providing confidence-enriching opportunities for women who want to reach financial goals long-term. There’s even an article in Fortune written by female executives at Fidelity discussing the reasons why today’s women still don’t manage their own money and why it’s important to restore their confidence so that they can.

The article’s co-author, President of Personal Investing Kathleen Murphy, has spoke at events—like those held by the Financial Women’s Association—to address the issue.

Fidelity Investments has earned a 4.3/5.0 star rating on InHerSight, in the “Female Representation in Top Leadership” category.

Teach for America

4.0 in Female Representation in Top Leadership| More ratings

This education management organization is responsible for supporting and developing thousands of teachers and alumni throughout the U.S. And behind the scenes of it all is a sizable number of women employees making it all happen.

A post on NYCAN’s blog, entitled Teach For America & Badass Women, notes a pattern of female inclusiveness over the organization’s rich history. Over 50 percent of senior leaders at Teach for America are women and, in some key moments in the organization’s existence, its leadership team has been more than three-quarters female.

InHerSight reviewers give the company a 4.1/5.0 for the “Female Representation in Top Leadership” category.

“Teach for America greatly supports all of their employees regardless of gender; something that I have found extremely unique in comparison with other companies I have worked for,” one reviewer writes.

Bright Horizons

4.3 in Female Representation in Top Leadership| More ratings

Here’s a child care and family solutions company that has spent years racking up accolades for empowering women workers. Bright Horizons ranked fifth on The Globe Magazine and The Commonwealth Institute’s list of the 2015 top 100 women-led businesses in Massachusetts, it’s featured in Bentley University’s Companies Where Women Thrive series and, most recently, it made it to Great Place to Work’s 2016 list of the best workplaces for women.

According to Bentley University, women comprise of nearly 70 percent of upper management and 56 percent of executives on the company’s team. Also, 95 percent of more than 20,000 Bright Horizons employees worldwide are women.

Helen Zarba, Bright Horizons’ VP of organizational development and learning services, tells Bentley that the company offers courses from its own Bright Horizons University to support employees. The 24/7 on and offline education platform has a collection of courses specifically focused in women’s leadership training, focused specifically on effective communication and negotiation strategies.

Adding to that, Bright Horizons encourages female employees to attend the annual Massachusetts Conference for Women in Boston and covers the cost of tickets for the event every year.

In InHerSight’s “Female Representation in Top Leadership” category, the company gets a 4.3/5.0 star rating from reviewers.

Katz Radio Group

4.4 in Female Representation in Top Leadership| More ratings

This results-driven radio campaign platform boasts that it has the largest reach of any radio representation company in America. According to its website, Katz Radio Group represents “every major radio group with more than 4,000 radio stations and thousands of digital platforms.”

But its industry success isn’t the only selling point for potential employees. The company is responsible for having some of the most influential women in radio work at its offices—three of which made it to Radio Ink compilation of the 100 most powerful examples of female leaders dominating the industry.

Katz’s EVP of Media Strategy Mary Beth Garber has held a spot on the list for the past 15 years and sits on the executive board of global support initiative Mentoring and Influencing Women in Radio and on the advisory board for the Alliance for Women in Media’s Southern California Affiliate.

Noteworthy female leaders like Garber are perhaps what drove InHerSight reviewers to give the company a 4.4/5.0 in the “Female Representation in Top Leadership” category. One anonymous rater states, “I believe the company has certainly been ahead of the times as far as women in the workplace and especially in management/leadership roles.”

Do you work for a company that has an equal representation of genders in top management positions? Share your experience with us by rating your company on InHerSight!

This post was first published on Inhersight.