The "Broken Rung" Is Still Broken: Women Leaders Switching Jobs at Much Higher Rate than Men

By: WE Staff

In the battle for talent, there are always winners and losers, and the stakes are bigger than ever for businesses that seek gender equality.

In order to acquire what they want from their jobs, women are leaving their employers in record numbers. Women in leadership are changing occupations more frequently than men in leadership, and at a faster rate. For businesses, this might have significant ramifications. In positions of leadership, women are already notably underrepresented. The "broken rung" from the first level up to manager has prevented many women from moving up the ranks for years. Companies are currently having trouble keeping the very few female leaders they do have.

Women in leadership positions are equally as ambitious as males, but they frequently confront barriers that hinder their ability to succeed. They are more likely to encounter microaggressions that are demeaning, such having their judgement questioned or being confused for someone more junior. They are working harder to promote inclusion and employee well-being, but this important job is wearing them thin and mostly going unappreciated. Finally, it's becoming more crucial for female executives to work for organisations that place a high value on flexibility, employee wellbeing, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The "broken rung" is still broken

For the eighth year running, women are being held back by a "broken rung" at the first level of management.

Only 87 women and 82 women of colour are promoted for every 100 men who move up the corporate ladder from entry level to management. Men outnumber women at the manager level as a result, and women will never catch up. Simply put, there aren't enough women being promoted to high leadership roles.

Women continue to be vastly underrepresented in technical fields

The percentage representation of women in engineering and technical disciplines is lower than it was in 2018, and women are much less likely than men to work in these fields. From 18% in 2018 to 16% in 2022, women's relative representation in technical roles decreased.

Women in technical roles are consequently twice as likely to claim they are typically the only women in the room at work as are women in general. They are more likely than women in non-technical roles to have their judgement questioned in their field of expertise and to claim that their gender played a role in them being passed over for a chance to advance than women in non-technical roles, which may help to explain why women in tech face higher rates of bias.

Concerning implications for gender equality can be found in these tendencies. One of the fastest-growing and highest-paying job categories in corporate America is engineering and technical roles.

The representation and pay discrepancies between men and women may widen if women in these roles encounter difficulties on a regular basis and don't perceive an equitable path to success.

At work, 32% of women in technical and engineering professions are sometimes the only ones present.

Why female executives are leaving their firms

Women in positions of leadership are more willing to leave their current positions in order to demand more from their organisations. Their decisions to depart are being driven by three main factors:

Although female leaders aspire to advance, they confront more obstacles than male counterparts. Women leaders at their level are just as likely as males to want to advance and pursue senior-level positions.

However, they frequently encounter microaggressions at work that undercut their authority and indicate that it will be more difficult for them to advance. As an example, ladies are much more likely than male leaders to have colleagues cast doubt on their judgement or imply that they lack the qualifications for their positions. Women leaders are also more likely to claim that personal traits, such as their gender or the fact that they are parents, have contributed to their being passed up for a raise, promotion, or other opportunity to advance.

Women executives are twice as likely as men executives to be mistaken for a lower-level employee.

Compared to 27% of men leaders, 37% of women leaders have had a coworker receive credit for an idea.

Women in leadership positions are overworked and undervalued.

Women executives work harder than men at their level to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion and support employee well-being; this work has a significant positive impact on employee retention and satisfaction but is rarely formally recognised in most businesses. It can be more difficult for women leaders to grow if they invest time and effort in work that isn't acknowledged. It also suggests that women leaders are more overworked than males in leadership, which is to be expected given that women leaders are much more prone to burn out than men at their level.

Female leaders are twice as likely as male leaders to devote a significant amount of time on DEI work.

40% of female executives claim that their DEI work receives no recognition at all in performance evaluations. Compared to men at the same position, only 31% of women leaders are burned out.

Better workplace culture is desired by female leaders. Women leaders are much more likely than men leaders to resign their employment in order to have more freedom or to work for an organisation that is more dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion. And these aspects have only became more significant for female leaders during the past two years. 

Compared to 34% of men executives, 49% of women leaders say flexibility is among the top three factors they take into account when choosing whether to join or stay with a company. Women in leadership positions are 1.5 times more likely than men at the same level to have changed jobs to work for an organisation that was more dedicated to diversity and inclusion (DEI).

Companies are also at danger of losing young female employees

Young women place much greater importance on the issues that cause female executives to leave their organisations. Young women are very concerned about having the chance to advance; more than two-thirds of women under 30 aspire to be senior leaders, and more than half say that in the last two years, advancement has grown more important to them. 20 Young women are also more likely than women executives to claim that flexibility and a company's dedication to well-being and DEI are priorities in their daily lives.

Companies that don't take action may find it difficult to attract and keep the next generation of women leaders, which has particularly worrying implications for organisations that already have a "broken rung" in their leadership pipeline.

When asked if they would be more interested in progressing if they saw senior leaders who had the work-life balance they desired, two-thirds of women under 30 said yes.