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Lack of career progression is the main reason that women leave their jobs, according to a survey by recruitment firm Ambition UK, with the stigma attached to flexible working meaning they are held back from climbing the career ladder.
The ‘Why do women in business leave?’ report is based on a survey of 486 women working in either professional services or financial services found 62% said career progression was their main reason for leaving their current company, followed by salary (49%), company culture (36%), and work-life balance (35%).
The results were similar when respondents were asked why they would leave their role; career progression (62%), salary (44%), work-life balance (30%), and company culture (22%).
Additionally, the study found that 61% of employees would like to work flexibly. Some 24% of women working in financial services would leave due to a lack of flexible working, compared to 19% in professional services.
Andrea Williams, managing director of Ambition UK, said: “There seems to be no doubt whatsoever that many women leave work at the point of starting a family, but what we have discovered is that in the majority of cases, this is not because they are ready to start families.
“Whilst it’s true to say that some women do choose to exit the work force to have children and may not necessarily be interested in returning to their former careers afterwards, we found that this section of the workforce was actually in the very noticeable minority.
“What we found to be more accurate is that far more women leave their roles, companies and careers due to the lack of opportunity to progress. This inability to be able to compete on a level playing field is by far the most common reason given by the women we surveyed as to why they leave their roles and this is often manifested by leaving work to have children.”
She added that the problem with career progression was due to stigma about flexible working. “Our survey results have indicated that many women are not getting supported and developed because senior management teams don’t treat women the same as men and when women do choose to have families, senior managers then devalue part time work or flexible working,” she said.
“The stigma behind this is still very real today and if we cannot figure out a way to change these antiquated ideas then we have not taken a single step forward in this dream of equality at work. I know this is easy to say and I know that any step forward is a positive one, but can’t we take a few more steps forward now?”