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Why are women changing their jobs like never before?

It was Anthony Klotz, a psychologist at Texas A&M, who first coined the term “Great Resignation” to describe the huge upheavals in the labor market in the US in recent months.

It’s logical to think that in the uncertain world we now live in people want stability, but Klotz opined in an interview with NPR that in fact, the pandemic has stimulated a national awakening where employees are reassessing what is important to them. Although the trend is stabilizing, the Bureau of Labor Statistics still announced that 4.4 million workers quit their jobs in September. A fact that may or may not surprise you is that proportionally, this “Great Resignation” is affecting more women than men. Recent LinkedIn data shows that job transitions - and that includes moving to a better-paid role or out of the market altogether - have surged for women in 2021. Transitions for women were up 54% year on year, compared to men with 46%.

So, why are women more likely to change their jobs like never before?

Benchmarking their priorities

As we move through this (seemingly endless) pandemic many women are, as Klotz noted, having an epiphany about how they want to live their lives. They are looking at their own role and benchmarking it against factors like flexibility, salary or whether a workplace has a vaccine mandate. If their own role doesn’t measure up, it's natural to move to a new job that has, for example, a more adaptable balance between life and work duties - seen as essential by many women also juggling the lion’s share of familial duties.


In LinkedIn’s data, they found that 4 in 10 women are experiencing burnout exacerbated by the stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic. In the beginning, workers rose to their new challenges with verve and commitment, but as the months rolled on and the stressful yo-yo of good news than bad meant that exhaustion set in. Some women jumped out of the labor market completely for that reason, or moved away from the traditionally female-dominated service and retail industries.

Their jobs are no longer covering their families’ living expenses

Shockingly, one-third of women surveyed by LinkedIn say their income is not enough to pay their family's living expenses. They are part of this “Great Resignation” simply because it is no longer financially viable for them to work. During the pandemic, women have exited the workforce at twice the rate of men, and the amount of women in the labor market is at its lowest in 30 years. Not only have families had to contend with sustained school closures but the closures of many daycares have resulted in a new normal of long waiting lists and spiraling costs. So now it’s still difficult to juggle work and family and it's simply too expensive.

Doing it for themselves

It’s not all doom and gloom - new businesses are cropping up as women follow their passions and work for themselves on their own terms. According to a recent study by Northwestern Mutual and OnePoll, about 10% of Americans have left formal employment to do their own thing. However, women are more likely to pivot away from their chosen career path than men, with 50% of women willing to consider this option compared to 44% of men.

So, on the flip side what are you doing to retain your female executives if they are on the move? Benchmarking what you offer against your competitors is essential, not only in benefits but salary too, with government and employers needing to make a continued commitment to close the gender pay gap. On the other side productivity, engagement and growth cannot be sustained without a foundation of well-being, so it's really important to start breaking down the taboos around mental health and the unspoken agreement between employers and employees not to discuss personal issues at work. The personal and professional don’t exist in different boxes and a holistic approach is vital to address the needs of the whole person.

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