Is the real reason women leave firms because of Pay?

Is the real reason women leave firms because of Pay?

I’m always fascinated by the reasons people leave organisations but recently I was pondering is there a different reason according to gender? Does having a gender pay gap relevant to their reasons for leaving male dominated organisations?

The Guardian newspaper back in November 2016 reported that it would take women 60 years to close the gap at the current rate of progress, a gap of 13.9%!!

The Fawcett Society chief executive, Sam Smethers, said: “A root cause of the gender pay gap is that we don’t value the work done by women”, “Equal value goes to the heart of the fight for pay equality, because the reality is that if it is a sector dominated by women the pay will be lower.

As the U.K looks to leave the EU and the single market, we have to guard against the risk of going backwards and losing some of the rights that women have fought for over many years. But with all this said, and knowing that there is not equity are the differences in leaving an organisation the same?

Organisational leaders report that women are leaving primarily because of flexibility needs and family demands. Women in their thirties disagree.

A recent global ICEDR study revealed that leaders believe that the majority of women around the age of 30 leave because they are struggling to balance work and life or planning to have children, whereas men leave because of compensation. However, according to women themselves (and in sharp contrast to the perceptions of their leaders), the primary factor influencing their decision to leave their organisations is pay.

In fact, women are actually more likely to leave because of compensation than men. Not only are women’s reasons for leaving misunderstood, differences between women and men are overstated.


What can we do to retain women leaders? My top 3 tips are:

  1. Rethink systems; challenge assumptions: Look for ways that unconscious bias in the organisation affects opportunities and motivation for women. Scheduling, opportunities for networking and mentoring, social norms, and talent management processes are some potential areas for rethinking and improvement. Managers should ask, rather than assume they know what women want (this is also a good idea with all employees), and organisations should create the culture and systems that make it easier to have those conversations.
  1. Address challenges beyond family and flexibility: While options for flexibility and work-life balance are important, the bottom line is that motherhood is not the primary reason why talented women are leaving organisations. Focusing retention strategies on this alone, without also considering pay and compensation fairness, will ultimately jeopardise retention and advancement efforts.
  2. Propose women’s strategies as broader talent strategies: Gender appears to have little impact on an individual’s reasons for leaving an organisation. This is good news for organisational leaders. By implementing strategies and programs informed by the needs and desires of women, leaders will simultaneously be addressing what matters most to broader talent pools, men included. There is less of a need to segment and complicate talent strategies by gender. Instead, there is the opportunity to create broad impact through strategies that address the desires of both mid-career women and men.


As a result of the misperceptions about why women leave their organisations, there is a disconnect between current talent retention strategies and the desires of top female talent. While work-life balance, flexibility, and family are important, they are not the only — or even the primary — reasons women leave companies ‘in my opinion’.

With men and women expressing similar concerns about why they leave their jobs, leaders have the opportunity to retain and advance their top talent, both male and female, by focusing on common priorities: pay and fair compensation.