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The Effects of Corporate Gender Bias

Uncovering why a growing number of women are leaving the corporate workplace.

(originally published by Booz & Company)

Title: Women Entrepreneurs: Jumping the Corporate Ship and Gaining New Wings (Subscription or fee required.)
Authors: Nicola Patterson and Sharon Mavin
Publisher: International Small Business Journal, vol. 27, no. 2
Date Published: April 2009

More and more professional women are leaving their jobs in favor of self-employment; the United Kingdom, for instance, saw 22.2 percent of women exit the corporate workplace between 1990 and 2000, and 32.6 percent exit between 2001 and 2005. To understand why more women are leaving the workplace, the authors looked at four who chose self-employment after departing established corporate careers.

Gender issues played a significant role in each woman’s decision to leave the corporate world. All of the women had reached middle or senior management positions. And although each cited domestic circumstances — from raising children to longer commutes caused by office relocations — as factors in their decision to leave, three of the women complained that their former organizations had leadership structures and cultures dominated by men who made it difficult for women to get ahead. One woman, a senior manager, described being “actively blocked” by the men in her organization and not taken seriously. Another was the only female in her organization without an administrative title; after being passed over several times for promotion, she took her case to a tribunal and won.

Companies face significant organizational costs when they lose key talent. Increased turnover leads to a loss of institutional knowledge and can cripple a company’s competitive advantage. The authors of this study argue that companies that focus on reducing gender bias and that understand and acknowledge the challenges women face in the workplace will be in a better position to keep top female talent moving into executive positions, instead of out the door.

Bottom Line: More women are leaving the corporate workplace, and some of the reasons for this transition are gender-related barriers at companies; factors related to female employees’ families, households, and children; and a desire to be their own boss.

Author profile:

  • Matt Palmquist is an award-winning feature writer for the San Francisco–based SF Weekly, and a founding staff writer and contributing editor at Miller-McCune magazine.
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