April 4, 2022

The Great Resignation: Why Women CEOs Are Leaving Their Secure Careers for Freedom and Fulfillment

Women CEOs are leaving their secured careers for more time, freedom, and fulfillment. 

The Great Resignation is not just a women's issue. It's an issue that affects all working parents and professionals. 

The Great Resignation is a trend that is not slowing down. Currently, the number of employees quitting is still high. “44% of workers look for a new job” (CNBC). 

Additionally, “4.3 million workers left their jobs in August 2021,” according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey  Report (JOLTS).

Due to gender role imbalances, the impact of The Great Resignation has had a significant effect on women.

According to data from payroll services firm Gusto, which focuses on small businesses, its analysis found that “5.5% of women quit their jobs in August, compared with 4.4% of men” — a gender gap that's the largest Gusto has seen since it began tracking the issue in early 2020.  

We can observe another significant trend, an increasing trend where women leave their all-consuming jobs as CEOs. While they take on some of their previous executive duties as board members or board chairs, they carve out a world that is maybe a little more manageable.  

They want to spend more time with family, practicing self-mindfulness, doing things that make them feel fulfilled and happier in the long run. 

One of the ways to do this is by creating an exit. That’s not to say that it’s because they are leaving their companies or those companies are failing, but what we see is that they want to be able to make choices around their life that they want and need. They don’t always want or need a high-level job, they want to work on their projects, and they need the flexibility to do that. 

There are many reasons behind this decision. For example, some women feel that they don't have enough control over their work-life balance. They want to spend more time with their children or care for elderly parents, but they can't do that while working full-time. 

Other women CEOs want to spend more time on themselves and try new things like starting a business or traveling. Some of these women also find it hard to keep up with the demands of running a company when they constantly feel exhausted and disappointed. 

These women have resigned from their careers and left millions of dollars in salary on the table for more freedom and greater fulfillment. 

What is the Motivation Behind The Great Resignation? 

There was no single trigger that caused the Great Resignation, but instead, many factors contributed to it. The COVID-19 pandemic drastically and suddenly shifted the entire global workforce.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies, small businesses especially, to shut down for some time, leaving many employees jobless and CEOs trying to figure out how to incentivize workers to return to work. 

“In May 2020, 41% of employees surveyed found themselves burned out from the stress of managing work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic” (BetterUp)

In the past few decades, women have made great strides in the workplace. However, this progress is now being threatened by a lack of work-life balance and the stressors behind the pandemic.

Despite these advances and even more benefits since the pandemic, women struggle to find the right balance between their careers and their families. 

Women are not leaving their jobs because they are unhappy with them or want to spend more time at home; they are going and not returning because they feel that their work-life balance has become unsustainable even before the pandemic. 

The Great Resignation is not just an issue that impacts women - it affects all genders and generations in the workforce. “Resignation rates are highest among mid-career employees.” (Harvard Business Review)

While this pandemic is still wreaking havoc, things have begun to return to a “new normal,” yet there remain 1.8 million fewer women in the workforce, according to NPR. Women CEOs have left their careers and have not returned.   

The Pandemic Encouraged Women CEOs to Start Their Businesses Rather Than Returning to Work

Women Leaders turned entrepreneurs account for 50% of the new businesses started during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 (LA Times). 

While apparent factors directly related to the pandemic that contributed to women CEOs making the switch, below are, a few factors that perhaps are pre-COVID factors that weighed on why returning to the workplace became less and less appealing than starting a business (especially for women of color).  

Globally, the labor force participation for females is 27% lower than males. About 74% of males are working or looking for work compared to of females who participated in the labor force. 

There are various reasons why this is the case. Below lists a few of those reasons tied to the COVID-19 pandemic: 

1. Women took a more during the pandemic than men.

2. Funding for small businesses became easier to access, especially for women during the pandemic.

3. Women are problem solvers; many saw a need and responded.  

4. Women, more so than men, were already thinking about or planning an exit strategy; the pandemic became the perfect opportunity to execute on the exit. 

5. Women desire to reimagine the workforce with more diversity, equity, and inclusion by starting their businesses and incorporating fairness practices in hiring for women to include equality in starting salaries, additional family or medical leave, days off for mental health not associated with sick leave, flexible workdays and telecommute options.   

The Great Resignation and the Future of the Workforce 

While the sudden and massive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has forever reshaped our economy, The Great Resignation is the pandemic of the workforce. Similar to the COVID pandemic, there is a bright side in the aftermath of it all.  

Some of the benefits of the COVID-19 pandemic include employers increasing hourly wages, allowing time off for mental health, increase in childcare benefits, flexible 4-day work schedules, and having the option to leave home. 

“This labor market right now is completely favorable to women dictating the terms of their employment, the types of jobs they go back to, the wages they’re able to return to, and the schedules of the jobs that they return to,” says Luke Pardue, Economist at Gusto.

Notably, the benefits of The Great Resignation include: 

  • Pandemic entrepreneurs started 4.4 million+ new businesses in the US during 2020.  
  • New business applications are on track to top 5 million, smashing the record set in 2020. 
  • Female entrepreneurs drove fifty percent of new businesses in 2020. 
  • Black women are leading the charge at of new women-owned businesses, followed by Latina women at 31%. 
  • Nearly 3 million American women have left the labor force over the past year in a coronavirus-induced exodus that reflects persistent pay inequality, undervalued work, and antiquated notions of caregiving.
  • According to a recent Harvard study, 75% of HR professionals, primarily women, reported they also have some caregiving responsibility. 
  • The Harvard report finds that the employees most likely to quit jobs due to caregiving are the highest-paid workers with the highest titles. 

The Great Resignation: From a Personal Perspective 

Women CEOs understand the need for work-life balance to continue the roles of both CEO and Caregiver. Women often feel pressured to put in more hours at work, which not only means less time spent with their families but also leads to higher levels of stress and unhappiness. Women need not choose between family and high-powered careers. Women want to be able to serve their families without sacrificing their careers.  

Although nearly 50% of all business startups during the pandemic were started by Women CEOs coming from very highly skilled and high-paying careers, roughly a third of those businesses failed within the first year. By year two, more than 50% of businesses fail. 

Furthermore those businesses list self-care (lack of focus, failure to pivot) as the reasons for failure while  of small businesses fail due to family crisis.  

Women want the opportunity to thrive in all aspects of life--and The Great Resignation provides that opportunity. 

It's a clear sign this movement is picking up steam.  

My goal is to collapse the business failure gap by providing self-care strategies and guidance that will help female CEOs to refuel, renew, and refocus so that you can gain the energy and the clarity you need to make crucial pivots in both life and business and sustain massive success.

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About the Author 

Benita Williams is an International Best-selling author, Self-care Strategist, and CEO of Benita Williams Enterprises, LLC., a business consulting company. Find out more at www.benitawilliams.com. Looking for additional tips to add to your own practice?
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