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A new study says women leaders are leaving their companies at the highest rate ever

For every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level to manager, only 87 women are promoted, according to the new McKinsey/Lean in “Women in the Workplace” study.
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The “Great Resignation” marked the voluntary exit of hundreds of thousands of employees from the workplace amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It pulled back the curtain to reveal workers, mostly women, were tired of being overworked, underpaid and unsatisfied. And a new report from McKinsey and Lean In, out Tuesday shows that workers’ discontent isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

If fact, it may have another name - the “Great Breakup.” According to the 2022 “Women in the Workplace” study, women leaders are not only leaving their companies at higher rates than before, but the gap between women and men leaders calling it quits is the largest it’s ever been.

The data also shows that the “broken rung” – the challenges entry-level women face getting promoted to management – continues to be a problem. For every 100 men who are promoted from an entry level job to manager, only 87 women were promoted and only 82 women of color were promoted. And this year, 60 percent of managers are men compared to 40 percent of women.

The largest study of women in corporate America is based on surveys with more than 41,000 workers across 330 companies. It includes an intersectional look at the specific biases and barriers faced by Black women, Latinas, Asian women, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities.

The study found that for every woman at the director level who gets promoted to the next level, two women directors are choosing to leave their company.

“Women are not breaking up with work, they’re breaking up with companies,” Rachel Thomas, co-founder and CEO of told Know Your Value. “Women are demanding more from work: more opportunity, more flexibility, and a greater commitment to well-being and DEI. And these factors are even more important to women of color and young women. This could spell disaster for companies. Women are already underrepresented in senior leadership, and now companies are losing the precious few women leaders they do have. To put the scale of the problem in perspective, for every director-level woman who gets promoted, two women directors are choosing to leave their company.”

Although there have been small gains with representation in leadership roles, the study also points out that women of color continue to be underrepresented. Only one in 20 C-suite leaders is a woman of color. Microaggressions, burnout, and being asked to do DEI work without proper compensation are all burdens women, especially women of color, continue to face, according to the survey.

At the same time, the data also shows that women leaders are demanding more from their companies—and they’re willing to switch jobs to get it.

"We were encouraged to see in our data what we already know to be true: young women are ambitious. They are increasingly standing up for the value they bring to the workplace and are not budging on their demands for career advancement and prioritization of work-life balance, flexibility and DEI efforts,” Alexis Krivkovich, senior partner at McKinsey & Company told Know Your Value.

For women under 30, these driving factors are even more important than those of women leaders who are more senior, the data shows.

“And yet, as these women leaders walk out the door, these young women are watching their role models vote with their feet. Companies that don’t take action risk recruiting and retaining the next generation of women leaders needed to drive their companies forward,” Krivkovich noted.