One doesn’t need to have supernatural powers like Mel Gibson’s character in the movie “What Women Want” to figure out the answer to this question. Time and again, numerous research studies and other data have revealed that women want the same things as men do – advancement, challenging work assignments, and opportunities to have an impact at work. And when women don’t find these opportunities at work – they quit their jobs. And these are the very same reasons that drive men to quit their jobs too.
A recent McKinsey Quarterly article published last week (4/11/2011) on women’s progress (or lack thereof) in Corporate America succinctly summarizes this issue– “Women don’t opt out of the workforce; most cannot afford to. They do leave specific jobs for others in pursuit of personal achievement, more money and recognition—just like men.”
Our research (“Stemming the Tide”) on over 3,700 women engineers’ work and career experiences revealed very much the same pattern – women were most likely to stay in their jobs and in the engineering profession when their companies invested in their training and professional development, when they recognized their contributions to the companies, and when they offered them opportunities and clear paths to advancement.
As noted in our research, it’s a myth that women undertake rigorous educational training and join the workforce only to quit their jobs for ‘lifestyle reasons.’ Most cannot afford to or even want to quit. Stymied by long-standing institutional and structural barriers and entrenched gender stereotypes at work, many women professionals often alter their career trajectories and seek to satisfy their career ambitions in workplaces that respect, promote, and leverage their skills and talents. Again, not very different from what men do.
Corporate America has made huge strides in attracting top-notch female talent to their workplaces, but they rapidly lose them – not for gender-specific reasons, but gender-neutral reasons. Retention is closely tied to advancement: same for women as it is for men. What is Corporate America doing to close the revolving door for women?
After decades of research on this topic – the question is no longer what women want or even whether what women want is different from what men want – the question is how do organizations ensure that they are indeed offering women the same things as they are offering men?
What is your company doing to ensure that both women and men have same opportunities and same access to opportunities?