Skip links
Women employees and promotion

Why women employees leave companies and how to keep them

Despite modest gains in representation over the last eight years, women—and especially women of colour—are still dramatically underrepresented in corporate America. To make meaningful and sustainable progress toward gender equality, companies should focus on two broad goals: getting more women into leadership and retaining the women leaders they already have. This will require pushing beyond common practices, consultancy McKinsey writes in report Women in the Workplace 2022.

 Only 1 in 4 C-suite leaders is a woman, and only 1 in 20 is a woman of colour. “Moreover, most companies are grappling with two pipeline problems that make achieving gender equality in their organization all but impossible”: the report says

  • For every 100 men who are promoted from entry level to manager, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted. Therefore men significantly outnumber women at the manager level, and women can never catch up. There are simply too few women to promote into senior leadership positions.
  • Women leaders are leaving their companies at the highest rate in years, and the gap between women and men leaders leaving is the largest we’ve ever seen. 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 far less likely than men to work in engineering and technical fields, and women’s relative representation in these jobs is lower than it was in 2018. As a result, women in technical roles are twice as likely as women overall to say they are frequently the only woman in the room at work.” 

Read Also:  Implementing rules against European gender pay gap

“The fact that they are so often “Only” women may partly explain why women in tech face higher rates of bias: they are more likely than women in non-technical roles to have their judgment questioned in their area of expertise and to say their gender has played a role in their being passed over for a chance to get ahead.” 

“These trends have troubling implications for gender equality. Engineering and technical roles are among corporate America’s fastest-growing and highest-paid job categories. If women in these roles have negative day-to-day experiences and don’t see an equal path to advancement, it could lead to larger gaps in both representation and earnings between women and men overall.”


In describing what companies can do to improve the situation, the report stresses that companies that have better representation of women, especially women of colour, are doubling down on setting goals, tracking outcomes, and holding leaders accountable and that these are the building blocks of driving organizational change. 

“They’re offering more specific and actionable training so managers are better equipped to support their teams and employees know how to practice allyship.” 

“They’re creating dedicated programs to make sure women get the mentorship and sponsorship they deserve.” 

Read Also:  Still gender pay gap but improvement for some millennials

“And they’re offering a constellation of benefits to improve women’s day-to-day work experiences: flexibility, emergency childcare benefits, and mental health supports.” 

“Companies that want to see better results would benefit from following their lead and breaking new ground.”


The report says most companies also need to identify where the largest gap in promotions is for women in their pipeline—for a majority of companies, this will be at the first step up to manager, but it could be at higher levels, too. Then companies need to make sure women and men are put up for promotions at similar rates, monitor outcomes to make sure they’re equitable, and root out biased aspects of their evaluation process. 

“Women leaders are demanding more from their companies, and they’re increasingly willing to switch jobs to get it.” The report says three primary factors are driving their decisions to leave:

  • Women leaders want to advance, but they face stronger headwinds than men.
  • Women leaders are overworked and under-recognized. Compared to men at their level, women leaders do more to support employee well-being and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion—work that dramatically improves retention and employee satisfaction, but is not formally rewarded in most companies.
  • Women leaders want a better work culture. Women leaders are significantly more likely than men leaders to leave their jobs because they want more flexibility or because they want to work for a company that is more committed to employee well-being and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Many women experience bias not only because of their gender, but also because of their race, sexual orientation, a disability, or other aspects of their identity—and the compounded discrimination can be much greater than the sum of its parts. As a result, these groups of women often experience more microaggressions and face more barriers to advancement. It’s critical that companies and coworkers are aware of these dynamics so they can more effectively promote equity and inclusion for all women. “ 


The report says the option to work remotely is especially important to women. Only 1 in 10 women wants to work mostly on-site, and many women point to remote and hybrid work options as one of their top reasons for joining or staying with an organization.

Read Also:  Big tech increasing women in leadership roles

“However, there are potential downsides to these new ways of working. A majority of companies are concerned that employees who work remotely feel less connected to their teams and say that remote and hybrid work are placing additional demands on managers. It’s also possible that employees who primarily work from home— who are more likely to be women—will get fewer opportunities for recognition and advancement.”

For remote and hybrid work the report has five advices:

  • Clearly communicate plans and guidelines for flexible work As remote and hybrid work policies continue to evolve, companies should take extra care to ensure that employees know what to expect and understand the rationale behind decisions. 
  • Gather regular feedback from employees. It’s hard to navigate any major transition without understanding employees’ priorities and experiences. 
  • Invest in fostering employee connectedness This means being intentional about working norms— for example, having everyone join meetings via videoconference so it’s easier for employees to participate when they are working remotely. 
  • Be purposeful about in-person work. Employee expectations for in-person work are changing—in particular, many employees don’t want to come into the office to do work they can just as easily do at home. In light of this, many companies are starting to refocus in-person work on activities that take advantage of being together, such as high-level planning, learning and development training, and bursts of heavy collaboration.  
  • Make sure the playing field is level. It’s important that remote and hybrid employees get the same support and opportunities as on-site employees. People managers play a central role here, and many could benefit from additional training on how to foster remote and hybrid employees’ career development and minimize flexibility stigma. 
Read Also:  How women may suffer from leadership bias


Moonshot News is an independent European news website for all IT, Media and Advertising professionals, powered by women and with a focus on driving the narrative for diversity, inclusion and gender equality in the industry.

Our mission is to provide top and unbiased information for all professionals and to make sure that women get their fair share of voice in the news and in the spotlight!

We produce original content, news articles, a curated calendar of industry events and a database of women IT, Media and Advertising associations.

    Do you want an experienced opinion on a job issue?
    Moonshot Manager is here to answer!

      Moonshot community sharing thoughts and ideas, in a anonymous, safe environment.