During the height of 2020 civic unrest, organizations across the country made diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) pledges, including promises to improve gender equity.
Two and a half years later, women are switching jobs at record rates, leaving organizations that have yet to make good on their promises. Dubbed "The Great Breakup," the trend is toward women demanding more from their workplaces.
During the pandemic, many women left the workplace to be caretakers. The Great Breakup trend is different. These days, women are quitting their jobs—at the highest rate ever— in search of more inclusive and supportive workplaces. It's not that women are any less ambitious than men—women leaders are just as driven as their male counterparts. And they aren't just quitting. Instead, women feel empowered to seek out workplaces where they can thrive.
Why are women moving on?
According to the 2022 McKinsey/LeanIn.org study, women are quitting companies where:
- There are barriers to their advancement,
- They do more to support employee well-being and are underrecognized for the work, or
- The company culture needs to be more inclusive and flexible.
The good news is that companies prioritizing respect and inclusion are more likely to retain their women employees.
"Like many of our peers, we did see women leaving the workforce during the pandemic to care for their families," said Amber Bryant, director of human resources operations at BOK Financial®. "But now that trend is leveling off for us. Women are staying at BOK Financial, and we attribute that to our relational and inclusive culture—from mental health benefits to flexible work options to unconscious bias training for leaders. We're doing the work to keep and grow all of our employees."
Businesses that want to be better at retaining women have options. But it takes work. Here are a few tips from the McKinsey report for building a workplace culture that attracts and retains women:
- First, companies should clearly and decisively commit to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and ensure that all employees understand and support this commitment. Bryant says companies can do this by operationalizing DEI through training, education programs, and clear and consistent messaging from leadership.
"BOK Financial senior leaders are advocates for DEI and have continuous conversations about it with employees at all levels," said Bryant. "We also have a common language to talk about what we mean by inclusivity, so everyone understands the expectations."
- Organizations can also create a more welcoming environment by providing support for managers. According to McKinsey, managers are particularly responsible for holistically supporting employees. The survey found that 78% of HR respondents expect managers to support employee well-being, and 80% expect managers to promote inclusion in their teams.
- Companies seeking gender equity should also provide opportunities for women to advance their careers and develop their skills. Formal initiatives like mentoring, sponsorship programs, and training and development opportunities help women access leadership opportunities equitably.
At BOK Financial, creating equitable development opportunities includes succession planning with a broader lens. "We encourage leaders to look beyond a certain department or skill set when identifying their potential replacements," Bryant noted. "Leaders also highlight up-and-coming talent to bring viability and networking opportunities to employees who might not be in the obvious pipeline for leadership roles."
- Finally, companies should measure and track their progress in creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace. Tracking employee retention and promotion rates by gender can keep the effort top of mind. Regular surveys help companies create intentional solutions to support their employees.
"Not every person or every team needs the same thing to feel supported," Bryant shared. "Regular surveys can help provide more specific feedback about what works well and what could be improved."
The Great Breakup trend is a positive development for DEI in general, according to McKinsey. By creating a more equitable and supportive workplace, companies can retain their women employees and foster a more diverse and inclusive workforce, which is good for everyone.