For the vast majority of women (and men for that matter), reaching a C-suite level position is not very likely (or perhaps even desirable). The statistics on educated women entering the workforce and the early but encouraging research we have outlined suggesting that women are highly effective in senior-level positions would lead one to ask:
- Why aren’t women more equally represented at senior levels of the business organizations?
- Why is the number of women at the top still so small?
- Why are there so many leaks in the pipeline of women into leadership in corporate America?
... Among the many reasons women hop off the career ladder is work-life conflict. Two options that many women pursue to address these conflicts are: “opting out” (or downshifting) and pursuing entrepreneurial careers.
... many highly educated women leave their employers prematurely due to the barriers they encounter in the workplace and the challenge of integrating work and family.13
But opting out is not simply a response to inflexible schedules and problems rectifying work-family conflict... women are more likely to leave the workforce because their jobs are not satisfying or lack meaning. Many women, especially those at midlife, opt out because they do not feel valued.14
A second option for women is to take on a reduced work schedule, working part time or job sharing. This approach, like opting out, is viable only for those families that can afford to live on less earnings. Women are far more likely than men to pursue reduced-hours arrangements in order to accommodate their caregiving demands. Unfortunately, employers appear to have an almost inexplicably high level of resistance to establishing part-time professional positions.
Many highly skilled women seek professional part-time roles where they can contribute in meaningful ways, only to find that such roles pay poorly, are marginalized, and often do not include benefits (not even on a pro-rated basis). The result is a serious talent drain that would be very easily remedied by employers simply letting go of an outdated belief that professionals and managers work full time.