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Women above the glass ceiling: Exploring why women partners leave

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Presentation on theme: "Women above the glass ceiling: Exploring why women partners leave"— Presentation transcript:

1 Women above the glass ceiling: Exploring why women partners leave
Dr Deirdre Anderson, Professor Susan Vinnicombe OBE, and Dr Val Singh Cranfield School of Management

2 Overview Context of study Global professional services firm
Firm was keen to increase number of women partners A significant number of women partners had left in previous few years Firm invited us to explore why women had left and what might improve retention Method Semi-structured telephone interviews across 8 time zones over 3 weeks Thematic analysis of transcripts using NVivo

3 Study participants 31 global women ex-partners – response rate of 66%
21 women had most recently worked for the firm in North America; remaining 10 had been based in Africa, Australia, Asia or Europe Length of employment with firm ranged from 4 to 29 years Age range - 37 to 60 years 20 women were married or living with a partner 16 had children under 18 years 15 had no children or their children were grown up

4 Kaleidoscope model – Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005

5 Women’s career development phases
Career phase 1 – idealistic achievement (ages 24-35) Career phase 2 – pragmatic endurance (ages 36-45) Career phase 3 – reinventive contribution (ages 46-60) O’Neil & Bilimoria, 2005

6 Examining Generational Differences:
Baby boomers (no children) Baby boomers (with children) Lack of passion Feeling undervalued Early retirement Gen xers (no children) Gen xers (with children) Not happy with expectations Disappointment in the leadership Lack of balance Feeling undervalued

7 Baby boomers with no children – early retirement
“At that time there was an important chance to sell the stocks if you retired. It was a lovely opportunity after a successful career and would open up the possibility of other things. … I left just because it was very convenient to leave.” “ I had always kind of thought that it would be lovely if I could retire at 50 so it was kind of where I wanted to be. So for me it was wonderful because we had the option, we would have the stock and everything and I would be able to leave, financially, at 50.”

8 Baby boomers with no children – early retirement
“I was just tired, I was burnt out and I just wasn’t enjoying what I was doing any longer and at the twenty year mark you kind of step back and say where am I, what do I want to do, what’s the next goal and when I stepped back there wasn’t anything that was tied to a career perspective, it was all about things I wanted to do in my personal life that I had not had the opportunity to accomplish” “I turned 50 in September and just am feeling very strongly that the second half of my life has got to be worth more, it’s got to be more meaningful, it’s got to have a broader impact than just being a partner in (company x), right? And then basically turning 50 and having hoards of money in the bank, enough to live on the rest of my life, I just thought you know, like, legitimately I can retire, why don’t I?”

9 GenXers with no children – expectations of others
“I felt no longer happy or comfortable doing what was expected of me; I had no problem trying to sell something that I believed in and something that I think will be of value to somebody else. I have a more difficult time when I’m being asked to sell things that I’m not quite sure that your clients really need.“ “(The firm) was moving more into outsourcing and very large scale projects and putting a lot of pressure on all of us to sell big projects. That was increasingly difficult to do; it was a difficult time and it was hard to live up to those expectations and so in general it was ‘Is this the right place? Do I want to be selling the kind of work that they want me to be selling?’”

10 GenXers with no children – disappointment in the leadership
“The region was going through some reorganisations, there were some leadership changes and in terms of how at that time the organisation was changing, I decided that it wasn’t really potentially where I wanted to be; it wasn’t really going to be in the same environment and where I wanted to be. … (There was) little support in terms of positioning, need for growing a new client base locally, it was everybody for themselves, it was difficult, some of the people I worked with were leaving, so the people that I truly valued were no longer going to be around.”

11 Baby Boomers with children – lack of passion and feeling undervalued
“I left because I really wanted to pursue other interests, I had plateaued, wasn’t feeling particularly engaged, didn’t think I was growing. I just felt that the things I was doing weren’t considered to be all that important, I wasn’t being presented with a lot of new opportunities. I didn’t have that same get up and go and desire to throw myself into my work as I always had and that caused me to really rethink well if I don’t have that passion anymore, then why am I doing this?” “I felt that there were things I did very well and was well regarded by clients and it just seemed that the turn that the firm was making was one that didn’t include me.”

12 GenXers with children – lack of balance
I’ve got twin 12 year old daughters and I feel a little bit like I’ve missed out on the first 12 years of their lives and I wanted to be more involved in their teenage years than I was in their toddler years and be available to them. Unfortunately in my professional role in (company x) it was not possible to have that time and flexibility to get involved in their lives to the extent that I wanted to. I’ll do the job here (in new company) on a full time basis but actually work flexibly so there’s not much in it at all. And as I say really for me I’ve got aspirations again, I’ve got some place to go, I’ve got things to aspire to and I can do them, even me with all my constraints and all of that, I’ve got some place to go. So the question I suppose in some ways is why didn’t I have that within (company x)?”

13 GenXers with children – feeling undervalued
“The guys that are responsible for my division, they don’t give a damn, as long as we deliver. Who their staff are as people is not relevant, only their skills. Partners have become fee-generating tools, and if they’re not generating fees, they should move on, if they are that’s fine.” “Had I felt like I was valued more, had I felt I was valued at the level that I deserved, as well as that I was contributing, at the level that the client perceived, then I would not have left. I did not feel like I was being valued at the level of the contributions and the level of sacrifices that I was making.”

14 Conclusions These women have made it to the top – the bigger issue was the lack of support they experienced at that level In a recession, they chose to leave and did so in higher proportions than the men Findings indicate generational differences Career phases – the need to differentiate between women who have children and those who do not

15 Framework for developing high achieving women
Authenticity – desire to have healthy alignment between inner values and beliefs and outer behaviours. Connection – the need to be close to other human beings, the need for intimacy, for close relationships Controlling your destiny (agency) – to take initiative on one’s own behalf and do whatever it takes to excel in one’s chosen endeavour. Wholeness – the desire to unite and integrate different life roles, having time for a variety of life experiences Self-clarity – understanding one’s own motives, behaviours and values. Seeking to understand how stereotypes and perceptions of women influenced the way their colleagues perceived them. Ruderman & Ohlott, 2004

16 The glass ceiling debate
Demolished or Relocated and deferred Altman, Simpson, Baruch & Burke, 2005

17 Questions for discussion
A biased sample, does not include the women who stayed or men who left How do these findings fit with personal definitions of career success? Is this study indicative of parenting bringing a different orientation to one’s life, irrespective of age/career stage?

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