According to a recent study by InHerSight, seventy-three percent of working women are interested in changing careers. I was not surprised because this supports what I have been consistently hearing from my many women clients for the last several years.

Why Women Change Careers

Based on this survey of 1500 women, it seems that two-thirds of the female workforce is wondering whether they should change jobs or even industries. The study reported that the top three reasons women want to leave their jobs are:

  1. The need for better wages
  2. A desire for a career with the right mission
  3. Burnout

Listening to senior executive women tells me that there is an essential fourth reason: unapologetic sexism. Let’s think about these reasons.

1. The need for better wages.

Women want to be paid fairly for their work. The number of female heads of households is increasing while corporate benefits packages are decreasing. These women experience enormous financial pressure. The data collected over 20 years is pretty consistent in supporting a wage gap – that women earn SIGNIFICANTLY less than their male counterparts. It is no wonder that women, especially single mothers, when forecasting family expenses, will see a dismal retirement picture. One solution is for women to change careers.

2. A desire for a career with the right mission

It is no surprise that women want to find a career with a mission they believe in. After working in jobs at the lower rungs of the corporate ladder, many women conclude that their education and training could make a more significant difference elsewhere. This is particularly true for women who have spent years fighting their way up the ladder. They are nearing 50 years of age when most people, regardless of their gender, start to reappraise the meaning of their professional life. At this stage, working to pay the mortgage without finding a sense of purpose can seem pretty thin gruel.

3. Burnout

Burnout for women is so common that it scarcely gets the attention it deserves. The never-ending tradeoffs for women of managing a household and children in addition to the demands of the workplace take a toll that few men can imagine. Even single women and women without children are often exhausted from trying to prove that they are as capable as their male counterparts.

One client said to me, “I was so determined to prove that I was as good as the boys that the demands of my constant international travel left me totally exhausted when I got home.”

4. Sexism

The men in or near the CEO suite have lived through the harrowing experience of competing for the increasingly fewer jobs at the top of the pyramid. It is little wonder that they guard the fantastic financial rewards for the people they know best.

Frequently this fraternity among male executives leads to an agreement that there will be “no girls in this treehouse.”

Of course, there are few explicit signals that shut women out. Litigation and attendant negative public relations can rein in some of the most egregious actors. But there is often a subtler phenomenon of deeply unconscious sexism. The fathers of these senior executives were very likely to have been the family breadwinners while their wives stayed home to manage the family during the 1950s. I have been amazed if not altogether surprised to hear my senior women clients describe their experiences with chauvinism around men they otherwise admire. I have to conclude that these men have not taken the time to dig underneath assumptions to discover their UNCONCIOUS ORIGIN in THEIR “father knows best” early years.

How Women Change Careers

So what is the solution for this host of unhappy female employees? The first and perhaps most important decision is to decide they deserve to find meaningful and fairly paid work. A successful career transition requires a rigorous analysis of what sort of assignment would be ideal and then the persistence to interview people who can be helpful along the way. I remain optimistic, based on the experience of my women clients who use my coaching to successfully find work that is meaningful and fairly paid.

Peter Sherer is a nationally recognized career coach who offers clarity and confidence to mid-career and senior executives in transition. In just two short days, his rigorous assessment tools enable his clients to identify a meaningful assignment that uses all of their skills and experience. Learn more and get in touch with Peter today.