Increasingly, women managers are choosing to “opt-out” when corporations fail to meet their professional needs. Opting out – the latest catchphrase within corporate circles – describes the growing trend of leaving corporate positions for alternative career paths.
A significant number of women managers are leaving large companies to start their own businesses. In fact, women are quitting corporate jobs in favor of entrepreneurship at twice the rate of men, making a significant impact on the traditional and online marketplace, according to Cheskin Research, a California-based strategic market research and consulting company.
Recent research indicates interesting trends for women entrepreneurs. According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, the number of women-owned US businesses grew at twice the rate of all firms between 1997 and 2002. And the US Small Business Administration reports that women-owned businesses account for 28 percent of all privately-owned companies. They employ 9.2 million people and contribute $ 2.38 trillion in revenue to the US economy.
Why are Women Managers Leaving Corporate America?
Women used to be willing to devote their time, energy, and effort to the corporation’s needs – at the expense of meeting their own professional goals. But not anymore. They’re starting their own businesses in an attempt to gain more freedom, recognition, money, opportunities, and other rewards.
Fifty-one percent of women business owners with prior private-sector experience cite the desire for more flexibility as the primary reason for leaving corporate positions, according to a study by Catalyst, a nonprofit research and advisory organization working to advance professional women. Twenty-nine percent said restrictive glass-ceiling issues drove them out the door. Of those women, 44 percent felt their contributions were not recognized or valued.
“As women walk out the door after years of training,” said Catalyst President Sheila Wellington, “what really walks out is the potential that those women would have brought to Corporate America.”
The Catalyst research – co-sponsored by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, the Committee of 200, and Salomon Smith Barney – also revealed that:
- A third of the women surveyed said they weren’t taken seriously by their employer or supervisor.
- Fifty-eight percent of them said that nothing would attract them back to the corporate world.
- Twenty-four percent said they could be lured back by more money, and 11 percent by greater flexibility.
Keeping Women in Corporations
Experts say corporate America isn’t doing enough to prevent women from walking out the door. Companies need to focus on providing flexibility, as well as continuing challenges and opportunities for personal growth, to retain women whom they view as high-potential or who are already significant contributors, says Catalyst. In addition, companies should identify potential women managers early in their careers, reward women’s bottom-line contributions, and recruit female entrepreneurs to corporate boards and senior line positions.
Expanding opportunities for women in leadership will require corporate change, as well as accommodations on the part of women themselves. Corporate cultures must support initiatives such as giving women high-visibility assignments, making gender diversity a part of succession planning, and holding managers accountable for women’s advancements.
Women managers can hone their leadership ability by seeking out risky, high profile assignments. If they need to strengthen their leadership skills to meet new challenges, they should consider hiring an executive coaching firm. For example, QuadWest Associates of Michigan offers a variety of business coaching and leadership development services to help executives optimize their skills and performance.
By investing in coaching services, women managers can position themselves to expand their boundaries. This can help them excel – whether they remain in a corporate setting or strike out on their own.
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