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If you understand the challenge of women leaking from the talent pipeline and the business case for gender diversity in leadership, you want to find solutions. To create solutions, you must first understand what causes women to leak (or stall) out.

In “Off Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success,” Sylvia Ann Hewlett divides the causes of women leaving the corporate world into “pull factors” and “push factors.” “Pull factors” include family care—children and elderly parents. “Push factors” include lack of job satisfaction or feeling stalled in one’s career. Hewlett found that many women indeed leave their careers because of family issues but that this cause is exaggerated and often is a “cause” for leaving only when there are also “push factors.” She notes that “The data shows that feeling underutilized or underappreciated is a more significant problem than overwork.” I.e., if the culture isn’t positive and the job isn’t satisfying, it’s hard to put up with “pull factors.”

Catalyst’s research on reasons women leave their job has pointed to “push factors,” like unhappiness with the work environment, feeling unchallenged in their jobs and limited opportunities. In a 2009 study, senior women listed among their top three reasons to consider leaving a job the desire for greater advancement opportunities.

So the solution to plugging the leak is to create workplaces where women feel valued and feel they can succeed.

Creating inclusive cultures not only allows businesses to avoid the costs of losing talent, it improves engagement.  Engagement drives results, and broad engagement (of your entire workforce, men and women) drives retention and even better results. (See my blog at AND retaining and developing women leads to gender diversity in the leadership ranks, which is demonstrably linked with better business result!

How can leaders and managers create inclusive cultures (the subject of my book, Difference Works: Improving Retention, Productivity and Profitability through Inclusion)? I’ll turn to that next!

What do you think are the main reasons women leave an organization?