Nowadays, a lot of women hold crucial positions in all spheres of life. In general, women are no longer perceived as the “second sex”, expected to lead a life of raising children and cooking meals at home. However, many women still encounter several challenges in the workplace. For instance, They have to balance their family and domestic duties with their career, and face the challenges of gender stereotypes and harassment. In their seminal article, “Why Do They Leave? Voluntary Turnover of South African Women Executives”, Clark and Kleyn, (2011) investigate the underlying motives of the high voluntary turnover amongst women executives in South African organizations. They mean by women executives top and senior women managers and women with significant leadership roles in the organization. The authors examined the challenges that women leaders face, particularly the key factors or determinants of voluntary turnover. Following Krishnan et al. (2006) the authors suggest that the determinants of voluntary turnover should be examined at four levels, namely environmental, organizational, individual, and spanning levels. The authors concluded that individual, organizational and spanning factors are the most significant determinants of voluntary turnover amongst women executives. Environmental factors are relatively not important. This essay will discuss these factors in more detail.
Women executives make the decision to quit their positions for several factors. The first are environmental factors. These exist outside the boundaries of the organization (such as political factors, society’s culture and behaviour, etc.). This means that the organization does not have control over these factors. To cite but a few examples, environmental factors include lack of support from governments for childcare, demanding family commitments, and gender stereotyping. Indeed, these factors inhibit women’s progress and promotion in organizations and lead to the dearth of women in the top strata of organizations. Clark and Kleyn, (2011) affirmed that “the biggest challenge faced by career women is the balancing of their dual role within the family and the company” (P: 187)
In addition environmental factors, organizational factors are the primary causes of the high voluntary turnover among women executives. Organizational factors are those within the boundaries of the organization such as staff policies and procedures, and the structure, strategy and culture of the organization. These factors are controlled by the organization. More examples of organizational factors include lack of job satisfaction, poor supervision, and the organizational culture which often discourages women from asking for what they want. Indeed, Clark and Kleyn, (2011) asserted that more than half of the respondents in their study felt that the organizational culture was really paternalistic; that is, it gives employers what they need, but it deprives them of the freedom of choice.
The third type of factors is individual. These are unique to each person, such as life stage, family circumstances and their needs, wants and aspirations. Two crucial individual factors are burnout and the need to make a difference. Burnout refers to extreme feelings of tiredness and exhaustion and is considered a major reason of voluntary turnover. The need to make a difference means that some women executives sensed that they were no longer making the difference that they needed to make within their previous positions. Many respondents felt that their ability to make a difference was hampered by their negotiation ability. In other words, when women receive a better offer from a competing organization, they often fail to use this as bargaining tool, and choose rather to resign, reflecting poor negotiation ability relative to their male counterparts (Clark and Kleyn, 2011, P:189)
The last determinants of voluntary turnover are referred to as the spanning factors. The spanning level includes the relationship between each aforementioned level. In other words, individuals, the organizations for which they work and the environment interact and affect each other. The major factors that the authors classify under this spanning level include shocks, values clash, intimidation, and problems with the manager. Shocks refer to one specific incident that took place (mostly between the organization and the individual) that caused the individual to resign. Shocks are often related to issues of promotion, arguments, and misunderstandings. Values clash happen when there is a huge clash of values and principles between the organization and the woman executive. Also, incidents of intimidation, ranging from inappropriate language, overt sexual advances, verbal abuse, to physical intimidation push women to quit their positions. Finally, problems with a manager or a board member – somebody in the organization in a position of power- sometimes hinder the advancement of women in their leading positions.
Therefore, voluntary turnover of women executives results from environmental, organizational, individual, and spanning factors. Consequently, to alleviate the challenges women in the top leadership positions encounter, there should be some measures by organizations and governments to aid women in a bet to eradicate all sorts of discrimination against them.