Young Women are Leaving Companies: Here’s Why and What You Can Do About It
Where do you see yourself in ten years, Sindi?
I asked her from across the table, looking forward to an answer along the lines of "CEO of the company, with enough flexibility and cash to raise my children the way I want."
(She turned her face toward the window and gave her eyes permission to close briefly.)
I could tell she was going into "dream mode." Just then, her eyelids shot open and she sadly declared…
I actually don’t know Zanele. In all honesty I don’t know. I just know it’s not here at this company.
I could swear I saw tears in her eyes, but she turned back to face the window as if to prevent me from looking too closely and seeing just how lost and confused she was feeling.
When Sindi looks out the window to envisage her future, it's no surprise she doesn't care to see a future with the company she currently works with. Any surprise?
You may have met a Sindi at the company you lead, or you may "be" a Sindi yourself. I’d love to challenge you to ask yourself what you know about the young women in your organization if it's the former?
Here’s the bad news (don't worry - there's good news coming).
Sindi’s days at the company are numbered - this may seem obvious, but my experience working with leaders in some of the world’s most profitable companies has told me otherwise.
As a high performing individual in the company, often considered "top talent," Sindi knew very early on that the company was not a fit for her.
We often joke around about "using the company’s WiFi to find another job," but for Sindi and her fellow Millennials, Gen Zers, and Gen Alphas, company culture is the difference between shooting the lights out at the company and unashamedly waving her team goodbye.
Whatever you tell herself as an leader - losing top talent is a human resource DISASTER (to put it lightly) - from recruitment costs to training, onboarding to managing the lowering of productivity and engagement in staff who have noticed a high turnover rate at the company.
$160 billion a year is how much employee turnover is costing US companies, which is said to be two times the previous employee’s annual salary.
The good news? She could stay.
Behind the deep desire to be "outside the organization" or the side where the "grass is greener," she longs for a few things. Truth is, there is a deeper program running in Sindi’s mind, a deeper desire that the company is not helping her fulfill.
Among those, here are two of the top ones I've identified.
Let me explain. The entrepreneurial mindset is at the heart of many of the moves being made by not only Sindi, but members of the workforce of different demographics, too.
By virtue of being a young ambitious career woman, Sindi is entrepreneurial in the way she thinks. This means she is driven to: solve problems, prioritize purpose, design solutions, work flexibly, work autonomously, consistently experiment, and be on the frontlines of innovation and change.
Trouble is - the company often struggles to "humor" her entrepreneurial mindset.
What can be done is listing these traits - problem solving, purpose, solution design, flexibility, autonomy, experimentation, and any others that come up, and then understanding or brainstorming how the company can build systems and policies that give its Sindis an opportunity to express and practice them.
The longer these go unexpressed, the longer Sindi stews, and as a mentor of mine always says:
A confused mind always says no.
Do you wake up in the morning and say:
I can’t wait to begin working, so I can fulfill [insert company’s name]’s vision!
(Said nobody ever.)
Guess what - Sindi is not saying that either.
She is looking for an alignment between her vision for a better world, greater impact, challenging stereotypes, addressing climate change, inclusion, world peace, or anything else to align with the company’s vision.
The misalignment between the two has seen many young women wave goodbye to companies that have ticked many other boxes.
A great starting point is to ensure the company’s Sindis at least reconnect with this vision is to find out WHY they joined the company to start with. What made it worth committing at the time?
The second part to this is finding out what their reason for work is. WHY do they work - what does it truly mean to them? What does a career give them? How does having a career give their lives meaning?
The answers to those questions help companies build cultures where visions align and young women stay and thrive. If there’s one thing you do as a leader today, ask:
Where do you see yourself in 10 years, Sindi?
And whatever her answer is, remember that entrepreneurship and purpose are key driving forces. Both in her decision to stay and in her brave choice to leave.
If you're navigating an organizational change/transition, just changed functions, or moved homes and want to do it right, Zanele Njapha is who many such as Vitality Global, Marsh & McLennan, Saint Gobain, and Volkswagen are speaking to.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Transitions Facilitator & Future of Work Speaker
Zanele, or as her clients call her ‘The UnLearning Lady’, is an international Transitions facilitator for changing teams and Career Transition Mentor for young ambitious women in the new world of work. She is also the host of the highly-rated podcast Future-Fit Fridays, hosting conversations with global experts on the future of work. Zanele is also an award-winning speaker, a contributor to the Thought Leader section of the Mail & Guardian and was voted #45 on... Continue Reading
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