Commentary & Perspective

So Why Do Women Quit the Corporate? by Smitha Lahiri, Independent Consultant & Program Chair GHCI 2016

A lot has been said and done across the industry for women in technology, yet there is one aspect that continues to intrigue me, that has a lot of questions but few answers. Why are so many senior women in technology leaving the corporate?

Termed as the leaky pipeline, it is a topic that has been much talked about, but the one that has been least understood and one that needs most attention. In the week of writing this article, I heard of three more senior women in technology leaving their corporate jobs. All these women were doing well in their careers and so was I, when I decided to leave the corporate world. It appears that not being considered the primary bread winner for the family makes it an easier decision, but it’s not. It’s that much harder because these are women who want a career, who have aspirations, yet do not feel like continuing in a corporate.

So why do women quit? It has to be something beyond the routine answers of commute and time with kids. Something deeper inside. Discussions with these women often start with them struggling to put a finger to the reason or finding placeholders, but after a certain point end in the same direction, attributed to a sense of lack of gratification and fulfilment at the workplace. Maybe it is that women engage their heart in everything they do or they look for a larger purpose and a sense of fulfilment in their work. It could also be that they get tired of trying to play the corporate game – leading to a sense of disillusionment. Maybe they just get tired of not being able to be themselves.

To understand this better, we need to look at what these women do or where they go after they quit their job. A brief look around shows us that a lot of these women end up becoming entrepreneurs in technology, some go back to joining the corporate world after a break, others become freelance consultants, a few engage in social work and a few who take on completely alternate careers. So, we have a bunch of leaky pipeline women who go on to doing something meaningful to them. Why then is a corporate job uninteresting or less appealing after a certain point? What can be done to retain them in the workforce?

This is where a well-meaning and comprehensive effort in understanding the real reasons and designing solutions needs to be made. I do not need to reiterate why retaining senior women talent is imperative for the corporate. Most often, we have global studies that are applied to the ecosystem in India, however there are significant nuances in the psychology, social fabric and culture here. We need to involve psychologists, organization behavior specialists, technologists and everyone who can help make this better for women. They need to come together to create the workplace where women can thrive with all their heart, being themselves.