Why Women Leave the “Fast Lane” in their careers

women workforceHarvard Business Review once featured an interesting article on what keeps talented women on the road to success in the working world. The differences between why men and women leave the “fast lane” in the workforce are fascinating. In a survey of highly qualified professionals, these statistics emerged:

Top 5 reasons women leave the fast lane: 
* Family time – 44% 
* Earn a degree, other training – 23% 
* Work not enjoyable/satisfying – 17% 
* Moved away – 17% 
* Change careers – 7%

Top 5 reasons men leave the fast lane: 
* Change careers – 29% 
* Earn a degree, other training – 25% 
* Work not enjoyable/satisfying – 24% 
* Not interested in field – 18% 
* Family time – 12%  

Though the average amount of time that women take off from their careers is surprisingly short (less than three years), the salary penalty for doing so is severe. Women who return to the workforce after time out earn significantly less than their peers who remained in their jobs.

Salary Implications for Time Out:  money wave tidal salary
* Salary of those who took no time out – 100% earning potential 
* Salary of those who took less than one year out – 89% (or an 11% reduction) 
* Salary of those who took three years or more out – 100% (or a 37% reduction)

It’s also interesting that the number one reason men leave is to change careers (29%) while it is the lowest reason for women at 7%. Does this mean women are better a picking careers they will be happier in so there is no reason to leave? Or are women more risk averse and hesitate to leave for a better financial offer?


  1. Wow, those are some really interesting statistics! It sucks that earning potential gets so screwed up by taking leave!!

    • Job Search Trainer says:

      I know, interesting right? And so each generation does it because we just can’t get ahead and it becomes discouraging for women.

  2. Interesting statistics, but not surprising. I have been at home for 4 years now after starting to work at 16. I can truly say that I am happier & (most days) less stressed.

    • Job Search Trainer says:

      Yay, great news–they should follow up with an article called “Yeah but…” because there is flip side to it for women that we get to leave for our families and it often works better for all. Thanks for the comment!

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