This thesis is seeking to understand why women leave senior roles in Finance organisations in Australia. The recent focus on increasing the numbers of women in management in Australia has been largely driven by the low numbers of women in these roles. If diversity is important and Finance organisations are keen to increase their numbers of women in management, understanding why women leave these organisations becomes important.
Much has been written about the slow progress of women coming up through the ranks, possible reasons why women do not reach senior levels and the barriers they face in looking to break through the glass ceiling. Much less has been written about why they leave. Barriers to women progressing in the industry may help explain why they leave, particularly if those barriers do not vanish once you break through to more senior levels. While common barriers include difficulties women face balancing work and family responsibilities, and lack of relevant management experience, organisational culture can be exclusionary for women and thus impede their success and impact their advancement. If elements of exclusionary culture exist in Finance organisations in Australia, these could cause frustration for women even as they reach senior levels, and help explain why women leave.
A mixed methods approach was used to better understand what leads women to leave senior roles in Finance in Australia. Firstly, in-depth one-on-one interviews with 27 women who had worked in senior roles in Investment Banking and Banking provided insights into the cultural environment for women working in those organisations, and those aspects that can cause frustration. Of these women, 17 had left a senior role. Asking them directly what had led them to leave enabled better understanding of the drivers for that decision. Culture and choice seemed to play a role.
A broader survey phase with 91 women who had left roles in Finance was then used to build on the interview findings around what leads women to leave, as well as test some of the concepts around culture and choice garnered from the literature and interviews. This was done through a combination of open ended and closed ended questions.
For women who leave a senior role, a combination of work related frustrations and personal triggers lead them to want to leave. What leads women to leave is choice. Having options means women can choose to leave. Senior women have many options outside their job – they are experienced, educated and often financially independent. They can take a role in another industry, take something less high powered, less high paying, more flexible or they can even choose not to work at all. Perhaps women leave simply because they can.