Women are leaving to become entrepreneurs but large firms bleeding money

By Chirstina Ioannidis. Originally published in www.christinaioannidis.com

It is with delight that I welcome the activities of the Global Entrepreneurship Week. This delight, however, should be met with frustration, if not depression, by large corporations around the world.

Female entrepreneurship is the largest growing segment of the business market. Women are increasingly walking out of large businesses in their well-heeled shoes and are forging their future as entrepreneurs.

Has your business got $ 200 million to spare?

In my recent book called Your Loss, How to Win back Your Female Talent, my co-author and I calculated that the cost of replacing lost women to an organisation with 20,000 employees could be as much as £200 million. The international consultancy Bain and Co has concluded that if corporations lose 5 percent a year of their talent base for 10 years, then investment in recruitment would need to be increased by 20% in order to keep up with the losses.

These figures just do not add up.

Why is your company still incurring these heavy losses? Why are you losing these women?

In our global research for the book, we spoke to the women who your company had trained, who then left to become entrepreneurs. The majority stated that they left at the peak their career: at the ages of 30-44. We asked them the reasons why they left their corporate careers, and the primary reason was that these skilled women did not feel fulfilled in their role.

The issue around flexibility and control were clearly reasons for pursuing entrepreneurship. However, for these ambitious women, of equal importance is their creative streak that entrepreneurship was able to satisfy. A ‘chance to be more creative’ was a key motivation, combined with more flexibility and control. Entrepreneurship presented a chance for this commercial powerhouse to be creative, perhaps to try something completely different.

What can you do about it?

If you want to save your company the millions it is losing, then you need to:

Read the numbers – measure the attrition levels by gender and rank. We suspect that you will find it is abnormally high among your female population

Stop the hemorrhaging – turn the taps off. Speak AND listen to your women about what may not be working for them in your culture. One of the resounding frustrations for the women who took part is our research was that they were not heard. Those that did attempt to voice their discontent and challenges to change the business culture, were just given lip service.

Don’t “fix the women” – don’t just set up a “women’s network” and expect all your retention issues to be resolved. Traditional women’s networks isolate, rather than integrate. This is an issue relating to your corporate culture, not a “woman’s issue”. Assess where you culture is faltering, and work to redress those specific issues.

Your company may be doing what you think is the right thing, but it is quite obvious it is not working. Women are increasingly forging their careers as entrepreneurs. Shame you wasted all that money training them up. Great news for Global Entrepreneurship Week.

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