Career

Why Do Some Women Leave The Workforce And Never Come Back?

By Nea Logan··  7 min read
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If you ask today’s feminist boss babe, she’ll tell you that women are most certainly climbing the corporate ladder and crashing glass ceilings. They have us thinking that women are just as successful in the workforce as men. But if this is true, then why do so many women jump ship?

Putting job losses due to the COVID pandemic aside, this phenomenon is so common, it has become somewhat of a running joke in the corporate office setting. HR managers and those office aunties can predict this with pinpoint accuracy. A young lady graduates college, lands an entry-level position, and works her way up – but only until a man and a baby happen to her. I’ve watched plenty of ambitious, wound up “career girls” wind down to a halt once they either finally get the proposal or after her first ultrasound. 

Of course, she swears before cheese and crackers that she’s going to come back to work, taking paid leave shortly after the wedding or baby shower she’s certainly going to get. Then months pass and you never see her again – except on Instagram, happy, with her new husband, house, baby, and dog. While not everyone has a white picket fence story like this, it’s a fact that women have no problem leaving their career in the dust for these valid and understandable reasons.

Because She Was Taking Care of Family Needs

While labor force participation rates for women with children have increased since 1975, it’s only increased by about 10% – from 46% to 57%. So, still, a significant portion of American women choose to stay home to raise their children.

According to a 2020 current population survey evaluating working people with a youngest child under age 3, it was found that 63% of women worked compared to 93% of men. Figures were similar for people with a child under 6 years of age. With vast educational and career opportunities available and there being more educated women than ever before, the data tells me that women aren’t necessarily forced to stay home, they choose to do so.

Many women in their 30s and 40s come home due to an unwell family member or a medical emergency.

Additionally, many women in their late 30s to 40s come home due to an unwell family member or a medical emergency, be it their husband or a parent or close relative. When the unfortunate happens, something clicks in our female psyche and we tap into the natural caregiver within. In fact, senior living communities actually market to females in this age range as they’re the typical demographic caring for people ages 65 and up.  

Part of my own departure from the workforce had to do with my mother’s late-stage cancer diagnosis in December 2018. It took nothing for me to push career ambitions aside to be by her side until she passed one year from her diagnosis. All I had was my love for her and prayers to God that He would provide that which I lacked during such a time. He did and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Because the Workplace Wasn’t What She Thought It Would Be

I remember being a super type-A, ambitious career girl. If you looked up the term “career girl” in a dictionary, my picture would be next to it. After landing a paid post-graduate marketing internship, I thought I was on top of the world…until day one of my first job. I was informed by my first supervisor that everything I did on the computer would be recorded and that a camera would be sitting right above my desk. In all of my highly educated entitlement, I figured, “I didn’t work four years for my degree to be monitored like an infant.” About 30 minutes later, the graphic designer in the cubicle beside mine got a royal face chewing by a female supervisor over a missed deadline. As the weeks went by, I witnessed many catty arguments, cliques, and even nepotism that seemed to worsen and even followed me to every company I worked at. 

I witnessed catty arguments, cliques, and nepotism that followed me to every company I worked at. 

While feminists claim male misogyny is the one thing raining on women’s parade, I’ve seen nothing more terrifying than a woman in the C-suite who insists that you’re her workhorse. It’s not that this couldn’t happen with men. I’m certain there are male-to-male conversations that I don’t ever want to hear. But in my 10 years in corporate America, I learned that women tend to have a vicious method of reprimanding others, including gossip, cold shoulders, and nasty talk downs. It rubs off on everyone – I know because this bad attitude rubbed off on me and it only came off when I left for good.

Another interesting office dynamic revolves around how so-called empowered female colleagues fawn over the most powerful man in the office. This is often a chief executive or a general manager, to whom they would offer their very best baked goods during company potlucks. Some even would go above and beyond with flirting or sexually inappropriate jokes. The way these ladies – even married ones – melted in the presence of the all-powerful CEO or company owner was kind of disconcerting. To see it was like watching lions do their mating dance on a safari. This unfortunately contributed to workplace toxicity, as feral female coworkers went as far as to fight, compete, and undermine others to defend the honor of their “work husband.”

Because It’s Hard To Bounce Back from Being a Homemaker

A lot has changed in my field of study since I graduated 11 years ago. And even without having kids, it’s a challenge to keep up with conferences and continuing education to stay afresh on the latest trends. So when I decided to become a homemaker in 2019, I did so with the understanding that I would be leaving a full-time career behind. While I still accept contract work and small gigs for now, there will come a time when children and aging family members will become my No. 1 priority. Trying to juggle those very important responsibilities while managing a high-stress job that requires travel and time just isn’t worth the money when compared to the time I’ll miss being with my loved ones.

Many housewives find that a happy, peaceful home is worth more than the extra money coming in.

Besides, once a marriage starts with the breadwinner/homemaker dynamic, it’s hard to break. I’ve read numerous advice columns where disappointed husbands beg for their wives to do more around the house, while the wives complain about being too tired from a long day at work. It’s true that balance is possible. Some households are doing the 50/50 thing with finesse, and more power to them. But many American housewives find that a happy, peaceful home is worth more than the extra money coming in, and their husbands would certainly agree.

Closing Thoughts

This column isn’t a diss on working women. I, for one, embraced my career girl years and am grateful for the experiences. Instead, may it be a glimpse into the realities of a woman’s working years and that some women come to the realization that we’re more than one occupation. Graduating college and working your way up the corporate ladder is quite the accomplishment, and it’s worthy of praise. But if a girl decides to turn in her badge for a brand new beginning, that decision is praiseworthy too!

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