Why Women Make the Team…but Leave

Topic: Diversity, Turnover
Publication: Journal of Business Research (NOV 2009)
Article: What causes turnover among women on top management teams?
Authors: H.A. Krishnan
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Although women are underrepresented in upper management, the gender diversity of Top Management Teams (TMTs) is steadily increasing. In fact, research suggests that the increased representation of women on TMTs has a positive impact on organizational performance. However, research has also shown that women on TMTs turnover at a much higher rate than men.

Recently, Krishnan (2009) collected turnover and demographic data from 304 Fortune 1000 companies during the year 1998. Women occupied only 14% of the TMT positions in the sample. Krishnan also found that the three year turnover rate for women on TMTs was 33% while the turnover rate for men was 19%, confirming that women on TMTs turnover at a higher rate.

Interestingly, the average age gap between men and women on TMTs predicted turnover for women.  Krishnan argues that this represents the relative power of women on the TMT and concluded that when men are older and have more power than women, women on the TMT are more likely to quit. Also, women in legal, marketing, and operations careers had considerably higher turnover (50%) than those in HR and communications (8%).

The overall sales growth of the industry was also a predictor of turnover among women on TMTs (more sales, lower turnover): Krishnan suggests that the sales growth of the industry represents the availability of resources in the work environment, such that industries with better sales offer more resources to employees.

Not surprisingly, Krishnan concluded that there are many different reasons why women on TMTs turnover, including the relative power of the women on the team and the state of the industry. Importantly, we must also acknowledge the fact that women on TMTs turnover at a higher rate than do men. This is problematic for both women and organizations since female representation on TMTs appears to favorably impact organizational performance. The next logical step then, is to find out how to keep women on the TMT!

Krishnan, H.A. (2009). What causes turnover among women on top management teams?  Journal of Business Research, 62, 1181-1186.