Why Women Quit Corporate America

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OK.  So, maybe I don’t know exactly why all women quit corporate America but I can  certainly tell you why I did.

For 25 years (other than for 6 months when I was “off” for maternity leave), I naively believed if I worked hard, collaborated, shared ideas, showed up early, worked all hours and over-delivered beyond all expectations, I would be acknowledged, thanked, rewarded, promoted and paid more.  But, guess what?  It didn’t happen that way for me.

Instead, what happened to me over and over again in my career is that I was noticed for being one to work hard and get things done.  I was willing to do more and work harder and for that willingness I got more work and was tasked with more of the work that just simply needed to get done.  And, why?  Because they could count on me to get it done.  And I did.

In general, we women seek to understand the goal, listen to what’s expected and then work tirelessly to achieve it without any promise of any return or reward.  We strive to please and often over-compensate by doing more to prove we are worthy.

In addition to work, I was constantly juggling and struggling to balance everything else in my life.  My husband is a partner with a global consulting firm requiring him to travel quite often and with two very active, multi-sport student athletes, we have a very full calendar.  Most days, I’m up before 6 a.m., out before 7 a.m. and don’t get home until after 9 p.m.  And, due to the guilt of attending to family duties, I get back online until 11 p.m.  And then do it all again the next day.

The good news is that thanks to technology, I am always connected.  Stuck at a traffic light, I can check my text messages.  Waiting in line at Starbucks, I quickly respond to that email message.  At the deli counter in the grocery store, I schedule a meeting for tomorrow.  But, this is all menial, time-consuming, “shallow” work with no real reward and absolutely no satisfaction.

I finally opened my eyes when I was presented with an incredibly unachievable goal and was told, “The thing I like most about you is that you will kill yourself trying to achieve this goal.”  At the time, I was outraged and angry with my boss.  Now, I am just disappointed in myself.

I just finished reading Cal Newport’s new book “Deep Work:  Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World,” and realized that for all the time we spend “working” very little of it really matters.  The reason that only 13% of employees feel engaged at their jobs is that their work isn’t meaningful or satisfying.  And, we are giving up a lot of really rewarding activities to waste our time in directionless meetings, responding to useless emails and just trying to keep up with unrelenting requests.  And, to what end?

I finally realized that I want to work really hard on the things that really matter.  I want to make a meaningful impact and I want to do it on my own terms.  I don’t just want to work.  I want to make a difference.

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