In Brief

Men and women aren't quite equal--at least not in terms of their turnover rates at work. The Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 86, No. 6) indicates that women managers' voluntary turnover rates were slightly lower than the rates of men managers.

The study, conducted by Karen S. Lyness, PhD, of Baruch College, City University of New York, and Michael K. Judiesch, PhD, of Manhattan College, was conducted to better understand the relationship among gender, promotions and family leaves of absence. The researchers observed the voluntary turnover rates of 26,359 managers who work for a large, multinational financial service organization at branches throughout the United States.

Seventeen percent of men managers left voluntarily while 16.5 percent of women managers left voluntarily. This slight difference in turnover challenges previous research that suggests women are more likely to resign from managerial positions for family-related or other reasons. To explain this new finding, the researchers speculate that the women managers they studied were more comparable to their male counterparts than women in earlier studies or broader populations. Changes in women's lifestyles or commitment to their careers might also explain this new conclusion.

Roughly 2 percent of the managers took family leave during the 41-month period, and about 24 percent of these managers resigned. While managers who took family leaves were generally more likely to resign than other managers, this did not hold for leave-taking managers with graduate degrees. These managers were just as likely to continue work as managers who did not take family leave.

The study also found that recently promoted women were less likely to resign than recently promoted men, which the authors say may provide insights for employers about what they might do to retain talented women. Yet both men and women whose promotions have been in effect for nearly a year were more likely to leave.

According to the researchers, "a promotion creates an expectation for the manager that he or she will continue to advance and if another promotion is not received within the expected time period, the manager's unmet expectations may cause him or her to begin an external job search." Delayed incentives, such as stock options, offer one way to retain managers for more than 11 months.