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73% of Women Want to Change Careers, Here’s Why & What's Standing in Their Way

A survey of 1,500 women reveals the educational barriers that prevent women from pursuing the careers they want

73% of Women Want to Change Careers, Here’s Why & What's Standing in Their Way

By Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza

According to a June 2019 survey by InHerSight, seven in ten women are looking to change careers, a figure up 28 percent since we posed the same question just last year.

The reasons women want to change careers are varied. Women in our survey identify the top three reasons as the need for more pay (32 percent), followed by the desire to find a career with a mission they believe in (16 percent), and burnout (13 percent).

We’re more than a century away from closing the 20 percent gender pay gap in the United States, and InHerSight found that 83 percent of women feel American businesses are not doing enough to address the discrepancy, so in the meantime, it would appear women see a career change as their best chance at better compensation.

Why do you want to change careers data chart

The benefits of company “mission” in relation to employee satisfaction and retention are well documented. The number of companies creating and promoting mission statements is proof that companies have taken note. Gallup reports that mission drives employee loyalty across generations, ensures job clarity, and encourages strategic alignment across an organization. Benefits include higher morale and employee engagement in the long run.

Burnout, notably, was categorized this year as a medical diagnosis by the World Health Organization. A Gallup poll from 2018 indicates that burnout is common in the American workforce, with 23 percent of workers reporting feeling burned out at work very often or always, and an additional 44 percent reporting feeling burned out at least sometimes.

The obstacles to career change

Women face no short list of obstacles in the workplace, from gender discrimination when it comes to hiring, compensation, and promotion, to parental discrimination, sexual harassment, and unequal distribution of unpaid work (like child care and household duties) among women and men, yet, according to InHerSight’s survey, none of these seem to be considerable barriers to women who want to change careers.

Importantly, neither is women’s confidence in their ability to change careers, with 38 percent of respondents reporting being somewhat confident and 45 percent being very confident in their ability to make the switch.

How confident do you feel in your ability to change careers data chart

The women in our survey say a lack of connections in the field they hope to pursue is the number-one barrier standing in their way of a career change. Second is a lack of education required to make the change, and the third is the inability to take the pay cut a career change would require.

Lack of time to pursue a career change seems to be a non-issue. Surprising, considering women still take on the lion’s share of child care and household responsibilities in the United States, even if they do paid work full-time as well. Mentorship is also a non-issue among the women we surveyed, with only 5 percent flagging it as an obstacle.

What is your biggest obstacle to changing careers data chart

Creating opportunities for career change

What must change in order for women to pursue a different career path? How can we tip the scales and open these new opportunities for the female labor force? Access to education and training.

Twenty-four percent of women say the ability to afford the education required to change careers would make them more likely to take the leap. Second to that, 22 percent of women identify access to employer-led education and training, and 19 percent identify access to career coaching/counseling as the opportunities that would make them more likely to pursue this change. Thirteen percent of women say the ability to work and go to school at the same time would make them more likely to pursue a career change.

What would make you more likely to change careers data chart

Employers can take immediate action when it comes to satisfying the needs of working women, who comprise half of the American workforce, hold more than half of the highest-level degrees, and in staggering numbers are dissatisfied with their careers.

  1. Increase talent retention by addressing the root causes of so many women wanting to change careers: close gender pay gaps and address work-life balance issues with better PTO policies and flexible work schedules ( two of the top four things women want at work ). Company mission statements may be refined, but what qualifies as a “mission to believe in” will ultimately be at the discretion of the employee.

  2. Attract that unhappy share of female talent by providing educational support such as on-the-job training, tuition reimbursement and assistance, internal networking opportunities and cross-training initiatives, and career counseling and coaching programs.


Survey of more than 1,500 women in June 2019.

InHerSight is a company ratings platform for women with ratings and reviews of more than 100K companies in the United States.

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