Survey Reveals Sabbatical Has Resulted in 70% of Women Dropping Off The Workforce

90% of the reasons for sabbatical are found to be a development in personal life like Child care, Maternity, and re-location.


The survey highlighted micro cultural barriers at work - patriarchal team cultures and low inclusion teams. It was found that a Patriarchal culture has found to be a barrier at work due to which most women do not feel that the organization is transparent about the career track. On further analysis, Career track and role model challenges have come up as structural issues; as we see a patriarchal culture may have something to do with it. Gender inequity in compensation seems to be playing out in patriarchal cultures almost 25% more than in non-patriarchal cultures.

A sabbatical has a huge impact on women’s sentiments about their careers. Overall a whopping 47% of women have taken a sabbatical, globally, reveals The Brewing Soul Storm survey by X-Leap, a division of K R Corporate Consultants Pvt. Ltd. Of which, about 70% have dropped out of employment and have started something of their own or are looking for a job. The remaining 30% are in employment.

Organisations, culture, and systems along with family support are the key reasons for these massive dropouts, especially at the mid-management level.

62% of women who are self-employed or are not working today have blamed ‘organisation culture’ at their previous work as the primary reason for them to drop out. The key insight that is strongly coming through is that organisations have struggled to manage the problem during these middle years.

The pandemic brought a major shift in workplaces, most women felt that their companies managed COVID well across personas, the effectiveness of work policies have scored high. Moreover, layoffs and pay cuts seem to have no effect on sentiments. However, 25% of women found WFH challenging and these women felt that the Employee Assistance Programs were not so effective.

The survey discovered three distinct personas of women who are in employment i.e., Roaring, Confident, and Struggling. Roaring - indicates women who had a great career and were positive about their future in the current company, Confident– indicates women feeling confident about their general career ahead, but facing a ‘progress block’ or building on a ‘weak past’ and Struggling– indicates women who were not confident about the future of their career. According to the findings, only 17% of women in the Roaring persona have taken a sabbatical, whereas, 52% and 59% of women in the Confident and Struggling personas, respectively, have taken career sabbaticals.

Furthermore, 90% of the reasons for sabbatical are found to be a development in personal life like Child care, Maternity, and re-location. However, for Struggling persona, the key reasons cited were ≈30% Health and ≈20% Looking for a Job. The survey also highlighted structural barriers in an organisation like career track transparency (30% difference between strugglers and roaring personas), challenges to enablement at work - lack of role models (~30% difference between strugglers and roaring personas), low effectiveness of L&D and EAPs (~15% difference between strugglers and roaring personas).

A culture of non-inclusiveness also seems to be one of the driving causes of the strugglers - where importance is not given to them and ideas are not heard well in their teams.

The survey also reveals that an encouraging family and spouse is found to be a big support system for the women and is a large enabler rather than being a stopper. Having Role models while growing up are also great enablers for women.

The Survey also helped test the global relevance of the sentiments to create a framework that was used to create a DEI Toolkit. The DEI toolkit is designed to help organisations by using the

MDI technique where M stands for Measure the DEI Sentimeter to quantify and benchmark the degree of inclusion, D - Diagnose to identify the key underlying root causes of inclusion challenges, to re-assess policies, and lastly I to Isolate to pick out the non-inclusion hot spots in the organisation for designing specific interventions

Krishna N Venkitaraman, Managing Partner, X-Leap said, “To help organisations to comprehensively understand the ’inclusion’ issues and craft a path forward for positive transformation, it is critical to start measuring them. X-Leap has now validated a tool that will enable organisations to get an Inclusion Score. The tool would also help organisations to identify the hot spots in the company - where the concentration of ‘struggling’ personas is more or where patriarchy as a microculture is impacting employee wellbeing. X-Leap consultants can then of course work with the organisations to design solutions to improve inclusiveness while balancing organisation and business realities.”

Saikat Ghosh, Managing Partner, X-Leap said, “Our survey indicated that 34% of women are not positive of their career aspirations being met at the current workplace and maybe on ‘attrition watchlist’. Organisations need to stem the rot right away as there is a large proportion of disengaged women employees. Organisations need to treat DEI as a Strategic imperative, not just as another HR initiative. It is imperative that ‘band-aid’ fixes are not applied but deep-rooted mindsets and beliefs are addressed. Thirdly, organisations may not find too many best practices to copy-paste; they would need to custom build their own solutions, which suit their unique heritage, culture and the persona mix.

These are some of the interesting findings of a survey on ‘The Brewing Soul Storm’ conducted by X-Leap, a division of K R Corporate Consultants Pvt. Ltd. The report is based on insights from 300 responses from 15 countries -of which 140 were women in employment and 131 were self-employed women. Out of all the respondents, 68% of respondents are from India and about 74% held Masters degrees. While 55 % of them were in IT, Professional services or financial services & 49% of them were mothers.

Tags assigned to this article:
X- Leap Survey Sabbatical of Women workforce


Around The World