Three years after the Covid-19 pandemic hit, women may have returned to the workforce after quitting in record numbers during the pandemic, but they are feeling increasing pressure and are eager to seize better opportunities. As women continue to suffer from a wage gap, with working mothers seeing the largest gap, they are feeling financial and personal pressures and are looking for change, according to the latest Momentive/CNBC Women at Work Survey, conducted in February by a national sample of 10 278 adults, including over 5,000 women.
The survey found that the possibility of an economic downturn has an effect on many women. While 46% of female workers said the possibility of an economic downturn has not led to any changes at work, 27% say they have worked longer hours in the past year and 17% have delayed taking time off. And while the looming fear of a recession prompted 15% of women to ask for a pay rise, another 10% delayed asking for a raise.
With the Great Retrenchment behind us, economic uncertainty looming and many workers reporting regrets about leaving their jobs, nearly two-thirds of women say they have stayed in their jobs over the past 12 months. Only a third say they have quit their job or are considering quitting.
The main reason women say they are considering leaving their current position is for higher pay, at 52%. For women who have left their job in the past year, the most important reason they cite, above higher pay (36%) and career development (39%), is work-life balance (45%).
Women continue to work more – about a quarter of them report working more hours per week than they did a year ago. Over half of women (56%) say their mental health suffers to the point of burnout because of their jobs, up slightly from 53% and 54% of women who reported this impact in 2021 and 2022, respectively. And work-related stress – which stems from longer working days, financial worries and being overwhelmed with work – is a clear driver of turnover.
While many women may have left work during the pandemic to care for their children or parents, 27% of the 27% of women who quit their jobs in the past year say it was because they were overwhelmed by work, and 41% of the women who have considered quitting say that work stress is the reason they are considering making a move.
Amidst all these stresses in the new post-Covid working environment, women’s level of ambition remains fairly consistent with last year. Although below early pandemic levels, 48% of women describe themselves as “very ambitious”, down just one percentage point from last year. Ambition remains highest for women of color, with nearly two-thirds of black female workers describing themselves as “very ambitious” in their careers, while 52% of Hispanic women do, compared to 43% of white women.
And there’s some good news about pay and promotion: 44% of working women report that their pay has increased in the past 12 months. Not only is that up from the 40% who reported the same a year ago, but it’s also higher than the 42% of workers who say their wages are higher.
Interestingly, 41% of working women say they have not heard of new laws requiring companies to publish pay ranges, and only 12% say they have used the information from these pay transparency laws to negotiate a pay raise. These figures are slightly below men: only a third of them had not heard of recently published salary ranges, and 16% used them to negotiate an increase.
The biggest change in women’s views on work in the past year reflects the newly limited access to reproductive rights with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Nearly a quarter of female workers say they would not work in a state that restricts or prohibits access to abortion, nearly three times as many who say they would only work in a state that restricts or prohibits access to abortion.