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Leadership

Why Women Job Hop More Than Men

Women are much more likely to switch jobs more frequently than men, but it might not be a bad thing for their careers.

Why Women Job Hop More Than Men
[Photo: Flickr user audi_insperation]

Just how much are people job hopping? New LinkedIn data says workers who graduated between 2006 and 2010 have about 2.85 jobs each in the five years after college. Based on data pulled from 3 million U.S. member profiles, LinkedIn found:

  • The rate of job hopping in the five years after college has nearly doubled over the last 20 years.
  • Job hopping is most common in the media and entertainment, professional services, and government/education/nonprofit industries and least common in the oil and energy, manufacturing, and aero/auto/transport industries.
  • Women job hop more than men, and the gap is widening.

Whether you blame job hopping on startup culture or the end of job security, young people who job hop isn’t a new thing. But LinkedIn’s data interestingly shows that women have steadily job hopped at a higher rate than men since 1986. In the five years following graduation for those who completed college between 2006 and 2010, women held three jobs compared to men’s 2.71 jobs. For those who graduated between 1986 and 1990, women held 1.64 jobs in the five years after college, compared to men’s 1.57 jobs.

So why are women more prone to job hopping?

LinkedIn’s in-house economist, Guy Berger, tells Fast Company that more research is needed to answer that question, but it probably isn’t because women are trying to balance work-life, as LinkedIn’s data examined recent grads who likely aren’t thinking about balancing a family life yet. Berger did say that more women tend to work in industries that experience the highest job hopping.

That in itself is the paradox. Are women switching jobs frequently, leading to specific industries having higher turnover, or are specific industries contributing to women’s increasing need to switch jobs?

Interestingly, looking back on history, women have always seemed comfortable jumping from job to job. According to a 1982 paper from Stanford titled "The Importance of Lifetime Jobs in the U.S. Economy," one-quarter of women over 30 were employed in jobs that will last longer than 20 years, whereas half of men over 30 were in near-lifetime jobs.

A common premise is that many working women will change jobs to something with more flexible hours when they decide to have a family—even if that means changing multiple times in order to find the flexible one that works. One recent study by Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women found that a flexible schedule helped women advance their careers, but in turn, jeopardized men’s careers.

Aside from the popular balancing family and career theory, job hopping has been said by some to be a good thing for careers. As women continue the fight for gender equality in the workplace, job hopping doesn’t seem like a bad strategy if it gets you to where you want to be professionally. Patty McCord, former chief talent officer for Netflix, told Fast Company that job hoppers achieve more—especially if they switch jobs every three to four years when their learning curve flattens. According to Penelope Trunk, serial entrepreneur and author, frequent job hopping is actually "more stable" today than being a "lifer." She told Fast Company:

In terms of managing your own career, if you don’t change jobs every three years, you don’t develop the skills of getting a job quickly, so then you don’t have any career stability. You’re just completely dependent on the place that you work as if it’s 1950, and you’re going to get a gold watch at the end of a 50-year term at your company.

If what Trunk says is the case, women are creating more stable careers for themselves by jumping around. If job hopping helped Silicon Valley thrive, as this Vox article relays, can't it do the same for individuals, especially women who might need to think outside the box to level the gender playing field?

Berger says LinkedIn’s data team plan to more closely examine why women are job hopping in the near future.

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