Three years after the Covid-19 pandemic hit, women may have returned to the workforce after leaving in record numbers during the pandemic, but they feel growing pressure and are eager to seize better opportunities. While women continue to suffer from a pay gap, with working mothers seeing the largest gap, they're feeling economic and personal pressures, and looking for change, according to the latest Momentive/CNBC Women at Work Survey, conducted in February of a national sample of 10,278 adults, including over 5,000 women.
The survey found that the possibility of an economic downturn is having an effect on many women. While 46% of women workers said the possibility of an economic downturn hasn't prompted any changes at work, 27% say that in the past year they have worked longer hours and 17% have delayed taking time off. And while that looming fear of a recession prompted 15% of women to ask for a raise, another 10% delayed asking for a raise.
With the Great Resignation behind us, economic uncertainty looming and many workers reporting that they regret quitting their jobs, nearly two thirds of women say they've stayed in their positions in the past 12 months. Just one third say they've left their jobs or are considering an exit.
The top reason women say they're considering leaving their current role this year is for another job with higher pay (52%), followed by one with less stress (51%) and better work-life balance (48%).
The focus on pay has increased significantly since last year. Women who have left their jobs in the past 12 months say the top reason was work-life balance (45%), followed by career advancement (39%) and then higher pay (36%).
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 job, up slightly from the 53% and 54% of women who reported that impact in 2021 and 2022, respectively. And work-related stress — stemming from longer hours, economic concerns and being overwhelmed with work — is a clear driver of turnover.
While many women may have left jobs during the pandemic to care for their children or parents, of the 27% of women who quit their jobs in the past year, 27% say it's because they were overwhelmed with work, and 41% of women who have considered quitting say that work stress is the reason why they're considering making a move.
Amid all those stresses in the new post-Covid work environment, women's level of ambition remains pretty consistent with last year. Though 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 women workers describing themselves as "very ambitious" in their careers, while 52% of Hispanic women do, compared to 43% of white women.
And there is some good news about pay and promotion: 44% of working women report that their salaries increased in the past 12 months. Not only is that an uptick from the 40% who reported the same a year ago, but it's also higher than the 42% of working men who say their salary is higher.
Interestingly, 41% of working women say they haven't heard about new laws mandating companies publish salary ranges, and only 12% say they've used the information from these pay transparency laws to negotiate a raise. These numbers are slightly below men: only a third of them had not heard about newly-published salary ranges and 16% used them to negotiate a raise.
The biggest change in women's outlook 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 women workers say they will not work in a state that limits or bans access to abortion, almost three times as many who say they will only work in a state that limits or bans access to abortion.