Corporate life vs quality of life?

Women Unlimited published a thought-provoking blog recently, about why women quit corporate life. Having left corporate life behind, I’m always drawn to new pieces and new studies about why others did it – and what drives people to continue to do so.

Author Wendy Kerr writes that corporate toxic culture is killing the female workforce. Kerr interviewed 300 post-corporate women, finding that toxic culture: politics, backstabbing, time wasting etc to be the main reason for women to quit the corporate life. Whilst it wasn’t the reason I left my job in marketing – that was a small ginger baby, which soon snowballed into another two (one ginger, one blonde), combined with the excruciating cost of childcare and a rather selfish desire to actually see my children grow up – it was certainly the main reason I never went back. And almost eight years on I don’t intend to. The choices that come with being your own boss – for me – cannot compare with that of corporate employment (unless you’ve an amazing company and corporate culture. In which case, please share: I’d love to hear your experience).

Back in April I went to Wales, in the rain, along the longest motorway on earth (possibly) to the Do Lectures held near Cardigan. There I met meadow, barn and tents full of like-minded people, all keen to do things differently, make a difference and be part of something exciting. For some, the corporate culture they inhabit (and position within it) enables them to nurture the difference and do something exciting to foster change. For most poeple, this opportunity is rare. And yet, what is not rare is the desire for change, the willingness to make a difference in the workplace. The desire, too, to simply do the right thing by people, work with communities and support each other. It was a life changing experience – and I urge anyone and everyone to go to the Do Lectures, given the chance.  Read my short list ‘Eleven things I learned at the Do Lectures’ here.

Why relevant? Well, for me – and I’m certain many, many, women – the opportunity to shun the corporate life came after the birth of the first child. We are the lucky ones. There are many in the working world who have no catalyst, no reason to make the change. For some it may be an illness, or another life-changing event. The reason you quit may not be because Jane in Press overuled your content, or Simon in IT never fixed your laptop/BlackBerry/login on time. But once you take the leap of faith and get out, these are the reasons that you don’t want to go back.  And as Kerr reports, once out, most would rather earn less than return to the disingenuous pressure pot of corporate life.

What I find a shame is that sinking feeling that all the like-minded people have left the building. So the corporate change that we seek will take years, if indeed it ever comes, to manifest itself, as the youth of ambition rages on behind us. Until that life changing event takes hold for them and, they too, decide to get out…

Wouldn’t it be great to work with great people, on projects that you really are passionate about? Wouldn’t it be great to work with others who want to work like you do? What you must then do is navigate the myriad of potential routes and options to ensure that you stick to your values, your beliefs and maintain a moral code for yourself. My blog Momentum & Manners touched on my values and the desire to work differently.

And as the days go by and I find articles and reports, such as Toxic Culture, it provides me with just enough belief that we can do something about it. As they say at the Do Lectures: just start doing. What’s your Do?


Natalie Johnson 01/10/2012

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