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Why do professional women leave work – and what will it take to bring them back?

Introducing the She’s Back! survey to support women returning to work

In almost every area of business, women are less likely to be represented at a senior level than men. In the UK for example, while over 50% of new graduates are women, only around 35% of senior managers[1] are female and less than 25% of board-level positions are held by women[2].

For businesses, this is a problem. Research[3] indicates that companies with women on the board perform better financially than those without. More generally, a diverse workforce can help ensure that the products, services and solutions a business develops are more likely to reflect what its customers and clients want. A shortfall of women in senior roles is also a question of wasted talent. Educated and experienced women have much to offer employers, but many women choose to leave professional life once it becomes impossible to balance the demands of family and work.

PA is pleased to support a new research project coordinated by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) with help from She’s Back!, an organisation that helps businesses access the untapped potential represented by women (and sometimes men) who have taken a career break and never returned.


Getting women back into professional roles

PA is one of several major consulting firms who are collaborating in the research to identify people who have taken a career break from consulting and to understand what it would take to persuade them to come back. Emma Hardaker-Jones, PA’s Global Head of Human Resources said: “Female alumni represent a huge untapped source of potential for PA and the consulting industry in general. We will use the findings from the research to help shape opportunities for women who want to return to professional life with PA.”

The research is being conducted via an online survey, which the consulting firms want as many people as possible to complete. The firms will also be running a number of face-to-face workshops, facilitated by She’s Back!, to understand the views of female alumni who have left, as well as separate workshops for those who have stayed or have a point of view.


In previous research conducted with the University of Edinburgh Business School, She’s Back! found that 84% of women who leave work – typically to raise a family – want to return. The same research found that 75% of women said the roles on offer were too inflexible to meet their needs. This new research aims to find out how consulting firms can help and support women return to consulting careers.

She's Back the Movie

Research by She’s Back and the University of Edinburgh Business School provides real insight into why women leave – and why they want to return. 

Watch the animation

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