Would you quit your job if you could?

by Jan 22, 2014

Most of us would – if our standard of living was maintained

A friend of mine suggests that reading Penelope Trunk’s posts is like online rubber- necking. You know you are seeing something shocking, but you can’t stop yourself reading on. Penelope’s latest offering is centred on praise for the honesty of women who step up and say they would quit their jobs. Those who would prefer not to work, have a family and to be looked  after it seems are speaking up. But would you quit your job if you could?

Where is Ms. Average?

But Trunk has hardly unearthed a revelation. In fact I would go as far as saying she is missing the point altogether.

The hypothesis focuses on high earning starlets, super models and people who are famous enough to have the details of their lives appear in the National Enquirer.  With a $10 million deal for  Hunger Games Jennifer Lawrence has enough money in her bank account to take as much time off as she likes with any potential offspring. Her standard of living will remain intact. And at 23 time is on her side and she can plan a return to our silver screens.  Trunk references a number of statistics to highlight the conflicted state of the working mother bemoaning her own childcare expenses of $110k. They come at a time when the median woman’s salary in the US in 2012 was $13,729, 20% less than her male counterpart. So Trunk is hardly talking about the average woman is she?

Most women have to make sacrifices in the workplace for family obligations, not always out of choice, but because they have to. Corporate culture does not cope well with employees who have children and schools are not geared up to cope with parents who work. It’s that simple.  It is true women are possibly less interested in being a Mistress of the Universe, but most in my experience want to, and have the ability, to work at a higher level.

Gender neutral

I do indeed know any number of  women, who if they were guaranteed that their standard of living would be maintained, would quit their jobs if they could in a heart beat. The lure of other lotus eating attractions is strong:  beauty salons, personal trainers, bridge rubbers, book clubs, other outings.  Even their kids. But I also know an equal  number of men who would happily trade their day jobs to spend time on the golf courses, sailing, skiing or pursuing any of their other interests and passions.

The main difference is that if a few male movie stars make this sort of comment their whole gender would not be compartmentalized into the ” flight risk” or “uncommitted” category  by the minority who make those choices and verbalize them. In fact they would probably be considered to be quite sweet. Where I am in agreement with Trunk is that “career women” ( why don’t we say career men?) and stay at home parents of either gender,  should all stop taking pot shots at each other and respect individual choices


But my instinct tells me that possibly most people would choose not to work at today’s breakneck pace if their bills were taken care of. So I decided to do a quick straw poll to test my gut.  I’m sure it’s as reliable as the National Enquirer.  It’s open and you can still take it here.  So would you quit your job?  Not unsurprisingly the results were as follows:

  • 57% would quit their jobs if their standard of living were maintained
  • 20% said  “no”  (90%  of this group were women,  the main reason was that their jobs were intellectually rewarding)
  • 23% said “maybe”

If you are thinking of quitting your job and need help creating a career strategy,  review your career with a 3Plus coach and work out your next steps.


The most cited reason for giving up corporate life was to “pursue other interests”.  “Spending time with my family” actually came in as the second choice response for the regular people in my poll. Childcare is hard work as most parents know, which is why “other interests” would score higher.

Trunk exhorts women breadwinners to “confess if they wish they weren’t.” Most women breadwinners are single parents and they probably wish they weren’t in that demographic either.  For them weeks of spa days unburdened  by financial  worries would be one of their greatest fantasies, unsurpassed by even one night of unbridled passion with their dream man of choice.

Workplace not aligned with wider culture

In evolved societies the point of a workplace is to generate revenue for those involved in the process, otherwise we would all have to return to self-sufficiency and bartering to meet our basic needs.  The majority of respondents who indicated they would quit corporate life even if it impacted their standard of living were actually male.

Workplace cultures tend to drag behind developments in the wider world, where HR practises rely on the nuclear family to function. Today this is clearly out of date thinking.  Research is showing that Gen Y men intend to be more involved in family life than their fathers. Women want and expect their partners to participate in child care. Workplaces have to shift from presence cultures to results focused, if governments want growing economies to accommodate family needs.

Not just the affluent “chatterati”

of course it is completely fine for the affluent “chatterati” women to say “honestly” in supermarket rags they don’t want to work, have a family and spend their days being looked after. But what is clear in an ideal world most of us feel exactly the same way – including men.

What shouldn’t happen is that for women who do work, be judged and negatively branded because of the choices of others. Jennifer Lawrence might intend to stay at home with her future children but there are any number of Jennifers who simply can’t afford to..

So would you quit your job if you could,  if your standard of living was maintained? Take the poll!

Need support with your career choices? Get in touch NOW!


Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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