The number of high-flying British female managers stepping off the corporate treadmill or simply looking for a change of direction is at its highest level for half a decade.
Research among more than 42,200 people by the UK Chartered Management Institute has found that women are being promoted at a quicker rate than men, are more likely to receive a bonus (but not as high as those for men) but are also more likely to resign and move on to something else.
The study by the CMI and Remuneration Economics calculated that resignation rates among women from trainee to chief executive level now stand at 7.8 per cent, the highest figure since 2002.
By comparison, resignation rates are lower among men (6.4 per cent). Fewer women (2.6 per cent) than men (3.7 per cent) are also inclined to ask for internal transfers if they are dissatisfied with their current role, it suggested.
The National Management Salary Survey found that women in the North West of England are the most likely to leave their jobs, with a female resignation rate of 9.2 per cent.
Loyalty to employers is highest in Scotland, where 4.9 per cent of women resigned in the 12 months to January 2007.
By industry, female resignations are highest in the retail sector, doubling to 11.7 per cent over the past year.
Paradoxically, this evidence of widespread dissatisfaction comes against a backdrop of women enjoying faster career progression than their male colleagues, the CMI pointed out.
At 37 years old, the average female team leader is five years younger than her male counterpart.
Aged 40, female department heads are on average three years younger than their male equivalent.
And the age gap expanded in more senior roles, too, with women achieving director level by the age of 44 on average, quicker than men (48).
While the survey showed bonuses this year playing less of a role in overall take-home pay than in previous years, more women (63.4 per cent) are receiving one-off payments than men (55.9 per cent).
Nevertheless, there is still a clear gender pay gap in the UK, the CMI said.
Bonuses were only worth 10.2 per cent of total female income, compared with 13.8 per cent for men.
At £3,077, the actual value was also 48 per cent lower than the amount received by men (£5,860).
And the 5.2 per cent increase in female earnings reported by the research represented the lowest movement since 2004, said the institute.
This slowdown was accompanied by a 5.4 per cent increase for men – the first time in 11 years that male earnings had grown at a faster rate.
What this meant is that in real terms female managers earn an average of £43,571 last year, £6,076 less than the male equivalent of £49,647.
The difference (12.2 per cent) was up from 11.8 per cent last year. At director level the gap was £49,233 or 29.9 per cent, up from 24.6 per cent last year, said the CMI.
Jo Causon, CMI director, marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, said: "It is clear that the pull of promotion is not being matched by parity in pay.
"Despite the weight of legislation and the reality that reward should match responsibility, gender bias seems to be getting worse, not better," she added.
The survey also showed that the proportion of women making up the UK workforce, continued to grow, as did the proportion of female managers.
A total of 35.7 per cent of managers and directors in the UK were now female, compared with 31 per cent last year.
Val Lawson, chair of the Women in Management Network, added: "The fact that the proportion of women in senior positions continues to grow is encouraging, but their increasing likelihood to resign is a cause for concern.
"If employers allow this trend to continue the knowledge gap in UK organisations will be exacerbated at the very time we are trying to challenge the skills crisis," she warned.
Among other findings, more than three quarters of employers admitted they were having staff retention problems.