The aim of this study is to gain a thorough understanding of the reasons for the high voluntary turnover amongst women executives in South African organisations.Twenty-one, semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with senior South African businesswomen in order to establish the reasons they had terminated their employment contracts. The feedback was analysed using a combination of narrative, content and constant comparative analysis. Snowball sampling generated a participant base of women with an average tenure of 8 years in their previous organisations; who collectively managed budgets exceeding R80 billion and were responsible for approximately 150 000 staff members.The main reasons why these women left their organisations included the following: the need to make a difference, their exclusion from male social networks, their incompatibility with the paternalistic organisational culture, a perceived lack of organisational sponsorship and support, a values clash between the individual and the organisation or with one individual in the organisation and problems with their direct supervisor or board of directors. After experiencing a general feeling of uneasiness and dissatisfaction most of the women resigned as a result of a specific incident occurring in their organisational life. This paper offers insights into why women executives leave organisations and shows that the much discussed glass ceiling and family support networks do not feature as valid resignation reasons for women who have been successful in their careers for many years. It also presents the separation spiral - a model of the process that is followed when women executives voluntarily terminate their employment contracts.