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Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success Hardcover – 1 May 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business School Press; 1 edition (1 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422101029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422101025
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 487,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Anyone who picks up this book will find much of interest to digest and
consider and develop -- Management Today, May 2007

Anyone who picks up this book will find much of interest to digest and
consider and develop.
-- Management Today, May 2007

Essential learning for those businesses that want to build up or retain a motivated and talented workforce
-- ILM Edge Magazine, October 2007

It's still a man's world. [Hewlett explains why] businesses need to find
new ways of keeping talented women in work
-- World Business, June 2007

Reveals how corporations are designing ways for women to ramp careers up
and down without losing prestige or risking burnout. -- Businessweek, June 2007

Turning the rhetoric on diversity into reality...[it also] makes a clear statement about the financial imperative of diversity.
-- Organizations and People, August 2007

Why aren't there more women at the top of companies? Hewlett explains why:
They aren't male clones.
-- Wall Street Journal, 18 April, 2007

[a] persuasive case for a new competitive model that takes into account the
pressing needs of women employees. -- Financial Times, May 24, 2007

Important ... because it focuses on the need to adapt the way
people work in the face of changing demographics.
-- Financial Times, May 17, 2007

From the Author

Why do so few professional women return to full-time careers after offramping to raise families?
It's not that women don't want to return. It's that the stigma of taking time off and the rigidity of today's outdated career track makes re-entry near-impossible.

Why do the consequences of this urgent problem extend far beyond the individual lives of women who off-ramp?
Companies today are suffering from a talent shortage that will only get worse as more baby boomers retire and as companies expand globally. One of the best resources of untapped, highly qualified talent is women who have left the workforce. As CEOs in the book point out, finding ways to better access female talent is necessary for competitive strength and economic survival.

What new trends in the workplace are accelerating this problem?
Workweeks in many professional careers have lengthened to seventy hours or more. Blackberrys and global hours have helped make work dominate professional lives 24/7. Few women with family responsibilities can sustain these extreme hours. What's worse is that the demands of one's career peak in one's thirties, exactly the time when family responsibilities tend to peak. When such demands are expected in order to get to the next rung on the career ladder, few women will have the chance to advance to the highest levels.

What needs to change?

The problem is not the women (they are increasingly qualified and ever more committed) the problem is today's career model, which derails large numbers of talented women. My survey findings in the book show that the dynamics of today's careers simply don't mesh with the priorities of women's lives. Companies seeking to recruit, retain, and reattach women need to:

  • Provide arc-of-career flexibility that enables women to "ramp down" and then "ramp up" without losing traction
  • Combat the stigma that all too often undermines time off or alternative work arrangements
  • And help women claim and sustain ambition

What is the goal of the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force that you cofounded with Carolyn Buck Luce and Cornel West?
We persuaded thirty-four of the world's largest and most respected companies to become stakeholders in an effort to fully realize female talent over the life span. The mission of the task force is to identify, develop, and promote a second generation of corporate policies and practices that support women's ambition, work, and life needs. We wanted to put the ideas from this book into practice and prove that they can make a difference.

What are some of the most innovative second-generation work policies?
The consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton found innovative ways to "chunk out" high level work so it can be handled part time. Financial services firm Goldman Sachs created an on-ramping program to recruit alumnae and other women and men who had left the workforce to take time off. Lehman
Brothers, also in financial services, created a "virtual workplace" where professionals can work from home with just as much productivity as at the office and without the stigma. There are many other examples of innovative work policies being created today that will better access female talent.

How can companies lessen the stigma that prevents many women from enrolling in such alternative work initiatives?
One of the most effective ways of combating stigma is to "walk the talk" at the top. When a senior executive takes a scenic route and shouts it from the rooftops (letting everyone in the office know they've done so) it can have a transformative effect on what is possible for everyone else. It's also important that the policies bepositioned as strategic imperatives that improve a company's bottom line rather than personal accommodations that reluctant managers give in to.

What kind of future could be on the horizon if second-generation onramping policies succeed?
If the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force is a measure, the private sector is already taking action to make the workplace an environment where life and work needs can flourish. With jobs and careers becoming more extreme by the minute, messing with today's outdated career model has huge potential - to burnish our competitive edge and restore hope and greater productivity to women's lives.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett does an excellent job of outlining both subtle and bold barriers that relegate many talented women (and minorities) to the lower end of promotions and pay scales. Using ample documentation, she outlines the financial costs that corporations suffer when they operate with outdated career models designed for white male professionals. Hewlett also lines up practical solutions with real-life examples from top corporations. Though the book is marred by repetition and various examples are recycled in different chapters, overall, we consider this essential reading for senior corporate officials and staff members.
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Format: Hardcover
To anyone in the field of workplace equality, Sylvia Ann Hewlett will be well known as the author of Creating a Life. In this follow up to that bestseller, Hewlett has looked at the current state of women's careers, the reasons for the continuing existence of the glass ceiling and the male competitive model. But this is not another book that just presents the problem, well over half of the book is devoted to solutions that have been implemented in some of the leading corporations and some of the high powered environments of Wall Street and the City.

The book is in two parts - the first four chapters are devoted to a study of the issues: an analysis of why the male competitive model still continues to dominate, the non-linear nature of typical women's careers which include breaks for children and elder care responsibilities, the growing demands of what Hewlett calls `extreme jobs', and the business case for investing in diversity. What makes the analysis more interesting is specially commissioned research into feelings and motivations on careers and work conducted in the USA and the UK for both men and women. It shows the differences - but also some remarkable similarities.

The second part is composed of case studies from companies such as Goldman Sachs, BT, Ernst & Young, GE, Johnson & Johnson and Citigroup who have all implemented highly successful projects to encourage women returners (On-Ramps), flexible employment and working practices, maintaining ambition and re-engineering thinking about work and career paths. To a practical HR person this is probably the most significant section (although the chapter on the business case is very persuasive and in the language that Chief Executives can relate to).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8980f108) out of 5 stars 13 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x899c4258) out of 5 stars It's more than a "working mom" issue 9 Jun. 2007
By Diane K. Danielson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I actually hesitated to read Off-Ramps and On-Ramps, as it looked like a boring textbook at first glance. But, as I got into it, it was quite a provocative read and even brought up some interesting points that applied to both men and women. Here are a few highlights that struck my fancy:

Chapter 1 - Why Mess with the Male Competitive Model. Good way to start a book. I think we'll be hearing more about this as generation y gets further into the workplace. While a hardcore minority will stick to the traditional Gordon Gecko "greed is good" model, we'll see countless others rebel against the values of the generations before them (as all generations before rebelled against their parent's values).

Chapter 2 - Looks at how large a factor elder-care already plays in women's lives. In fact, it's larger than child-care as this affects all women. This is only going to increase as Boomers start being the ones needing care.

Chapter 3 - Extreme Jobs, Extreme Demands. Thought this chapter could make a whole book. It's a great overview of how corporate America has changed. I have a friend whose parents were both big executives at major companies, yet all the time growing up, she swears that both made it home for dinner almost every single night. This is practically unheard of even for middle management these days.

The latter half of the book gives examples of companies who are launching innovative programs to resolve the situation. This makes it a must-read for any management team who is struggling to keep women, OR, better yet, recognizes what a great asset they have and wants to boost them up even more! However, it still begs the question of what to do for the majority of women who do not work for the handful of Fortune 500 companies who get it, and have the funds to produce such innovative programs.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x899c42b8) out of 5 stars 5 Stars for another GREAT work! 17 May 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is an honor to be the first to comment on this book. Sylvia Ann Hewlett is truly a visionary in the pressing arena of work-life programs and policies. Congratulations to Ms. Hewlett for reframing the "opting out" debate in to a much more useful discussion about non-linear careers. She challenged the assumption that most women leave full time employment because of pure family reasons, and sure enough, uncovered many other reasons that lie squarely on the shoulders of corporate America. Many progressive companies, especially Lehman Brothers, get it! They care about promoting, retaining, and recruiting female talent. Will others follow suit? Well now they have no excuse. Ms. Hewlett has given them clear strategies and I hope more women will hold the companies they work for accountable for implementing them.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x898d5348) out of 5 stars A Win-Win Book! 25 May 2007
By Peter Winn - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a rare how-to book for both career women and the corporations they serve that is based on extensive research into what the author calls "the hidden brain drain" -- the loss of talented women workers to marriage and motherhood who may want to work later in life but can't find an "on-ramp" back to their career. Hewlett argues convincingly that it would be in the interest of all concerned for businesses to be flexible enough to retain or rehire the talented women who also want to be married and mothers.

She also presents case studies of firms that have done it successfully.

Solidly researched, lucidly analyzed, persuasively argued and a good read. This is a win-win book that is both good for business and good for talented women workers. If employers followed its advice they would retain talented employees --and these talented women would at last be able to have it all: marriage, family and a career. A book that all career women --and the employers that ought to love their work enough to want to retain it-- should read.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a4e9e58) out of 5 stars Another Great Book by Sylvia Ann Hewlett 24 May 2007
By Abby J. Hirsch - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book and should be read by all women regardless of age as well as by all employers. Finally, someone has analyzed, researched and addressed the issue of how women who are raising families as well as caring for elderly relatives can balance it all. This book gives insights, direction and ideas as to how one can maintain a career as well as handle the important family responsibilities that matter to all.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x89db4ad4) out of 5 stars Finally! A green light for high achieving women! 21 May 2007
By Audrey Wasser - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Sylvia Ann Hewlett looks at hard data and offers creative solutions to the question of how to have a personal life in the hard-charging world of business and law. Off-ramps and On-ramps should be required reading for young women entering the business world as well as their employers who are at risk of losing them. It's a wonderful graduation gift for every newly minted MBA and/or JD!
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