Hewlett, S. A. & Luce, C. B.
Harvard Business Review, March 2005
Magazine Article
Area of focus: 
Career Break

This much-cited article from a business magazine reports on the findings of a survey of highly qualified women of two age groups, as contrasted with a male sample group. The study aims to identify the number of women dropping out of full-time work mid-career, their reasons for doing so, and their motives for and success with returning to work afterwards. It finds that 37 percent of women opt out at some point, for a variety of reasons classified as "push" or "pull" factors - child-raising, care of the elderly, lack of job satisfaction and rigid policies are cited as major reasons - whereas men are more likely to take career breaks to re-train or embark on new career paths. However 93 percent of these women opt to return to work afterwards.

The article discusses why a majority of women choose not to return to their original employer after a career break, and provides action points for employers wishing to retain female staff. These include creating reduced-hour jobs, providing flexible work and flexible career options (and removing the stigma associated with these), and better relationship management. A case study of Ernst & Young's programmes and policies is also provided.