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Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success Hardcover – April 16, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Despite advances in women's rights, as well as telecommuting, job sharing and flex-work, the components of corporate advancement have been largely unchanged since the 1950s; according to author and economist Hewlett (Creating a Life), these outdated criteria are decidedly stacked against women: lock step progression, face time, unreasonable hours, flattery and obeisance, golf and strip clubs and male bonding. The 60 percent of women workers who take a career-path detour ("off-ramp"), typically for family reasons, are welcomed back with un- or underemployment. Meanwhile, traditional male incentives-money and power-don't hold the same appeal for women, leading to substantial attrition rates among the business's upper echelons. Although Hewlett is admirably thorough in her research of "off ramping" as a strategy for women, and provides plenty of real-world examples, she's unconcerned with the larger implications for workers of either gender; though the female focus doesn't detract, it may leave readers with some unanswered questions (why should any employee withstand what resembles fraternity hazing just to get ahead?). Nevertheless, Hewlett looks at all areas of a constrictive work environment and offers intelligent solutions for reaching one's full potential within it.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

It is difficult not only to pinpoint the issues behind female "opt-outs" from the workforce but also to cite pragmatic, business- and women-friendly programs and policies that will retain female talent. Economist Hewlett, a workplace expert, author (When the Bough Breaks, 1991; The War against Parents, 1999; and Creating a Life, 2002), and recently cofounder of the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force, has blueprinted a new second-generation road map to success. Not content with merely chronicling the reasons for nonlinear discontinuous careers (ranging from motherhood to elder-care demands), she articulates the dramatic business case for diversity--retaining intellectual "goods," keeping an impressive amount of capacity, and diverse teams making better decisions--then identifies six elements critical to retention. Each of those six--flex-work arrangements, arc-of-career flexibility, reimagination of work life, continuation of ambition, harnessing of activism, and reduction of stigmas and stereotypes--is buttressed by actual corporate case studies, and a "toolkit" sidebar that captures the business case, how to begin, and critical elements. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 299 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (April 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422101029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422101025
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,247,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sylvia Ann Hewlett is the founding president and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, and the founder of Hewlett Consulting Partners LLC. She's the co-director of the Women's Leadership Program at the Columbia Business School and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Century Association. An economist with 20 years of experience in global talent management, Hewlett has particularly focused on the "power of difference" and the challenges and opportunities faced by women, minorities and other previously excluded groups. She has forged a signature style of enquiry which blends hard data and rigorous analysis with concrete solutions and on-the-ground action.

Hewlett is the author of eleven Harvard Business Review articles and eleven critically acclaimed books, including "When the Bough Breaks" (winner of a Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award, "Off-Ramps and On-Ramps" (named as one of the best business books of 2007 by, "Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets," "Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor"(named one of the best business books of 2013 by the Globe and Mail and winner of the 2014 Axiom book award); and "Executive Presence." She is currently ranked number sixteen on the Thinkers50 list of the world's most influential business gurus. Her writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, and the International Herald Tribune, and she is a featured blogger on the HBR Blog Network. In 2011 she received the Isabel Benham Award from the Women's Bond Club as well as a Women of the Year Award from the Financial Women's Association and in 2013 she received a Work Life Legacy Award from the Families and Work Institute.

Hewlett is a founder of Hewlett Consulting Partners, an advisory services firm that focuses on helping organizations leverage talent across the divides of culture, gender, geography, and generation.

Hewlett has taught at Cambridge, Columbia, and Princeton universities and has held fellowships at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London and the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard. In the 1980s she became the first woman to head the Economic Policy Council, a nonprofit composed of 125 business and labor leaders.

Hewlett is a sought-after speaker on the international stage. She has keynoted International Women's Day at the IMF, given the featured address at Pfizer's Emerging Markets Leadership Summit in Dubai, and spoken at the White House. She is a frequent guest on TV and radio programs, appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Charlie Rose, ABC World News Tonight, The Today Show, The View, BBC World News, and Talk of the Nation--and she has been lampooned on Saturday Night Live.

A Kennedy Scholar and graduate of Cambridge University, Hewlett earned her PhD in economics at London University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Diane K. Danielson on June 9, 2007
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.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 17, 2007
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Peter Winn on May 24, 2007
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Abby J. Hirsch on May 24, 2007
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Audrey Wasser on May 21, 2007
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By SF Native on April 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're interested in looking at the data behind women and careers, this is the book for you. Hewlett has summarized a number of really interesting data. For example, 37% of women take time off at some point in their careers. 30% of women take advantage of part-time or other flexible programs. Hewlett's data illustrates a number of important reasons companies should care about gender diversity. After building the business case for women, she talks about how companies have created programs to make it work. One of the nice elements of this book is that she illustrates the data with personal stories. One of my favorite quotes underscores the importance of finding meaning in your job. A working mom comments, "when I walk out the door in the morning leaving my 2-yaer-old with the nanny, there's usually a bit of a scene. Tommy clings, pouts, and whips up the guilt. Now, I know it's not serious--most of the time he likes his nanny. But it sure makes me think about why I go to work--and why I put in a ten hour day. It's as though every day I make the following calculation: do the satisfactions I derive from my job (efficacy, recognition--a sense of stretching my mind) justify leaving Tommy? Some days it's a close run. One thing I do know. It couldn't just be the money. I need a whole lot of things to be happening for me to work."
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