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The Hidden Brain Drain: Off-Ramps and On-Ramps in Women's Careers

Cover ArtCorporations have done a dismal job of retaining female talent. Indeed, they make it very easy for women to depart. When women take a temporary leave of absence to have children or deal with other personal matters, they find it difficult to return to work and contribute as they had previously. In essence, corporations provide women with many career off-ramps, but provide them with few on-ramps. This problem bodes badly for CEOs and top managers who view human resources as a critical asset. This research report, based on an extensive study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, a nonprofit research firm in New York City, provides the first comprehensive view of the forces behind the ongoing exodus of talented women from the workforce. The study identifies the reasons why women lose much of their earning power when they "off-ramp" and outlines the limited possibilities for finding on-ramps, or reentry points, for those wishing to re-enter. With in-depth case studies and dozens of charts and tables accompanied by insightful interpretations of the data, the report constitutes one of the most detailed looks at the hidden brain drain that will prevent companies from effectively competing in the incipient war for talent. Detailed findings of the research are the basis of this HBR Special Report. (Harvard Business Review, March 2005) (3/1/2005, Harvard Business Review Research Report - 140 pages)