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A General Synopsis:

Why are women opting out of the workforce in record numbers? Despite recent media hype, there are numerous reasons beyond just wanting to spend time with family that cause women to opt-out. Most surveys show that gender discrimination is the number one reason why women turnover, with family issues running neck and neck with lack of advancement for the number two slot.

Other reasons women opt-out include: corporate downsizings, lack of challenge at work (sheer boredom), eldercare responsibilities, searching for meaning in one's life,  a medical crisis, the desire to start one's own business, need for a job change,  the need for a sabbatical, the need to make a major change in one's personal life, or the need to pursue educational opportunities.

We found many  women intend to stop work while their children are young, and then return "someday." Some of these women do return to the workforce, but often find that they must take a much lower job position. Others return only to find years later than their time out of the workforce cost them promotions or resulted in heavy penalties in terms of their retirement income and benefits. For still others, that “someday" never comes. Why? Because corporations do not have mechanisms in place that make it easy for women to re-enter the workforce or work more flexible schedules.

But opting out isn’t just an issue for the individual worker. The opting out of qualified workers—both women and men—is a serious problem for many organizations. And this problem is growing:  as the baby boomers retire, a shortage of qualified workers is predicted to begin as early as 2012.   

Our book, The Opt-Out Revolt, provides specific suggestions on how corporations can examine their strategies, policies and  procedures in order to change the fundamental ways in which work is done in order to prevent a loss of talent—and the high costs associated with such turnover and labor shortages.

How Can Your Firm to Become More  Worker-Friendly?
Unfortunately, many firms think they are providing their employees with great benefits (e.g.,  parental leave, subsidizing day care, and orthodontics coverage in benefits) when in fact they aren’t doing the right things to attract new employees and retain the outstanding workers they already employ.  What firms traditionally think is "family-friendly" simply isn't enough anymore. 

With the increasing number of baby boomers approaching retirement and the new GenX mentality, firms will need to do more than simply follow the crowd and offer the minimal benefits given by most firms. Also, focusing on  cosmetic benefits that make the firm look good on paper (or in the media) just won’t make the grade anymore. 
Firms will need to undergo normative changes. They will need to restructure their policies concerning careers, benefits, and pay. They must re-examine central assumptions about how and where work gets done in a way that embraces the Kaleidoscope Career Model.

Is your firm currently doing enough to attract and retain highly qualified workers?
There are common assumptions that managers believe make their firms great places to work, but these so called “family-friendly policies are not enough.
Which of the following false assumptions has your firm bought into?

Assumption #1:
"We offer flexible schedules for those jobs that are appropriate."

.Assumption #2:
"Linear career paths are the status quo." 

Assumption #3:
"But we talk about supporting the advancement of women."

Assumption #4:
"We have a traditional reward system, based on seniority, performance, and bonuses."

 Assumption #5:
 "We don't need to offer any additional benefits beyond what other firms are offering to be considered family-friendly."

Until recently programs to encourage work/life balance have been treated with a passing nod and little real change. With the advantages of technology, firms can help reshape career paths to recognize the increasing complexities of Kaleidoscope Careers, meeting  employees’ needs for  authenticity, balance and challenge.  Firms can do this by:
1. being truly committed to work/life programs and not using them solely for the purpose of publicity. If an organization has work/life policies but fosters a hostile culture that makes use of these programs unacceptable, the policies become worthless and will fail to produce the positive intended results.

2. realizing that establishing work/life programs is simple not enough. Our research shows that women make career decisions based on a complex and inter-related set of factors, including job challenge and opportunities for advancement. Men of the new millennium also are re-prioritizing family and work/life balance. While work/life programs are certainly a great beginning, they must be coupled with challenging jobs and advancement opportunities for women. Gender-based inequities in wages, job placements, and training opportunities must be eliminated.  Likewise, men should not be penalized for traveling alternative career paths or taking a more active interest in their children. Some suggestions for firms include:

  1. Creating more acceptable nontraditional careers paths,
  2. Broadening compensation policies to encompass alternative forms of work
  3. Abolishing obsolete norms such as face time, long hours or travel as a surrogate measure for commitment and promotability and instead focusing on measures of actual performance,
  4. Rewarding managers who provide support to the development of women, and
  5. Creating cultures that truly support work/life balance,


In our book, The Opt-Out Revolt, we provide specific recommendations that can help organizations have an easier time recruiting, retaining, and shaping talent.

Employees are frustrated with company policies that don’t permit them to have a full, whole life. Companies must recognize that the traditional career is dead and that opting-out is part of the evolution of careers in the new millennium. Now is the time for firms to take action—to create new  options and reconsider the basic way in which they conduct business.  In fact, it is necessary that it be done - and quickly - to alleviate the forecasted labor shortage of 2012.

Our book, The Opt-Out Revolt, helps prepare organizations for the changing workplace by:

*offering specific strategies for meeting the needs of your workers who may be of different generations and at different places in their careers

*tearing down myths that may be preventing your company from achieving a competitive advantage through the effective use of talent

*profiling innovative company practices that may provide your companies with benchmarks on how to more effectively mange the changing workplace. 

Want to learn more?

Read an except from The Opt-Out Revolt on Amazon.com

TeachersLearn more about the Kaleidoscope Career Self-Assessment Inventory and how it can be used in your company.  

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