Kaleidoscope Careers: An Alternate Explanation for the Opt-Out Revolution

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Recently, there has been considerable media attention granted to "the opt-out revolution," a term coined to describe the alarming talent drain of highly trained women, largely working mothers, who choose not to aspire to the corporate executive suite. This article critically reviews explanations for this phenomenon, and posits an alternate explanation of the kaleidoscope career model that fits workers' concerns for authenticity, balance, and challenge, vis-à-vis the demands of their careers in this new millennium. In particular, the kaleidoscope model fits women's careers well as a means of understanding how women operate relationally to others in both work and non-work realms. Like a kaleidoscope that produces changing patterns when the tube is rotated and its glass chips fall into new arrangements, women shift the pattern of their careers by rotating different aspects in their lives to arrange their roles and relationships in new ways. The article concludes with guidelines on how women executives can increase their career success and how organizations can create an improved workplace that will attract and retain talented women given the anticipated labor shortages beginning in 2012.

Recipient of a “Gold Citation of Excellence” from Elsevier in 2006, regarded as one of the top 50 articles published in all management journals in 2005.


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Academy of Management Executive

Published Citation

Mainiero, L.A. & Sullivan, S.E. 2005. "Kaleidoscope Careers: An Alternate Explanation for the Opt-Out Revolution". Academy of Management Executive, February,19 (1), 106-123.

Peer Reviewed