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Women's retirement meanings: context, changes, and organizational lessons

Rachel A. August (Department of Psychology, California State University, Sacramento, California, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 19 July 2011




This paper seeks to identify the meanings associated with retirement for a longitudinal sample of women immediately prior to and following their official retirement. Contextual factors which shape those meanings are also described.


In‐depth interviews, based on a series of interview guides were conducted with a sample of 14 women in their pre‐ and post‐retirement years. The data were coded using a grounded theory approach and typology classification schemes.


Retirement was alternately conceptualized as a new period of life affording freedoms and growth, as a natural final phase, as a frightening period due to losses, and/or as a pinnacle of accomplishment or relief. The contextual influences of family, friends, and unique attributes of one's profession (e.g. having jobs with transferrable skills and/or having physically demanding jobs) help create meanings. Finally, meanings were found to shift over time in concert with changing contexts.

Research limitations/implications

Women have a wide range of responses to their own retirement. The stereotype that they will easily replace the work role with family and/or household roles does not hold for all.

Practical implications

By truly understanding the particulars of each employee's situation, managers can assist employees in the transition into retirement such that it is a smooth one. Managers might also be able to more immediately identify employees, who would be willing to return to the organization in a consulting or short‐term capacity following retirement.


The longitudinal data offers a unique vantage point, such that meanings can be traced over time in a way that has not yet been documented in empirical work.



August, R.A. (2011), "Women's retirement meanings: context, changes, and organizational lessons", Gender in Management, Vol. 26 No. 5, pp. 351-366.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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