To read this content please select one of the options below:

Opting-out and opting-in: a review and agenda for future research

Lauren M. Zimmerman (Department of Psychology, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)
Malissa A. Clark (Department of Psychology, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 10 October 2016




The purpose of this paper is to highlight an emerging and evolving area within women’s careers literature – women’s opting-out and opting-in experiences. Highlights from several career theories, extant research, and a framework for women’s opting-out and opting-in experiences are discussed as well as future research considerations for women’s career breaks.


The present study provides the first synthesis of the theoretical and empirical work on women’s opting-out and opting-in experiences, by providing a framework that integrates existing research with the kaleidoscope career model. Published works from 1986 until the present were considered from psychology, management, sociology, and economics literatures.


This paper provides information about how women’s experiences of opting-out and opting-in to the workforce have emerged and evolved over the past few decades. Theoretical foundations, quantitative and qualitative research findings, and considerations for future research are discussed.

Practical implications

This paper is a useful source of information regarding an emerging and evolving area of studying within the women’s career literature. The paper discusses considerations for scholars and practitioners regarding developing, supporting, and retaining female talent amidst women’s career break experiences.


This paper provides an integrative framework that provides theoretical and empirical perspectives on the changing nature of women’s career values and choices, which influences their experiences of opting-out and opting-in to the workforce. Given both the changing demographics of the current workforce (e.g. increased women’s participation in the workforce) and women’s career values, research on women’s career breaks is warranted.



Zimmerman, L.M. and Clark, M.A. (2016), "Opting-out and opting-in: a review and agenda for future research", Career Development International, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 603-633.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles