Here's a story from earlier this week that I didn't have time to comment on but that I think says a lot about our changing culture: working women derail their careers in favor of family life.

The exodus of working women is now occurring in numbers too large for employers to ignore. According to the Harvard Business Review, 43 percent of professional women with children step off the fast track at some point. On average, they stay off for 2.2 years.

Perhaps the best part of the story is the bit about how companies are willing to change their whole employment paradigm to keep good employees around in some capacity.

Faced with this giant leak in the talent pipeline, more employers have begun actively recruiting off-rampers, or trying to ensure they never leave.

After Deepa Varadarajan gave birth to premature twins, she reluctantly told her supervisor at Deloitte & Touche she would have to stop working in the first place.

"I told him, 'I guess I'm just going to have to leave. I cannot pursue my career at Deloitte," she said.

But through a pioneering program the company calls Personal Pursuits, Varadarajan can now take an extended leave without derailing her career. Deloitte helps her stay connected to the company, hoping she'll eventually return. ...

And her employer is just as happy with the arrangement.

"How often can you get someone with great maturity and judgment to step into a more junior role and be really happy with it?" said Anne Erni, chief diversity officer at Lehman Brothers.

A fellow at my company recently had to move to Chicago because his wife was accepted to medical school. The company didn't have any jobs in Chicago, so he was going to quit. We didn't want to lose him though, so he became a "virtual" employee, kept his same job, and is allowed to work from his new home and travel when necessary. What a sweet deal, largely enabled by the internet!

These changes will end up affecting everyone, not just career women. Imagine millions of retirees with invaluable knowledge lured into part-time virtual employment. The potential gains for workers and employers are enormous; the effects on social phenomena like social security and retirement are unimaginable.



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